Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar has urged the Centre to eliminate the 50 per cent cap on reservations and increase it by 15-16 per cent to accommodate more communities, particularly in the context of the ongoing Maratha reservation debate in Maharashtra.
During a press conference, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader disclosed that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has summoned a meeting on Wednesday of all the heads of parties within the INDIA alliance, an opposition coalition consisting of 28 parties that aims to challenge the BJP-led Centre in the upcoming general elections.
The state of Maharashtra has been witnessing persistent protests by the Maratha community, who are demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.
“Some argue that expanding the beneficiaries of the Other Backward Class (OBC) quota to include more communities would be unfair to the existing OBC quota recipients. This issue cannot be disregarded. The solution lies in amending the existing 50 per cent cap through parliamentary action and increasing it by 15-16 per cent,” Pawar stated in response to questions about accommodating Marathas within the current Other Backward Classes quota.
He stressed that there should be no distinctions or divisions between Other Backward Classes and other communities.
Commenting on the drought-like conditions prevailing in several parts of Maharashtra, Pawar outlined several measures that should be undertaken by the government, including ensuring adequate fodder for cattle, providing drinking water, implementing measures to salvage crops whenever possible, extending economic support to farmers, and suspending various state levies.
The issue of Maratha reservations gained prominence again when clashes erupted in Antarwali Sarathi village in Jalna district last week. The police used baton charges and tear gas shells to disperse a violent mob, alleging that protesters had prevented authorities from moving a man on a hunger strike for Maratha reservations to a hospital. The clashes resulted in numerous injuries, including 40 police personnel, and the torching of over 15 state transport buses in Jalna.
Deputy Chief Minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis tendered an apology on behalf of the government for the police action in Jalna against Maratha protesters and dismissed the Opposition’s allegation that the Mantralaya ordered the lathi charge.
The statement came at a media conference addressed jointly by Fadnavis, CM Eknath Shinde and deputy CM Ajit Pawar on Monday after they met to resolve the issue. Shinde announced the suspension of the sub-divisional police officer who is understood to have given the orders to use force. The district police chief was sent on compulsory leave on Sunday. Additional Director General of Police Sanjay Saxena has been asked to probe the incident. (With additional details from agencies)