Opposition stalls Maharashtra Assembly over demand for tabling report on Maratha quota

Mumbai | The opposition Congress and NCP stalled proceedings of the Maharashtra Assembly on Monday, demanding immediate tabling of reports recommending quota for the Maratha and Dhangar (shepherd) communities in the state.

Amid the din, the House was initially adjourned for 10 minutes and later for the rest of the Question Hour. The opposition members were on their feet, saying they will not allow the House to function till the demand was met.

When Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde called for the Question Hour, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil asked why the government was running away from a debate in the House on the State Backward Class Commission’s recommendations over the Maratha quota issue. “We want to discuss the quota issue. What do we discuss if we don’t know what is mentioned in the report?” he asked.

The Maharashtra government had last week announced that the Maratha community will be granted quota under a new category called ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’ (SEBC), as per the recommendation of the State Backward Class Commission.

Vikhe Patil said the city-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) had also submitted its report on quota for the Dhangar community and that the reservation for Muslims in education was upheld by the high court. “We want the government to announce its stand on reservation for Muslims and table the reports on quota for Marathas and Dhangars in the House for discussion,” he said.

The Congress leader also reiterated the party’s demand for a compensation of Rs 50,000 per hectare for farmers in the state’s drought-hit areas and Rs 1 lakh per hectare for horticulture crops.

He accused the government of not allowing Maratha organisations to hold protests in Mumbai over the demand for tabling the Backward Class Commission’s report in the House. “The House will not be allowed to function till the demand is met,” Vikhe Patil said. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar also supported the Congress leader’s demand.

However, state Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil rejected the allegation that the government was preventing Maratha organisations from holding protests. “We just said that today is a sensitive day in Mumbai since it is the anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack. We told them to consider postponing the protest by a day in view of the law and order situation,” Patil said.

He also said that there was no need of protests since the government had accepted the recommendations of providing reservation to Marathas under the socially and educationally backward category. The reservation will be given within the legal and constitutional framework without hurting the existing quota, the minister said.

On the issue of quota for Muslims, he said reservation on the basis of religion given in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala did not stand in court.

“All backward communities among Muslims are given reservation under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. If more castes need to be added, the State Backward Class Commission should be approached,” he said.

Ajit Pawar objected to the minister’s comments, saying the court had accepted reservation for Muslims in education.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashish Shelar then questioned why the Congress and the NCP had not tabled the Rane committee’s report on Maratha reservation in the Assembly, when the two parties were in power. He accused the two opposition parties of shedding “crocodile tears” over the issue. “Their only agenda is to divide the society,” Shelar charged. Amid the uproar, the House was first adjourned for 10 minutes and later till the end of the Question Hour.

The Maratha community, which constitutes over 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been demanding quota for a long time and its agitation for the same in July and August this year had taken a violent turn.

The state government had last week said it was also committed to provide reservation to the Dhangar community under the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.

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