The BJP-led government in Maharashtra is facing a serious problem with lakhs taking part in the silent march, as part of the state-wide mobilisation by Marathas, demanding reservation in jobs and education
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is busy trying to resolve the tension in Maharashtra. To prevent the Maratha community from agitating further, CM Fadnavis announced a fee concession and a reimbursement scheme for students belonging to the Economically Backward Classes (EBC), whose annual income is less than Rs 6 lakh per annum. It is supposed to benefit more than 7 lakh students with a burden of Rs 700 crore on the state government. With the civic and zilla parishad elections around the corner, CM Fadnavis' announcement is a smart move on his part to announce the increasing of EBC limits, which will benefit all castes, including Marathas and Brahmins.
The total population of Maharashtra is over 12 crore and the Maratha community makes up 40 percent of it.
Addressing a unscheduled press conference after the cabinet meeting, CM Fadnavis announced the 'Rajashri Shahu Maharaj Fee Pratipurti Yojna'. Earlier, for SC/ST students, the Maharashtra government had given a 100 percent fee waiver, whereas OBC students received a 50 percent fee waiver. But the new scheme has been extended to all students of all castes. The income limits of their parents is Rs 6 lakh per annum and it applies to those who have secured 60 percent marks at the time of college admission in HSC. Those who come under the income limit of upto Rs. 2.5 lakhs annually have no condition of marks, Fadnavis said. This will benefit those applying for professional and higher education courses, which include medicine and engineering.
This comes at the same time that Fadnavis announced two more schemes. The Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Crop Subsidy Scheme will benefit marginal farmers and children of registered labourers. In city limits, the government will bear the burden of Rs 30,000 annually, and Rs 20,000 annually in the rural area. The Fadnavis government has also decided to implement the Pandit Dindayal Upadhyay Swayam Yojana which will benefit tribal students and provide the hostel and food facilities. In the city, it will cost Rs 6,000 per month, in the districts Rs 5,000 per month and in the taluks, Rs 4000 per month.
Talking to the media, Fadnavis described the decisions as historic. "We are making a provision of Rs 1,000 crore this year; the budgetary provision will be done later. In the last 20 years, education has become a business in the state and it is difficult for the common man to get admission," he said. Is the government positive about giving the Marathas reservation? Fadnavis said that his government was firm on giving reservation to Marathas and that they are not demanding the repeal of the Atrocity Act but want it to stop being misused.
The additional burden on the state government is approximately Rs 700 crore and 7.10 lakh students after Class 12 will reap the benefits. The earlier burden of the SC, ST and OBC students in fee concession and scholarship was Rs 1,300 crore. Which means that the total burden on government is Rs 2,000 crore, which will be benefited by 17 lakh students, said Education Minister Vinod Tawde. In addition, for medical students who come under the income limit from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh, the state government will pay the full interest on educational loan. It will benefit 35,000 students in government colleges and three lakh in private colleges, Tawde added. The benefits of the new schemes will start from this academic year with the retrospective method and the fees will be returned by the college authority to those who have already paid. But the required documents that certify an annual income below Rs 6 lakh must be certified by the tehsildar, Tawde added.
Tawde also assured that the BJP government will submit 74 documentary evidences to prove that the Maratha community has been socially and economically backward in an affidavit in the next hearing in court. The government is positive that the court will allow Maratha reservation in the frame of law, he said.
Last week, Fadnavis also announced a Rs 49,000 crore package for the Marathwada region in the special cabinet meeting at Aurangabad. The zilla parishad, nagar panchyayat and muncipal council elections will be held from the last week of November till the year end. The 10 municipal corporation elections will be held in February 2017, which include Mumbai, Thane, Bhiwandi, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpari Chinchwad, Akola and Solapur. To offset the damage of the statewide Maratha morcha, Fadnavis first announced the Rs 49,000 crore package to the Marathwada region. To soothe the anger of the community, he then announced the Rs 6 lakh creamy layer scholarship facility to all students belonging to the EBC.
Meanwhile, NCP President Sharad Pawar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asking for Maratha reservation without diluting the quota of other communities. This has put pressure on Fadnavis; hence the announcement of the EBC scheme.
The Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Mahasangh national general secretary Rajendra Kondhare, who is also one of the organisers of the silent morcha, has welcomed Fadnavis' decision saying that it benefits all castes under the EBC category. Now the deadlock exists with the state government: there are remaining demands by the Marathas such as reservation in jobs, promotions on merit, amendment in the Atrocity Act and fixed rate cards for agriculture products.