I see no threat to government from central agencies: Ashok Chavan

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Ashok Chavan, the leader of Congress and Minister of Public Works who heads the cabinet sub-committee on the Maratha Reserve, tells VISHWAS WAGHMODE about the issues affecting the implementation of the Maratha Reserve, the reasons for the creation of a separate Backward Classes Commission for the Maratha community, and the steps taken by the government to ensure the speedy implementation of reservation benefits to the community.

Q. The state government recently announced the establishment of a separate Backward Classes Commission for the Maratha community, but questions have been raised about its legality as to whether such a commission can be established when a Backward Classes Commission exist. Your comment.

These fears are unfounded. We carefully considered the issue before taking a call. The Supreme Court judgment regarding the OBC quota categorically stated that there should be a dedicated commission to decide the quota. So, the existing backward class commission is only for the OBC quota. Regarding the Maratha issue, the Indra Sawhney judgment has already been reiterated in the Supreme Court, stating that the upper reservation limit of 50% cannot be exceeded. In addition, the social and educational backwardness of the community must be established by appropriate reasoning. Thus, this exercise requires an in-depth analysis of social and educational backwardness, which is why a separate commission for backward classes must be created. The state attorney general suggested setting up a separate commission for the Maratha issue. So legally we are on the right track and I don’t see any problem.

Q. Why did it take so long for the government to appoint a separate commission even when the SC abolished the Maratha quota in May last year?

After the SC judgment quashing the Maratha reserve, we had asked retired Chief Justice Dilip Bhosale to suggest the way forward. Among the many recommendations made by the committee led by Bhosale, the filing of the petition for review was suggested and it has been pending before the SC for 6-7 months. The committee said that after the SC rules on the petition for review, only the state should proceed with the Backward Classes Commission case. Now, while people are restless and issues must move forward as a result of SC’s judgment, the delay must be decided and social factors must be considered. The report of the Gaikwad Commission, which was set up by the previous BJP government, was rejected by the SC due to its flaws and problems. Now we have to start the procedure again to decide the social and economic factors and find the solutions on how to decide the community backlog. This must be done by a separate commission. At the same time, we move the SC by mentioning that it must decide the question as soon as possible.

Q. The SC, in its judgment referring to Indra Sawhney’s order, said the backward class community should be in “remote and remote areas” to meet the social test and receive a reservation. How is it likely to be fulfilled by the state government for the Maratha community, which is the majority in the state?

It has been a rather misperception that not all Marathas are backward and they are a forward community. In our arguments before SC, we pointed out how the community has a lot of social problems, backwardness still prevails in large parts of the state, and the entire community is not affluent and wealthy enough. This problem has been going on for 15 to 20 years and the issue has not arisen suddenly. Most of the time, the Maratha community depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Due to farmer suicides, natural calamities and their financial implications on the Maratha community, this is a fitting case where the community deserves some sort of reserve to bring them into the mainstream. So the perception itself is wrong that the community is not backward.

Q. The government has proposed two bills to secure an OBC quota along the lines of the government of Madhya Pradesh. Do you think he will hold the review of the law in court?

While Madhya Pradesh law has been in effect since the 1990s, Karnataka recently enacted legislation. In this sense, we believe that the state government, within its own competence, can decide the issue of delimitation in all local bodies. Since other states have done this and there is no problem with it, I don’t see any problem.

Q. You told the Legislative Assembly last year that the decision on the Shivaji memorial project will be made after rectifying the issue raised in the various litigations and by the CAG. What is the current status of it?

The Supreme Court suspended the project and the case was referred to the High Court. Some environmentalists have gone to HC on a number of environmental issues and we have answered all questions. So whenever the case is heard at HC, we will discuss. Once the decision is made by the HC, things will be clear. The whole project was authorized by the previous government, but it seems that there are some flaws. It is the irresponsibility of the previous government. If these issues had been considered at this stage, we would not have gone through this embarrassment.

Q. Congressional leaders and legislators have always complained that sufficient funds were not allocated to them and their departments. How can this problem be solved?

Of course, the tripartite government is bound to have a few hiccups here and there. I don’t think that’s a major problem. Whenever problems such as the allocation of funds for carrying out various development activities have arisen, we have corrected them. When Congress ministers and lawmakers met with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he assured us that he would look at the problems and try to overcome them. I hope this can be resolved.

Q. Recently the ED arrested Minister Nawab Malik in connection with a money laundering case. Additionally, Sena executives alleged that they were being harassed by central agencies. What do you think ?

Ten to fifteen years ago, the ED and the CBI were hardly in the limelight. Sure, they were functional, but not that way. Every other day, more than local police stations, we hear about (the actions of) ED, CBI and other agencies. Well, I respect the law of the land. But, the general perception that emerges is that there is a political motive behind this. Because the people targeted are on the side of the government or the party in power and no one else. I see no threat to the government as such. These are the hiccups while working in the current system. And we are getting used to this system.

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