Reservation blocked in tribal areas

Print edition : August 08, 2014

Governor K. Sankarnarayanan. Photo: VIVEK BENDRE

WITHIN a fortnight of the Maharashtra government announcing its intention to reserve government jobs and seats in educational institutions for Marathas and Muslims, the plan ran into a hurdle. Governor K. Sankaranarayanan asked the government not to implement the reservation—16 per cent for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims—in 59 blocks of 12 districts.

These districts—Thane, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Pune, Nanded, Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Amravati, Chandrapur, Yavatmal and Gadchiroli—have large tribal populations. The Governor was concerned that important posts of rural governance, such as those of the talathi, gram sevak, teacher, anganwadi supervisor and health worker, should be filled by eligible candidates from the Scheduled Tribes.

Governors have a constitutional responsibility to ensure the welfare of the S.Ts and also have special advisory bodies who counsel them on these matters. The body advising the Maharashtra Governor had recommended that Class 3 and 4 posts in government departments in tribal areas be filled with local S.T. candidates. The notification issued from the Raj Bhavan said that to improve “service delivery” of the government machinery in tribal areas, all direct recruitment drives in such areas should be made from among eligible S.T. candidates.

There is no doubt that the decision to have reservation for Marathas was taken with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections as well as the fact that Marathas account for about 32 per cent of the State’s population. The reservation plan was challenged by journalist-activist Ketan Tirodkar in the Bombay HighCourt. Among other things, Tirodkar said the community is known for its overall prosperity and political clout and reservation was not justified.

The State has tried to justify the decision on the grounds that many from the Maratha community are landless and work as agricultural labourers. Even if this is accepted by the court, there is still the matter of overall reservation in the State soaring to 73 per cent, far exceeding the 50 per cent laid down by the Supreme Court.

Maharashtra’s Advocate General, Darius Khambata, said the implementation of the quota was still pending.

Lyla Bavadam

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