Revision of EWS criteria
- Recently ,the government has accepted the report of a three-member panel constituted to revisit the Economical Weaker Section (EWS) criteria
- A government committee report in the Supreme Court has said that “income” is a “feasible criterion” for defining the “Economical Weaker Sections” (EWS) in society and the annual family income of ₹8 lakh is a “reasonable” threshold to determine EWS in order to extend reservation in admissions and jobs.
Major Points of Panel report
Annual income limit:
- The committee has termed the gross family annual income limit of Rs 8 lakh as ‘just and fair in the present circumstances’ as unlike the similar income criteria for OBC creamy layers reservation, the EWS regime includes income from all sources including agricultural income and salary for the household.
- The EWS' criteria relates to the financial year prior to the year of application whereas the income criterion for the creamy layer in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category is applicable to gross annual income for three consecutive years.
- The committee concluded that the two sets of criteria are significantly different despite both using the Rs 8 lakh cut-off and that the criteria for the EWS are much more stringent than those for the OBC creamy layer.
Residential asset criteria:
- According to the EWS quota notification of 2019 issued by the Department of Personnel & Training, persons whose family owns or possesses 5 acres of agricultural land or residential plot of 1,000 square feet or a residential plot of 100 square yards in notified municipalities or a plot of 200 square yards and above in areas other than the notified municipalities, will be excluded from being identified as EWS, irrespective of the family income.
- The panel has recommended that the residential asset criteria may altogether be removed, arguing that mere possession of residential house may not correctly reflect the economic condition of the candidate or his family, especially if it is used only as a dwelling unit and not for generating any income.
Arguments favouring EWS Quota
- The economically weaker sections have not reaped the benefits of higher educational institutions and public employment due to their financial incapacity.
- The quota is progressive and could address the issues of educational and income inequality in India.
- The reservation criteria should be economic because there are many classes other than backward classes who are living under abysmal conditions but cannot avail reservation and its intended benefits.
- In Ram Singh v. Union of India (2015), SC asserted that social deficiencies may exist beyond the concept of caste (e.g. economic status/gender identity as in transgenders).
- The “quota-for-poor” policy is symptomatic of a larger failure. It replaces the principle that welfare should be the basic raison d’être of public policy, it hides the colossal failure of the state in handling questions of poverty and deprivation and, at the same time, it indicates a dead-end in policy-making itself.
Arguments against EWS Quota
- Reservation based entirely on economic criteria is not an all-in-one solution, though family income can be one of the parameters.
- Determining economic backwardness is a major challenge as there are concerns regarding the inclusion and exclusion of persons under the criteria.
- In M. Nagaraj v. Union of India (2006), a Constitution Bench ruled that equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The 50 per cent ceiling is a constitutional requirement without which the structure of equality of opportunity would collapse.
- The implementation of the quota is a challenge in itself as the states do not have the finances to enforce even the present and constitutionally mandated reservations.
- It washes away the constitutionally permitted gatekeeping mechanism of social and educational backwardness and makes reservation available to everyone irrespective of social backwardness.
- Reservation has also become synonymous with anti-merit, with the extension of reservation, this opinion might get further ingrained in the public psyche.
Important Constitutional Provisions regarding Reservations:
- (103rd Amendment) Act,
- The Parliament amended the Constitution of India (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 to provide for a 10% reservation in education and government jobs in India for a section of the General category candidates.
- The amendment introduced economic reservation by amending Articles 15 and 16. It inserted Article 15(6) and Article 16 (6) in the Constitution to allow reservation for the economically backward in the unreserved category.
- Article 15(6): Up to 10% of seats may be reserved for EWS for admission in educational institutions. Such reservations will not apply to minority educational institutions.
- Article 16(6): It permits the government to reserve up to 10% of all government posts for the EWS.