Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Economically Weaker Sections (EWS): As defined by Govt Panel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EWS Quota

Mains level : Hurdles to EWS quota

The government has accepted the report by a committee under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which examined the income criteria for determining who are to be included among the EWS.

EWS Quota: A Backgrounder

  • On July 29 last year, the Centre had issued a notification for implementing 10% reservation for EWS along with 27% for OBC within these courses.
  • Following the petitions, the Supreme Court has stayed counseling for admission until the matter is decided.
  • The NEET notification followed the same criteria for determining EWS as mentioned in a notification from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

Inception of EWS Quota

  • EWS reservation was granted based on the recommendations of a commission headed by Major General (retd) S R Sinho.
  • The Commission for Economically Backward Classes was constituted by the then UPA government in 2005, and submitted its report in July 2010.
  • Based on this, the Cabinet in January 2019 decided to amend the Constitution (103rd Amendment) to provide reservation to EWS.

Prime basis: Income criteria

  • The criteria include a Rs 8 lakh income ceiling for inclusion in EWS — which is the same as the criterion for deciding the “creamy layer” among the OBCs (those who are not in government).
  • The notification said income shall include income from all sources i.e. salary, agriculture, business, profession, etc for the financial year prior to the year of application.
  • Another criterion is that a person whose family owns or possesses 5 acres of agricultural land or more will be excluded from EWS.

Why was the new committee constituted?

  • The committee aimed to revisit the criteria for determining the economically weaker sections in terms of the provisions of the explanation to Article 15 of the Constitution.
  • It followed the Supreme Court’s observation that the income criterion for determining EWS was “arbitrary”.
  • The Supreme Court is presently hearing a number of petitions, including a special leave petition filed by the Centre against a Madras HC order on EWS and OBC reservation in the all-India quota for NEET.

Key recommendations

  • The report says that the “threshold of Rs 8 lakh of annual family income, in the current situation, seems reasonable for determining EWS”.
  • The committee has recommended that EWS may, however, exclude, irrespective of income, a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land and above.
  • The committee has removed the criteria that excluded some categories from EWS:
  1. Owners of residential properties of 1,000 sq ft and above
  2. Residential plots of 100 sq yards and above in notified municipalities
  3. Residential plots of 200 sq yards and above in areas other than the notified municipalities

How does it address the questions raised by the Supreme Court?

  • The Supreme Court has earlier questioned the basis of Rs 8 lakh criteria and termed it arbitrary without any substantiation.
  • It asserted that this criteria is similar to that of Creamy Layer in OBCs.

What did the committee say on Income Criteria?

  • The committee’s report now states the two sets of criteria are significantly different despite both using the Rs 8 lakh cut-off and that the criteria for the EWS.
  • EWS criteria are much more stringent than those for the OBC creamy layer.
  • The report justifies this income limit, stating that Rs 8 lakh cut off also has a link with the income tax exemption limit.
  • It would, therefore, be logical to use the income tax exemption limit to determine the threshold for EWS.

Tap here to read more about:

[Sansad TV] Perspective: Defining EWS



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