EWS Quota

Supreme Court (SC) has questioned the methodology adopted by the government in fixing Rs. 8 lakh as the annual income limit to identify the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) for providing 10% quota in public jobs and educational institutions.

Key Points

  • About:
    • The 10% EWS quota was introduced under the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019 by amending Articles 15 and 16.
      • It inserted Article 15 (6) and Article 16 (6).
    • 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.
  • Significance:
    • Addresses Inequality:
      • 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.
  • Concerns:
    • Unavailability of Data:
      • The Statement of Object and Reason in the EWS bill clearly mentioned that the economically weaker sections of citizens have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with the persons who are economically more privileged.”
      • This is at best a wild guess or a supposition because the government has not produced any data to back this point.
    • Breaches Reservation Cap:
      • In the Indira Sawhney case 1992, the nine-judge Constitution bench put a cap of 50%.
      • The EWS quota breaches this limit, without even putting this issue into consideration.
    • Arbitrary Criteria:
      • The criteria used by the government to decide the eligibility for this reservation is vague and is not based on any data or study.
      • Even the SC questioned the government whether they have checked the GDP per capita for every State while deciding the monetary limit for giving the EWS reservation.
      • Statistics show that the per capita income in states differs widely – Goa is the state having the highest per capita income of almost Rs. 4 lakh whereas Bihar is at the bottom with Rs.40,000.

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