For the Prelims: Reservation, Attorney-General of India, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, affirmative action, Basic Structure Doctrine.

For the Mains: Economically Weaker Section (EWS) Quota Implications

Context - 

The Attorney-General of India has stated that the 10% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) of society does not diminish the rights of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, or other backward classes.

What is the government's position?

It Doesn't Affect Other Classes' Quotas: 

  • The EWS quota was awarded in addition to the existing 50% reservation for backward classes, namely scheduled communities, and OBCs.
  • The Attorney General dismissed the petitioners' claims that the omission of backward groups from the EWS quota constituted discrimination since they had received advantages through affirmative action.
  • Members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, for example, have received several benefits under the Constitution, including Article 16(4)(a) (special provision for promotion), Article 243D (reservation in panchayat and municipality seats), Article 330 (reservation in the Lok Sabha), and Article 332 (reservation in the Lok Sabha) (reservation in state legislative assemblies).

Uplifting the weaker section requires:

  • The court should treat the reservation for backward classes, and now the EWS quota, as "one unified approach of the state aimed at the upliftment of the weakest parts of society."
  • According to Niti Ayog's Multi-dimensional Poverty Index, 18.2% of the overall population in the general category belonged to EWS, which amounted to around 350 million (3.5 crores) of the population.

Refer to the Constitution:

Other than the EWS quota, reservations for OBCs, SCs, and STs come under distinct silos and do not undermine the essential framework of the Constitution.

  • Instances: The government's written comments related to how the Supreme Court had upheld the legality of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
  • The court determined that the 2009 Act strives to remove all impediments, including financial and psychological barriers, that a kid from a weaker section or disadvantaged group faces when applying for admission, and so affirmed it under Article 21 of the Constitution.

What are the opposing viewpoints?

  • The amendments contradict the constitutional system, which states that no part of available seats/posts can be reserved based only on economic grounds.
  • The modifications also contradict the 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, which stated that a backward class cannot be formed solely and entirely via economic factors.
  • The amendments change the 50% quota restriction established in the 1992 decision of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, which, according to the petitioner, is a component of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

What is the Quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)?

  • The 10% EWS quota was implemented by amending Articles 15 and 16 of the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019.
  • Article 15 (6) and Article 16 were added (6).
  • It is used for economic reservations in jobs and admittance to educational institutions for economically disadvantaged groups (EWS).
  • It was passed in order to help the poor who were not covered by the 50% quota policy for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
  • It permits both the Centre and the States to make reserves for society's EWS.

Importance:

Addresses Inequality: 

The 10% quota is progressive and may solve issues of educational and income inequality in India, where economically disadvantaged persons have been barred from attending higher education institutions and public jobs owing to budgetary constraints.

Recognizing Economic Backwardness:

  • There are numerous persons and classes other than the backward classes that are suffering from hunger and poverty.
  • The proposed constitutional amendment would grant constitutional status to the impoverished of the upper castes.

Reduced Discrimination Based on Caste:

Furthermore, it will progressively reduce the stigma associated with reservation because reservation has historically been connected with caste, and the upper caste frequently looks down on people who come via reservation.

Issues:

Data Availability:

The Union or state governments lack such statistics to demonstrate that 'upper' caste folks earning less than Rs 8 lakh per year are underrepresented in government positions and higher education institutions. There is a good chance that they are over-represented in these places.

Arbitrary Guidelines:

  • The government's standards for determining eligibility for this reservation are ambiguous and unsupported by evidence or research.
  • Even the Supreme Court questioned the administration on whether it had considered GDP per capita in each state while determining the monetary ceiling for EWS reservations.
  • According to statistics, the per capita income of states varies greatly: Goa has the greatest per capita income of over Rs. 4 lakhs, while Bihar has the lowest at Rs.40,000.

Source: TH