Maratha Quota Mess: Maharashtra Govt’s Mishandling Leaves College Admissions Hanging
May 10, 2019
The Supreme Court on May 9 slammed the Maharashtra government for messing up the admissions process in post-graduate medical colleges. The apex court upheld the Bombay High Court’s decision of not allowing the state government to apply the Socially and Economically Backward Class (SEBC) quota—famously known as the ‘Maratha quota’—in this year’s admissions process. The decision can potentially again trigger the Maratha reservation agitation in the state as students from the community have threatened to do so.
The Maharashtra government had cleared 16% quota for SEBC, mainly for the Maratha community. The Bill for the quota was cleared on November 30, 2018 in the state’s legislative houses. The quota is for education and jobs. The government announced that all admissions and government recruitments would be done accordingly.
On March 8 this year, the state government issued a notification allowing 16% reservation in the state's educational institutions.
The first issue came up with post-graduate medical admissions. On April 2, the first case was filed at the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court challenging the state government’s order. The argument by the petitioner was that the law cannot be applicable with retrospective effect.
The admissions process for post-graduate dental colleges had begun on October 16, 2018, while the post-graduate medical college admissions process was started on November 2, 2018. In such cases, the notification for the current law is not applicable for already-started procedures of entrance this year.
The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court accepted the argument and gave a verdict disallowing the quota this year. This came as a shock to the state government as a question mark was put on the validity of Maratha reservation. So the state government went to the Supreme Court seeking permission to apply the SEBC quota to the admission procedure this year. But the SC rejected the plea on the first date of hearing itself.
Meanwhile, the process of admissions was going on, according to the new quota. So, 117 students of the Maratha community got reservation under the newly applicable quota.
Though they had given in writing that their admission under the quota is subject to the High Court order, the question of how to accommodate the students admitted under the quota has arisen now.
To tackle the current situation, the state government has decided to approach the Centre. It will go to the central government requesting an increase in the post-graduate seats in the state. Senior cabinet minister Chandrakant Patil, who also headed the cabinet sub-committee on Maratha reservation, said the government would request the Centre to increase the seats only for this year to accommodate the students.
But that is not the end of the issue.
There is widespread fear among the Maratha students that the validity of Maratha reservation may not stand in court, as there other petitions challenging the quota pending with the high court. Sources from the state government said there was confusion in the continuation of the reservation decision.
“Whether or not to continue the decision of applying the quota in all admissions is the question before us. The quota was challenged in the Bombay HC. Now the SC has rejected the quota procedure in post-graduate medical admission. Tomorrow it could happen to every admission, including 11th standard and First-Year graduation courses. What will we do in that case?” said a senior officer in the state’s Department of Higher and Technical Education.
Fear of Backlash, Assembly Elections Round the Corner
The SEBC quota is basically a quota for the Maratha community. It came into existence after the community held state-wide agitations and put pressure on the state government. Maharashtra will go for Assembly elections by the end of this year. In such a condition, if the quota decision fails to stand in court then there could be a backlash. “We cannot ignore the political angle. There are elections coming up. The Opposition won’t leave us unhurt if we failed to give admission under the quota. So, we will have to sail carefully. The decision to continue the quota or not will be taken in the next few days,” said senior minister in the Maharashtra cabinet.
Maratha is Maharashtra’s most populous—almost 32%—and a highly influential community. While the BJP government can show off that it granted reservation to the community, which was not done in the past 30 years, this mess in the admissions process can be politically damaging for the party.
As of now, the government has taken the stand that the admissions process would be done as per the quota decision. “The SC has not stayed the process of admissions under quota. It has given the decision only on post-graduate medical courses. So, we will continue with the admissions procedure under the quota. Once the High Court clears the decision on other petitions challenging the quota, then the state government will take its next step accordingly,” said Chandrakant Patil.
Meanwhile, students of post-graduate medical courses who had applied under the SEBC quota have threatened agitation. Suyash Patil, a post-graduate medical aspirant from the Maratha community, said at least 259 students had applied under the quota. “Many of them who were allotted seats will lose the admission. This is injustice and we will fight against it,” said Suyash.
The Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Mahasangh general secretary Rajendra Kondhare said all Maratha organisations were supporting the students. “We are with them if they decide to agitate. We believe that the issue should be resolved through court, or the state government should get more seats for these extra students from the central government. It is matter of only one year,” said Kondhare.
First published in Newclick.
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