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.
- 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:
- Owners of residential properties of 1,000 sq ft and above
- Residential plots of 100 sq yards and above in notified municipalities
- 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.
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