Maratha quota: Merit has won over caste, say students and activists

Following the verdict of the Supreme Court (SC), on Wednesday, cancelling the reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for the Maratha community in Maharashtra, students, educationists and activists fighting against reservation stated finally 'merit has won over caste’. On the other hand, some students of the Maratha community said the direction is unjust, as they deserve the reservation because of their caste, social and economic history in the state of Maharashtra.

Admissions to educational institutions for all courses at all levels and appointment for government jobs should be based purely on merit instead of caste, said Vilas Dhotre, a student. Dhotre said, "Admission to professional courses, such as engineering, medical, public service, science and political studies is highly competitive. The caste reservation deprives students who have scored high marks from securing seats in the best colleges solely because they do not belong to the Maratha community. It is not fair as merit is the basic foundation of education."

Since 2018, the then Maharashtra state government had included Maratha community as Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC). Students of the Maratha community were thus eligible for 12 per cent reservation in all educational institutions and 13 per cent quota in government jobs. This was in addition to the 50 per cent caste reservation prevalent in admissions to educational institutions and appointment at government jobs.

Advocate Sanjeet Shukla, a petitioner in the Maratha reservation matter and representative of Youth for Equality, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) fighting against SEBC quota, said, "Till now, the existing 50 per cent caste reservation and additional 12 per cent SEBC or Maratha quota reservation left only 27 to 28 per cent seats or posts available for the open category students, which was unfair. I am glad the SC has cancelled the SEBC or Maratha quota reservation. Our seven years of hardwork fighting against such arbitrary reservation has been paid off."

Sudha Shenoy, executive president of Save Merit, Save Nation, an organisation working against excessive reservation, said, "We welcome the SC decision because we are not against Marathas or any other community. We are against any kind of excessive reservation of over 50 per cent in education and government employment. The SC has maintained equality by giving 50 per cent scope for merit and 50 per cent for existing caste reservation. Reservation should be based on socio-economic factors to help needy students and deserving candidates rather than caste."

On the other hand, Shailesh Ghorpade, a student of the Maratha community said, "Marathas should be recognised and provided with certain benefits in the state of Maharashtra because of our history, caste, social and economic background." Mithali Malwankar, another youth said, "The SC verdict is unfair because the Maratha quota reservation was initiated for a reason to help students and candidates of the community to secure education and jobs."

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