Early this year, the Maharashtra government had sent a proposal to the union government for setting up a total of 72 hostels in the state for the students from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). After the union government pointed out errors in the proposal, the state government rectified these errors and sent a revised proposal.
However, without waiting for the union government’s approval, the state government has decided to set up two hostels in each district for the OBC students, as per the Minister for Other Backward Classes and Bahujan Welfare Vijay Wadettiwar’s announcement in the Maharashtra assembly on 23 March.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Samadhan Autade had asked about the construction of hostels for the OBC students during the budget session of Maharashtra assembly. He alleged that even though the government had announced the plan to build 72 hostels in the state for students belonging to the OBCs, Deprived Castes, Deprived Tribes and Special Backward Classes, no hostels had been built.
Wadettiwar informed the assembly that a total of 36 hostels for OBC boys and 18 for OBC girls pursuing post-matric education have been approved in the state with the financial assistance received from the Babu Jagjivanram Student Housing Scheme of the central government. However, none of them are currently functional. Only the land where the hostels are to be built has been sanctioned in Nagpur, Yavatmal and two other districts.
“For the last two years, schools and colleges have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But now these hostels will definitely start from the next academic session. A proposal for the same has been sent to the finance department, after which it will be approved by the state cabinet,” Wadettiwar said.
In 2018, Fadnavis had promised that their government will construct hostels in 19 districts for the OBC youth and funds will be made available for the purpose. The BJP failed to get re-elected, hence no further action was taken on this issue. The students of the OBC community felt betrayed and raised several strikes after the disappointment. Latest protest of such kind was held in Nagpur in December 2021. Promises like building hostels specifically for Maratha community were also a hot topic during the 2019 election, which fizzled out soon.
The OBCs constitute around 52 percent of the state’s population — 43.7% Hindus and 8.4% non-Hindus — as per the Mandal Commission report. Building just two hostels in each district for a population of 52% is clearly not enough. Also, the time of completion for such a grand scheme will take another two-three years. Is this another political bait for the OBC community?
PHD scholar Yashwant Zagade questioned the government thus: