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

[op-ed snap] Whose quota is it anyway


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the eligibility criteria for reservation for EWS as provided by the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, in a brief manner.


  • According to experts, the eligibility criteria for reservation for economically weaker sections will enable the well-off to corner benefits of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act.
  • The Act provides 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education to the economically weaker sections (EWS) in the general category.


  • Experts have held that the children of the poor from the upper castes — vegetable vendors, construction labourers, challenged individuals, self-employed or unemployed widows — deserve reservation as much as the children from Dalit households, who have enjoyed high economic and social status, say, for two generations.
  • Let us then reserve 10 per cent seats for the poorest 10 per cent of the households, not covered under reservation.

Criteria likely to be fixed for identifying the beneficiaries

  • The dearth of will and capacity to target the new quota to the actual poor is evident from the criteria that are likely to be fixed for identifying the potential beneficiaries.
  • Persons from households with annual earnings below Rs 8 lakh, possessing agricultural land below 5 acres, a plot less than 100 yards in a notified municipality or below 200 yards in the non-notified municipal area would be eligible for the reservation.
  • The new amendment also allows the states to set income cut-offs to decide who constitutes EWS.
  • They can even exceed the criteria set by the Centre.
  • It also allows the states to notify EWS “from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage” even if they are “adequately represented” in government jobs.

Who will be the real beneficiary?

  • SCs, STs and OBCs account for 70 per cent of the population and are entitled to 49.5 per cent reservation in the government sector.
  • The eligibility issue thus pertains to the remaining 30 per cent or 39 crore people, who fall under the general category.
  • Calculations based on available data suggest that about 95 per cent of the people in the general category will be eligible under the new criteria.
  • It is not difficult to understand who would be the real beneficiaries of the rather generous eligibility criteria for determining economic deprivation.
  • It is very likely the middle class, those who work in the private sector where it is difficult to establish the income-level and the unscrupulous who can con the system through false declarations, would grab the benefit.
  • The children of street vendors and agricultural labourers have very little chance to benefit from the new quota.

Poor stands very little chance of benefiting from the new quota

  • Indeed, whenever anyone has shown the benevolence of defining poverty with a high cut-off point, the real motives has been to help the top 10 to 20 per cent among the eligible.
  • The poor, as defined by the Tendulkar or Rangarajan Committees, stand very little chance of benefiting from the new quota.
  • It is also hard to believe that Muslims would benefit from the quota, simply because they have a higher share among the poor.
  • Very few Muslims would be in the top 20 per cent among those eligible for the EWS quota.


  • The need of the hour is to rationalise the eligibility criteria for reservation for economically weaker sections so that the well-off do not corner the benefits of the poor.
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