- The Marathas are a group of castes comprising peasants and landowners among others constituting nearly 33% of the state’s population.
- While most Marathas are Marathi-speaking, not all Marathi-speaking people belong to the Maratha community.
- Historically, they have been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large land holdings.
- However, over the years, due to factors such as land fragmentation, agrarian distress, unemployment and lack of educational opportunities, many Marathas have faced social and economic backwardness. The community still plays an important role in the rural economy.
- Therefore, they have been demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutions under the category of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
- A 11-member commission headed by Retired Justice N G Gaikwad recommended Marathas should be given reservation under the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).
- Maharashtra Assembly passed a Bill proposing 16% reservation for the Maratha community.
- The Bombay High Court while upholding the reservation pointed out that instead of 16% it should be reduced to 12% in education and 13% in jobs.
- The Supreme Court of India stayed its implementation and referred the case to the Chief Justice of India for a larger bench.
- Supreme Court struck down the Maratha reservation in 2021 citing the 50% cap on total reservations it had set in 1992.
- In November 2022, after the SC upheld the 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections, the state government said that until the issue of the Maratha reservation is resolved, economically weaker members of the community can benefit from the EWS quota.
- Recently, in Maharashtra, the demand for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs by the Maratha community has once again taken centre stage.