The Maharashtra Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill that provides for a 10% quota in education and government jobs for the state’s Maratha community.

This was just hours after the state Cabinet approved a report of the Maharashtra Backward Class Commission, which concluded that the Maratha community is a socially and educationally backward class and recommended 10% reservation for it, according to The Indian Express.

The report was submitted to the state government on Friday.

“We all are of similar views here on the Maratha reservation so I will not make any political statement here,” Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said in the House on Tuesday while presenting the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Bill, 2024.

“We have proposed the reservation to Marathas without disturbing the existing [Other Backward Class] quota,” he said.

Terming the bill as “historic and bold”, the chief minister said that the bill would survive the test of law, The Indian Express reported.

“We are confident that this government will be successful in safeguarding the reservation in the court,” Shinde said.

This is similar to the 16% reservation for Marathas under the socially and educationally backward category that was introduced by the state’s previous Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government in 2018. The move was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2021.

The passage of the new bill comes amid Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil’s fourth hunger strike in six months. Among his demands are Kunbi certificates for all Marathas in addition to free education for the community from kindergarten to postgraduate levels and reservation of seats for Marathas in government jobs.

The Kunbis are a sub-caste within the Maratha community who are already classified as Other Backward Classes.

Also read: Why caste divides Marathas as they rally for reservation

On Tuesday, Jarange-Patil said that the state government decided to accept the Backward Class Commission’s report because it had elections and votes in mind, ANI reported. He said that the bill providing the quota will not stand in court.

Refusing to end his strike, the activist has called for a meeting of the Maratha community on Wednesday, The Indian Express reported.

The Maratha community’s long-standing demand for reservations in education and government jobs resurfaced last year with protests and hunger strikes by Jarange-Patil. The agitation has witnessed violence, suicides and the resignation of legislators.

In his most recent effort to press for the reservation, Jarange-Patil began a Maratha Aarakshan Morcha, or the Maratha Reservation March, to Mumbai from his village Antarwali Sarati in Jalna district on January 20.

However, on January 27, Jarange-Patil announced that his protest seeking reservations for the community had ended as the government had accepted the demand, ANI reported.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had on the same day announced that the Maratha community in the state will get all benefits to which Other Backward Classes were entitled until the reservation is promulgated into law.

Hope new law is foolproof: Uddhav Thackeray

Responding to the new bill, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said: “I hope that it is foolproof, and to find out, we will need to wait for some time.”

Thackeray added that the government should declare how many jobs it will provide and by when. “Everyone knows what the chief minister is like, and so, till what he has said is implemented, nothing can be said,” he said.

Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi demanded a 5% quota for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions in the state.

“Today, we are seeing that the Maratha community is getting 10% reservation, which we welcome,” he said. “But, at the same time, the government is neither willing to discuss reservation for Muslims nor to grant it.”

Backward Class Commission report

The Maharashtra Backward Class Commission’s report said that the Maratha community should be listed under Article 342A(3) of the Constitution. It also said that reservations should be given to the community under Article 15(4), 15(5) and Article 16(4).

About 84% of the community was not well-to-do, the report added.

“Exceptional and extraordinary circumstances specified by the Commission exists while authorising the granting of limited reservation of more than 50 per cent to the Maratha community in reservation in admissions to civil institutions and in reservation in public services and posts,” the report said, according to The Indian Express.