Manoj Jarange, who was on a hunger strike to demand reservation for the Maratha community, on Thursday ended his fast on the 17th day of his protest after Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde met him and assured that the government was committed to providing quota to Marathas.
CM Shinde, accompanied by some of his ministerial colleagues and other leaders, arrived in Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna district around 10.45 am. The CM met Jarange and held talks with him for some time.
Around 11.15 am, Jarange ended his fast by drinking a glass of juice offered by CM Shinde. His hunger strike to press for the demand of reservation in government jobs and education to the Maratha community, was on since August 29.
On September 1, police had lathi-charged a gathering at Antarwali Sarati village during Jarange's hunger strike, leading to angry reactions in many parts of the state.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister said his government was committed to providing reservation to the Maratha community.
"The Maharashtra government is committed to giving reservation that will sustain. The government is in favour of it and it will not stop without giving reservation to the community and that will be done without any friction with other communities. Manoj Jarange's fight is not for any personal demand and that is why it received so much support from the community," he said.
In the past, the government provided reservation to the community, but it could not stand in the Supreme Court. The present government is working on giving to the Maratha community all benefits which have been provided to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) community. We are working through a dedicated commission to restore the reservation, he added.
The state government has set up a five-member panel headed by Judge Sandeep Shinde (retired) to determine the Standard Operating Procedures, including legal and administrative framework, for giving caste certificates to Maratha community members referred to as Kunbis (part of OBCs now) in Nizam-era documents. This will allow Marathas from the Marathwada region to avail quota benefits under the OBC category.
The CM said, "Justice Shinde committee is working on the Maratha community's demand of getting Kunbi caste certificates. The committee held a meeting earlier and another one will take place on Friday. The committee is studying how the community is socially and educationally backward, and it will prepare a comprehensive report to decide how Kunbi certificates can be issued." He asked Jarange to suggest a name of an expert, who can be included as a member in the committee.
"We will welcome if anyone from Jarange's side is willing to join the committee. The government is working to fit the reservation issue in the legal framework," he said.
CM Shinde was accompanied by Union Minister of State for Railways Raosaheb Danve, Maharashtra ministers Sandipan Bhumre, Uday Samant, Girish Mahajan, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) leader Arjun Khotkar, NCP MLA Rajesh Tope and others.
Shinde said 3,700 Maratha youths, who were shortlisted for government jobs after an interview when the Supreme Court scrapped the quota for the community, will be given jobs.
Fund allocation for Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Research, Training and Human Development Institute (SARTHI) will be increased, while the budget of Annasaheb Patil Economic Development Corporation has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh, he said.
"We are committed to restoring quota for the Maratha community in jobs and education. Marathas are a disciplined and sensitive community," Shinde said, adding that the September 1 lathi-charge on protesters was unfortunate.
State Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis has publicly apologised and he also has expressed regret over the incident. Action has been taken against the police officials concerned, the CM said, while also assuring that cases against protesters will be withdrawn.
Speaking on the occasion, Jarange said, "This is for the first time that a chief minister has come to the site of agitation to stop someone from continuing the hunger strike. I will not stop unless the Maratha community is given reservation and this is also the policy of CM Eknath Shinde." "We have given one month's time to the state government with the consent of members of the community. We will also give 10 more days if the government wants, but we need reservation for Marathas," he added.
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