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

Critical Analysis of EWS Reservation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Controversy over the EWS reservation verdict



  • Shortly after the Supreme Court on Monday, 7 November, upheld the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, which introduced 10 percent reservations for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in government jobs and educational institutions, Tamil Nadu’s DMK termed the split verdict a ‘setback’ to a century-old fight for social justice.

What is the idea of reservation?

  • Based on historical injustice: Reservation is intrinsically linked to the historical injustice meted out to Shudras and Dalits.
  • Reservation for egalitarian society: It was during the anti-caste movement that the idea of reservation came up as a way for an egalitarian social order, to ensure fair representation in the socio-political order, and to mitigate and compensate for the inhuman exclusion of humans based on ascriptive status.
  • Equal participation in nation building: Reservation is implemented in politics, education and public employment so that all those in the hierarchy can participate in nation-building on equal terms.
  • Reservation is not a poverty alleviation: R. Ambedkar and E.V. Ramasamy ‘Periyar’ spoke about reservation as a means of providing representation; not as a poverty alleviation programme.

Reasoning behind granting reservation based on social status

  • Historical benefits to upper caste: Merit is often the mantra used against the idea and implementation of reservation. Historically, Brahmins had the monopoly in offering sacrifice, receiving gifts, becoming priests, spiritual mentorship, and teaching.
  • Monopoly over resources: Vaishyas had the monopoly in wealth-generating professions. These monopolies were rooted in, and buttressed by, the authority of scriptures like the Manusmriti and treatises like the Arthasashtra.
  • Monopoly over the education: The top three Varnas had access to learning. In the colonial era, under the progressive pressures of modernization and democratization, the traditional monopolies based on caste order were diffused into the secular domains of bureaucracy, legal practice, professorship, etc.
  • Upper caste reservation in certain professions: Leaders professing equality, such as Jyotirao Phule, Periyar and Ambedkar, wanted to annihilate the arbitrary reservation for certain professions, being implemented based on fanciful mythical stories.
  • Democratization of employment and education: Essentially, the mission was to ‘de-reserve’ education and employment opportunities from a handful of castes to make them available to the remaining castes which were aspiring to be a part of the newly independent nation.
  • Idea of Merit to oppose the reservation: The merit mantra was very effective at stopping, or at least stalling, the ‘de-reservation’ process. But when the bill for EWS reservation was passed hastily in Parliament in 2019, there was no concern for merit.


How categorization of poor under EWS is unfair?

  • The bar of 8 Lakh is absurd: Individuals from upper caste communities who earn up to ₹8 lakh a year and may own a 1,000-square feet home are being called economically weak.
  • Poverty estimation: In India, more than 30 crore citizens have been classified as being below the poverty line (spending less than ₹32 a day in urban areas and under ₹27 a day in rural areas).
  • Lower caste forms the majority of Poor: Data from India (overall) as well as individual States show that Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) have a higher share of poor people than upper castes in both urban and rural India.
  • Different income criteria for different community: We now live in a country where a household earning more than ₹75 per day is considered above the poverty line, while an upper caste household earning ₹2,222 a day is considered economically weak. According to the Department of Revenue data, households earning more than ₹10 lakh constitute less than 1% of India’s population.


Credibility of Data for EWS reservation was never questioned

  • Mandal commission data was critically analyzed: In the 1990s, renowned scholars from privileged communities viciously attacked the Mandal Commission claiming that it lacked credible data. In fact, the Mandal Commission report was based on official data curated from the Censuses of 1891 and 1931.
  • No credible data for EWS reservation: Further, B.P. Mandal formulated his concept of ‘backwardness’ by factoring in the social, educational and economic dimensions of different caste communities. But now, neither justification nor credible data has been presented while arguing that 10% reservation must be provided for the upper caste poor.
  • EWS reservation is equating the unequal’s: The Mandal Commission report said, “To equate unequal’s is to perpetuate inequality”. By giving the go-ahead for the EWS quota, Supreme Court has equated unequal’s in the category of affirmative action.
  • More privilege to already privileged community: The EWS quota is unfair because it twists the idea of social justice by bequeathing further privilege to communities who are historically situated to benefit from the oppressive caste system.

Other criticism of EWS reservation?

  • SC/ST and OBC are outside the EWS reservation: A Dalit or an OBC who does not get a job within this quota still belongs to the EWS, but he is excluded. That is the Constitutional issue, which you have to answer. How have you excluded them, how have you excluded the poor, how have you excluded those who earn only 20,000 a month who do not get jobs amongst the Dalits?
  • Disturbing the basic structure: The government of tinkering with the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
  • Ultimate goal is removal of reservation: Government basically testing the waters and this will pave the way for the removal of caste-based reservation.
  • Opening the lid for further reservation: There is demand that government should raise the existing reservation cap for SC, OBC and minorities in line with their proportion in the population now since a decision has been taken to break the 50 per cent ceiling set by the top court.


  • It is true that historically reservation is based social inequalities. Despite having the good credentials and marks upper caste or open categories were denied jobs. Justice to upper castes is not the injustice to lower castes. This is against the principal of natural justice. However exclusion of SC/ST and OBC from EWS category is certainly a matter of debate.

Mains Question

Q. What is the Ambedkar’s idea of reservation? Critically analyze the EWS reservation upheld by supreme court.

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