Mumbai

Marathas take to streets on quota issue

Despite Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray attempting to present a united front over the Maratha quota issue, protests erupted across the State on Thursday as pro-Maratha outfits and community leaders censured the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government for their lacklustre efforts in defending the Maratha quota law in the Supreme Court.

Several community leaders, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs like Sambhajiraje and Narayan Rane, as well as former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, questioned the timing and the logic behind the MVA government’s mega-recruitment drive to fill up 12,500-odd vacant police posts, remarking it was a gross injustice to Maratha youths who would be bereft of this opportunity owing to the apex court’s stay on implementation of the Maratha quota law.

In Kolhapur, Maratha outfits demonstrated outside the offices of the Kolhapur District Cooperative Milk Producers Association (known popularly as ‘Gokul’), while demonstrations flared up in Pune and parts of the Marathwada region.

Activists of the Sakal Maratha Samaj in Kolhapur attempted to waylay milk tankers heading to Mumbai, but were thwarted by the robust police presence at the protest venue.

In Pune, the Maratha Kranti Morcha submitted a proposal enumerating their demands to Pune District Collector Dr. Rajesh Deshmukh. Maratha activists across the State raised slogans against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and State Public Works Department Minister Ashok Chavan, demanding their resignations. Mr. Chavan headed the Cabinet Sub-Committee on the Maratha quota issue.

Sit-in demonstrations, which went on for several hours, were witnessed by members of the pro-Maratha Chhava Sanghatana outside Mr. Chavan’s house in Nanded and Minister Amit Deshmukh’s house in Latur.

Seeking to pacify the protestors, Mr. Chavan, himself a Maratha community leader, said that the State government had done everything in its power to defend the interests of the Marathas in the Supreme Court.

“While the SC’s decision was indeed unexpected, there was no shortfall in our [MVA govt.’s] efforts. Besides, there is no point in agitating in this manner. The issue will have to be resolved by legal means,” Mr. Chavan said.

Stating that he had worked to the best of his ability on the matter as head of the Cabinet Sub-Committee, Mr. Chavan offered to step down if it so pleased Maratha outfits.

“Furthermore, if Maratha groups feel that the lawyers appointed by the MVA government have indeed not fought wholeheartedly to present the case for the quota law in the SC, then they are free to hire their own lawyers,” he said.

Shiv Sangram leader and Bharatiya Janata Party ally Vinayak Mete alleged a complete “lack of coordination” between the three parties — Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress — that constituted the MVA government.

“Ashok Chavan has proved himself utterly inept. He should resign not only from his post as Chairman of the quota Sub-Committee but also as Minister,” demanded Mr. Mete.

Criticising the MVA’s mega-recruitment drive to fill vacant police posts, Dilip Desai, Sakal Maratha Samaj coordinator from Kolhapur, said the Thackeray government’s move was akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of the Maratha community.

“This is unacceptable. At a time when the Supreme Court has suspended the reservation in education and employment for Maratha youths, this government has ordered the police recruitment process. It should be stopped immediately till the SC’s final decision,” Mr. Desai demanded.

Mr. Fadnavis, the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, said that there was absolutely no hurry in announcing the recruitment.

“The government must assure the Maratha community that their rights are secure,” he said.

Stating that the Maratha community should be included in OBC category, Santosh Shinde of the Sambhaji Brigade said that the GR (Government Resolution) issued by State Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad must be cancelled immediately.

“The government should give 50% fee concession in all the new admission processes of students from Maratha community. Until the issue of Maratha reservation is resolved, no mega-recruitment processes, including police recruitments, should be taken up by the State government,” Mr. Shinde urged.

Rajya Sabha MP Narayan Rane lashed out at Chief Minister Thackeray, claiming that the latter “never had had any affection for the community”.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 3:45:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/marathas-take-to-streets-on-quota-issue/article32634728.ece

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