The Reservation has come to be the second central theme of this nascent movement. As a relevant or even more important question is why has it come up now, after nearly 70 years of the reservation being in place? The focus presently is dominant for the educational opportunities. There is a clear perception that students getting in the educational system under reservation with far lower marks than those the Maratha girls acquire. This has got juxtaposed to more frequently observable creamy layer children getting in the system.
That misfit people go and sit through all the layers of the system damaging it. The reservations have pervaded the system in all aspects and levels of dealing with the Government where the experience of the doors getting closed on the Maratha Samaj is frustrating and angering. The whole system starts with and revolves around which caste are you? It has led to the experience of caste system getting strengthened, hardened and encompassing. It has not helped to reduce the hate between the castes post educational status. Then there is an objection to the students of the reserved castes also getting in with their own merit in open category which further reduces the numbers for the Marathas and others to get in.
Reservation demand has also to do with the poverty prevailing in the Marathas which I think most people outside the pail have not realized even to a partial extent. It has not come to the conscious recognition that 90% of those farmers who have committed suicides over years come from the various castes of the Marathas. The suicide numbers are published but this fact is not. Is it because it is too obvious that they will come from Marathas, and therefore, the percentages are not given? Or, is it simply oversight or indifference? See how the numbers spell out. 50% of all Marathi people are Marathas. Of them the largest majority is of farmers. Out of them, one large section is dependent upon the monsoon. The other one is the Mali or the horticulturist who for various reasons have not got affected as the dry land farmer did. The poverty and suicide come from the first section making life harder.
We are aware that throughout the country the farmer has been the most neglected person. For decades we have been saying that much more should be done but are doing nothing. Such a farmer is born in debt, works and lives through his life in debt and dies in debt. He is beaten by the money lenders, by the monsoon, by pests and even by the labor who works under him. He has been looted by the middlemen for generations to an extreme degree. A shop owner can give his shop to one and ask others to open their own shops but this cannot happen with the land since it gets parceled in smaller and smaller segments there and there itself. The minimum support prices have never been realistic. In the dialogues, these aspects have surfaced as the prime causes of poverty and that something needs to be done for it at least now.
What brought them to poverty?
Again the popular perceptions are – the Marathas have had the most chief ministers, have had the largest numbers of MLAs and MLCs, they have the sugar factories, they have the cooperative banks, the credit societies, then why are they complaining? The objectors are taking a short time view post ‘Sanyukta Maharashtra’ period from 1960 onwards. There is no denying that all the Maratha rulers and their representatives have looked after the individual needs of persons who approached them and solved their issues. How far such numbers can go? If not anything the process has severe physical limitations. The failure probably occurred at the level of assets mentioned above where the benefits were not evenly passed out. Only a few hundred fed on these, got extremely rich and left all others worse than they were. It is noteworthy if a Maratha young man clearly tells people like Sharad Pawar on an open TV channel that he and such other leaders are their target, they are going to be the victims of this movement. This is a struggle of the displaced Marathas against the established that caused the displacement. The frustration brought upon them is clearly visible.
The poverty of the farmers, as well as all those who worked in the self-sustained village system as artisans, and every other service caste, suffered maximally at the hands of the British, who destroyed this system for their commercial benefits. From Lala Lajpatrai, Acharya Javadekar to present day Dr. Sadanand More has outlined these processes. In independent India, the education was not job oriented. In 1990 the recommendations of ‘Mandal Ayog’ were accepted. That led to further constriction of the open spaces. An averagely conscious Indian knows all this in principle for over 50 years now. Why has this erupted now as it has done?
The most likely explanation
In 1992 when the process of globalization began could even Dr. Manmohan Singh have predicted that in 2016 September 2016 there will be a great uprise for reservation from the agrarian society? Probably not! Globalization and its other accompaniments have changed many divides – poor and not so poor, the educated and not so well educated, the employable and not employable, the employed and not employed in the agrarian large rural sector in vast numbers than in towns and cities. It had reduced all the divides in a single one – employable and not employable for which the precondition is being adequately educated. The following elements have got interwoven to lead to today’s situation of the society as a whole not just the Marathas under discussion.
Globalization has no doubt created wealth on a much larger scale and whether unequally, unevenly or irregularly but quite a lot of it has reached the bottom of the pyramid. The expectation from life has gone up. Today’s many needs cannot possibly as in classical economic termed as luxuries. The Service sector has grown enormously. Employability is clearly seen as possible only in this sector. The precondition of as high an educated status as can be achieved has been grasped by large sections of the society.
In the present context, it has been grasped by the numerically largest agrarian sector population. It is compounded by the glaring fact that agriculture is not going to be enough for sustaining the families.
There is clear realization that the conservative Maratha has lived in the circle of arrogance and the false egos of self-pride. This is not going to help. This mindset is being abandoned. Hence, this is a question as Dr. More has put it bluntly is not of Identity but of bare Existence. It is not an issue of ‘Jati’ or caste but of the ‘Mati’ i.e. soil. This is not against Brahmins or any other but a struggle for survival. The need for offloading as many family members as possible away from agriculture has been old but the globalization and its effects have now given the outlet.
The agriculture has gone to the nadir demanding great measures to be undertaken if we want to save this section from getting decimated. Needless to say, the sustenance of this section is fundamental to the sustenance of the entire society. We cannot plant IT or services in the ground and expect it to sprout as grains and foodstuff for us to eat.
A few clearly visible trends
It is primarily the struggle of youth. This youth today does not display any signs of hatred or bitterness, neither towards Dalits or reserved category people or other castes like Brahmins so characteristic of all the caste groups in India. This is at once a great change or a metamorphosis which lends great value to these Marches.
The young men who have already been in socially different and higher positions in private sector are well studied over this.
It is clearly directed towards the political leadership who has betrayed them. It is also directed towards the present political leadership they claim to have voted in power. The fact that the options are limited is understood. What they want is an acceleration of the process to solve this.
The objections that arise most frequently is about the status of the reserved communities seeking benefits of reservations as reflected in the opinions of young girls, boys as well as the older lawyer communities. They see that today it is the children of the Creamy Layer which continues to take these benefits. Some of the young girls have made a bland demand to reconsider the reservation process as being practiced today vis a vis the Creamy Layer. One lawyer was more than forthcoming to say that at one level they are Neo-Buddhists. To register in the census they are SC/STs. To get benefits under reservations they are Hindus.
Wittingly unwittingly the solution the youth seems to arrive at is the basis of the reservations. This is a product of and the evidence of the clean, healthy egalitarian outlook they seem to have imbibed for long now which none of us had ever had an opportunity to see. Put it otherwise, this outlook has led them into this situation. The point seems to surface is – reservation, now after 70 years should be on the economic basis, irrespective of who gets it. Will they be able to become a vanguard of the process?