Mumbai:, (The Hindu): Calling for reservation to farmers on the lines of that given to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBC. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said it would provide a way to ensure economic benefits to agriculturalists.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Pawar said, “My statement on reservation created confusion last week. Reservations to SC, ST and OBC is constitutional. and there cannot be rethink on it. But for other demands, economic criteria should be used. Additionally, a proposal was given to me on reservation to farmers on the basis of of their profession, irrespective of caste. I think the constitutional validity and feasibility of this proposal should be checked.”
In a ‘public ínterview’ in Pune last week to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, Mr. Pawar had supported the idea of reservation based on economic status to communities other than those who already have it. It had invited criticism from political circles, which alleged the NCP chief has changed his position on support to reservation based on social criteria.
Clarifying his stand, Mr. Pawar put forth another proposal. “Reservation to farmers will be based on profession and not on caste. It will be on economic criteria, which is fixed based on social, education and economical background of a particular beneficiary. It will automatically eject those who are well-to-do. As per national data, around 82% of farmers hold less than two hectares of land.
Citing Rajasthan as an example, where the Vasundhara Raje government has extended reservation to the Jats, he said, no one in Maharashtra had taken the initiative. “Other states have ensured reservation for farming communities. Being based on profession, I don’t think the cap of 49% reservation will be applicable. But there should be more discourse on the issue.”
Mr. Pawar’s statement comes against the backdrop of a growing demand for reservation among the Marathas. Over the past year, the community has taken out massive silent marches across the State to draw attention to several demands, among which reservation figures prominently. Extending reservation to farmers based on economic criteria is likely to appease small agriculturalists, a majority of whom are Marathas.
‘Return money with DCCBs’
Criticising the government’s decision to not return money deposited in District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCB) following demonetisation in November 2016, Mr. Pawar said, “Around 112 crore is yet to be returned, but banks have been told to show this amount as a loss in their balance sheets. This is unacceptable.” The issue will be raised in the Parliament session. If negotiations aren’t fruitful, we will approach the Surpeme Court.” He added that former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram has agreed to represent the district banks in the apex court.
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