Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said reservation will not guarantee employment as jobs are shrinking. He was responding to questions on the ongoing agitation by members of the Maratha community for reservation and similar demands by other communities in Maharashtra, PTI reported.

“Let’s us assume the reservation is given,” he said. “But there are no jobs. Because in banks, the jobs have shrunk because of IT [information technology]. The government recruitment is frozen. Where are the jobs?”

“The problem with the quota is that backwardness is becoming a political interest,” Gadkari said. “So one school of thought is that a poor is poor, he has no caste, creed or language. Whatever may be the religion – the Muslim, the Hindu or the Maratha [a caste], in all communities there is one section which has no clothes to wear, no food to eat.”

He said there is a school of thought “that we must also consider the poorest of the poor section in every community”. This is a “socio-economic thinking” and it must not be politicised, he said.

Gadkari, however, later clarified in a tweet that the government was not planning to change the criteria for reservation from “castes to economic conditions.”

He said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was trying to resolve the quota demand by holding talks with the Maratha community and urged people to maintain peace. “The responsible political parties must not add fuel to the fire,” he said, adding that development, industrialisation and better prices for rural produce will ease the economic distress that the Maratha community is facing.

The Maratha community has been demanding reservations in jobs and education. Protests erupted in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Palghar, Raigad and Satara on July 23, leading to the death of a constable. On July 25, the shutdown was called off after Chief Minister Fadnavis said the government had taken cognisance of protests and was ready to talk to the Maratha community.

Umbrella organisation Maratha Kranti Morcha has called for a fresh round of protests on August 9 even as Fadnavis assured representatives from the community of his government’s commitment to grant them reservations in jobs and education.

Two commit suicide

A 40-year-old farmer, Kanif Dattatrey Yeole, in Beed district committed suicide on Saturday by consuming poison. Yeole had reportedly taken part in the Maratha reservation agitation. “It is certain that it is a case of suicide,” The Indian Express quoted a police officer as saying. “But the cause is unknown. We are awaiting the forensic reports.”

In Navi Mumbai, a 25-year-old man, Arun Bhadale, hanged himself at his home in Turbhe village. Deputy Commissioner of Police Sudhakar Pathare said Bhadale had left behind a suicide note saying he was denied loan and accused the government of “not giving reservation to Marathas or making policies that would benefit them”. Bhadale worked at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee.

Before them, five people have committed suicide in the state over the Maratha reservation demand. A 35-year-old man, Abhijeet Deshmukh, hanged himself from a tree in Beed district on Tuesday while 38-year-old Kacharu Kalyane committed suicide in Dhabad village of Nanded on July 29. Pramod Hore ended his life under a train in Mukundwadi in Aurangabad on Monday. Two other protestors died on July 24 and July 25.