Huge protest in India
Marathas demand jobs, help in wake of falling farm income
NEW DELHI — A huge protest rally led by Marathas, a politically powerful group in India’s financial capital Mumbai, hit the city on Wednesday, demanding quotas for Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, amendments to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe Acts as well as farm loan waivers.
While organizers put the number of participating protesters at more than 2 million, Indian media reports estimated the number of people at the rally at between 600,000 and around 1 million.
According to NDTV, around 900,000 people marched on roads in support of the demands and assembled at Azad Maidan, Mum- bai’s large public park.
Local authorities said they did not expect such a huge crowd to assemble.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Wednesday his government supports affirmative action policies for the dominant caste.
“We are going to constitute a cabinet subcommittee for regular interaction with Maratha representatives,” Fadnavis told the state’s legislature.
Wednesday’s show of strength marked the end of a series of protests staged by the Maratha community to press its demands.
“Today’s show marks the culmination of a yearlong protest by the Maratha com- munity,” organizers said. “We carried out protest marches in 57 different places across the state in the past one year.”
The Maratha community constitutes a third of Maharashtra’s population and the majority of them dependent on farming for their livelihood.
Increasing unemployment and falling farm incomes are leading Indian farmers to call for increased quotas and loan waivers.
“We are demanding the government comes forward to help us,” said protester Atul Maitre. “Mere rhetoric from top politicians in government didn’t do anything. Now they have to take concrete steps to save us and our families.”
Agriculture has suffered a huge setback in recent years in India due to droughts and floods.
With Indian farming in crisis, people associated with it are forced to look for other means of making a living.
In India, quotas for lower castes and economically weaker sections are guaranteed constitutionally.
People gather to take part in a protest, organized by Maharashtra state’s Maratha community, to press their demands for reserved quotas in government jobs and college places for students, in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday.