Indian Express Editorial & Vocabulary – Back to quota


Back to quota

The Maharashtra government has cleared reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs. The question now is whether this proposal can withstand judicial scrutiny and become policy. The courts have so far been clear that quotas, however rational the demand is, must not exceed the 50 per cent ceiling — twice, it has struck down the Marathas’ claim. A 16 per cent quota for Marathas, as proposed by the government, will raise reservation in education and government jobs in Maharashtra to 68 per cent. So the proposal is headed to the courts even as the reasons that drove the Marathas to insist on reservation recede from view.

The Marathas, who constitute over 30 per cent of Maharashtra’s population, are not a monolith. However, the campaign to consider the community, ignoring the many divides within, as a socially and educationally backward class has raised the spectre of a singular Maratha vote. The massive street mobilisations influenced the Fadnavis government to consider the quota demand favourably. The fact is both the petitioners as well as the government seem to think that quota is an easy way out of the myriad social and economic problems that confront the Marathas and other dominant caste groups. The Jats in Haryana, Patels in Gujarat and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh also seem to believe that reservations offer a redress to the crisis confronting them. Indeed, these predominantly agrarian communities have been hit by the rural distress, especially the crisis in agriculture, and their bid to seek education and alternative employment has been stymied by locational disadvantages. Quotas offer only a limited, short-term solution to these problems.

It is a failure of imagination of the leadership of these communities as well as the political parties representing them that reservation is seen as the only safety net that can address their concerns. Reservation is indeed an instrument to rectify social and educational backwardness, but it does not have solutions for every social and economic ailment. The government will have to expand the economic cake and create fresh opportunities so that people, especially young people, who leave agriculture are absorbed in non-farm sectors. There is a churn in the rural economy and old social hierarchies are being challenged. The restiveness of the peasant communities agitating for quotas also stems from the fear of losing privilege and the inability to engage imaginatively with change. The reservation debate has only helped to mask these issues.


Scrutiny: critical observation or examination.

Example: Every aspect of local government was placed under scrutiny

Synonyms: examination, inspection, survey, study, perusal, investigation, exploration


Rational: based on or in accordance with reason or logic.

Example: I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation

Synonyms: logical, reasoned, sensible, reasonable, cogent, intelligent, judicious


Drove: a herd or flock of animals being driven in a body

Example: A drove of cattle

Synonyms: herd, flock, pack


Monolith: a large single upright block of stone, especially one shaped into or serving as a pillar or monument.

Example: The ancient monoliths , pyramids, stone circles and grand statues were not just art or architecture.

Synonyms: standing stone, menhir, megalith, sarsen stone


Influence: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Example: The influence of television violence

Synonyms: effect, impact, control, sway, hold, power, authority, mastery, domination


Myriad: countless or extremely great in number.

Example: The myriad lights of the city

Synonyms: innumerable, countless, infinite, numberless, untold, unnumbered


Predominant: present as the strongest or main element.

Example: Its predominant color was white

Synonyms: main, chief, principal, primary, prime, central, leading


Stymied: prevent or hinder the progress of.

Example: The changes must not be allowed to stymie new medical treatments


Ailment: an illness, typically a minor one.

Example: Along the way, minor ailments were treated and hypochondria dispelled, with adept matter of factness.

Synonyms: illness, disease, sickness, disorder, condition, affliction, malady


Absorbed: engross the attention of someone.

Example: The work absorbed him and continued to make him happy

Synonyms: engross in, captivate by, occupy with, preoccupy with, engage in, rivet by


Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

Example: Education is a right, not a privilege

Synonyms: advantage, benefit, prerogative, entitlement, right, concession


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