Govt. to revisit income criterion for EWS quota
- The Union Government on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it had taken a “considered decision” to revisit the “criteria” for determining Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) to provide them reservation.
- The Union Government has taken a considered decision to revisit the criteria for determining the economically weaker sections in terms of the provisions of the Explanation to Article 15 of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act 2019."
Reservation in India
Reservation is a system of affirmative action in India that provides historically disadvantaged groups representation in education, employment and politics.
Based on provisions in the Indian Constitution, it allows the Union Government and also the States and Territories of India to set reserved quotas or seats, which lower the qualifications needed in exams, job openings etc. for ""socially and educationally backward citizens.
Reservation is primarily given to all 3 groups: Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes abbreviated as SC, ST, OBC respectively.
Originally reservation was only given to SCs and STs but was later extended to OBCs in 1987 after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report.
The first are the Scheduled Castes. These communities were variously seen as at the bottom or ""underneath"" the caste system in South Asia, below even the shudra varna. These castes had hereditary professions such as agricultural labourers, manual scavenging, tannery, washing clothes, daily wage workers, fishing and more. They were subjected to the practice of untouchability, which takes the form of various social restrictions ranging from inability to touch other castes to inability to use the same water source or even live in the same area. Today many of these castes are landless labourers.
The next group are the Scheduled Tribes. The definition of this group varies, but the criteria for a Scheduled Tribe ""indications of primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness."" Most of these groups are considered Adivasis, and the original inhabitants while others are nomadic tribes who were notified as ""criminal tribes"" under British rule. They range in modes of existence from subsistence agriculturalists who have had interaction between the outside world to hunter-gatherer groups still in the jungles. Many of them frequently had their lands exploited by the British during the colonial era. However, in the Northeast, many of the tribes are relatively better-off and possess interaction with the outside world. Examples include the Bodo, Gond, Banjara, and Santal.
The third main group are the Other Backward Classes. They were not originally in the reservation scheme, but during the premiership of Morarji Desai, the Mandal Commission studied all the communities in India to find what castes were ""backward"" compared to the general population. Based on 1931 census data, they estimated 52% of India's population belonged to castes that were ""backward"" due to various socio-economic factors like wealth or traditional occupation. The possibility for providing reservation to these people was allowed for in Article 15(4) and Article 16(4), which states the government can provide reservation to ""backward classes."" Although the center maintains its own list of OBC's, comprising over 5,000 castes and subcastes, each state can create their own backward caste list for in-state reservations. Most OBCs were classified originally in the shudra varna and have low ritual status, apart from being economically deprived. However, there are other castes in the OBC list who, although ritually low, are considered ""dominant castes"" for numerical strength and in many cases are the enforcers of the caste hierarchy, including some Brahmin groups.
Economical Weaker Section
- The 10% EWS quota was introduced under the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019 by amending Articles 15 and 16.
- It is for economic reservation in jobs and admissions in education institutes for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
- It was enacted to promote the welfare of the poor not covered by the 50% reservation policy for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
- It enables both Centre and the states to provide reservation to the EWS of society.
- The 10% quota is progressive and could address the issues of educational and income inequality in India since the economically weaker sections of citizens have remained excluded from attending higher educational institutions and public employment due to their financial incapacity.
Recognition of the Economic Backwards:
- There are many people or classes other than backward classes who are living under hunger and poverty-stricken conditions.
- The proposed reservation through a constitutional amendment would give constitutional recognition to the poor from the upper castes.
Reduction of Caste Based Discrimination:
- Moreover, it will gradually remove the stigma associated with reservation because reservation has historically been related with caste and most often the upper caste look down upon those who come through the reservation."