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

Rethink for EWS Criteria

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EWS Quota

Mains level : Issues with EWS quota

The Union Government has decided to revisit the criteria set out for eligibility for its 10% reservation under the economically weaker sections (EWS) category within a month.

Context

  • The decision came after the Supreme Court closely questioned it on how it arrived at the income figure.
  • The Supreme Court is considering a case to the implementation of 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes and 10% for the EWS under the all-India quota for medical admissions.

How was EWS reservation introduced?

  • The 10% reservation was introduced through the 103rd Constitution Amendment and enforced in January 2019.
  • It added Clause (6) to Article 15 to empower the Government to introduce special provisions for the EWS among citizens except those in the classes that already enjoy reservation.
  • It allows reservation in educational institutions, both public and private, whether aided or unaided, excluding those run by minority institutions, up to a maximum of 10%.
  • It also added Clause (6) to Article 16 to facilitate reservation in employment.
  • The new clauses make it clear that the EWS reservation will be in addition to the existing reservation.

Significance of the quota

  • The Constitution initially allowed special provisions only for the socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The Government introduced the concept of EWS for a new class of affirmative action program for those not covered by or eligible for the community-based quotas.

What are the criteria to identify the section?

  • The main criterion is that those above an annual income limit of ₹8 lakh are excluded.
  • It accounts income from all sources such as salary, business, agriculture and profession for the financial year prior to the application of the family, applicants, their parents, siblings and minor children.
  • Possession of any of these assets, too, can take a person outside the EWS pool:
  1. Five or more acres of agricultural land
  2. A residential flat of 1,000 sq.ft. and above
  3. A residential plot of 100 square yards and above in notified municipalities, and
  4. A residential plot of 200 square yards and above in other areas

What are the court’s questions about the criteria?

  • Reduction within general category: The EWS quota remains a controversy as its critics say it reduces the size of the open category, besides breaching the 50% limit on the total reservation.
  • Arbitrariness over income limit: The court has been intrigued by the income limit being fixed at ₹8 lakh per year. It is the same figure for excluding the ‘creamy layer’ from OBC reservation benefits.
  • Socio-economic backwardness: A crucial difference is that those in the general category, to whom the EWS quota is applicable, do not suffer from social or educational backwardness, unlike those classified as the OBC.
  • Metropolitan criteria: There are other questions as to whether any exercise was undertaken to derive the exceptions such as why the flat criterion does not differentiate between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
  • OBC like criteria: The question the court has raised is that when the OBC category is socially and educationally backward and, therefore, has additional impediments to overcome.
  • Not based on relevant data: In line with the Supreme Court’s known position that any reservation or norms for exclusion should be based on relevant data.

What is the current status of the EWS quota?

  • The reservation for the EWS is being implemented by the Union Government for the second year now.
  • Recruitment test results show that the category has a lower cut-off mark than the OBC, a point that has upset the traditional beneficiaries of reservation based on caste.
  • The explanation is that only a small number of people are currently applying under the EWS category — one has to get an income certificate from the revenue authorities — and therefore the cut-off is low.
  • However, when the number picks up over time, the cut-off marks are expected to rise.

Way forward

  • The per capita income or GDP in all States, or the difference in purchasing power in the rural and urban areas, should be taken into account while a single income limit was formulated for the whole country.

 

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