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No survey done to identify number of EWS beneficiaries

Published: 22nd Dec, 2022

Context

The Union government has not conducted any survey nor is it considering a proposal to conduct one to identify the number of beneficiaries entitled to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation.

Background

  • Earlier this year, Supreme Court had heard the constitutionality of the EWS reservation.
  • The Union government had orally told the Constitution Bench that it was relying on the data compiled in the NITI Aayog’s Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index.
  • The union government has recently made it clear, that no survey has been done to identify number of EWS beneficiaries.
  • NITI Ayog has estimated that 18.2% of the General Category population would fall under the EWS category (about 3.5 crore).
  • The Supreme Court Bench, while hearing the challenge to the income criteria for EWS reservation had also questioned the Union government over what data it had considered to arrive at the ?8 lakh criteria for annual family incomeand on what basis it had arrived at the 10% requirement.

What was the basis of the challenge to the amendment?

  • Violates the Basic Doctrine of the Constitution:On the ground that it violates the Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Indra Sawhney & Ors v Union of India, which upheld the Mandal report and capped reservations at 50 per cent.
    • The court had held that economic backwardness cannot be the sole criterion for identifying a backward class.
  • Issue of private, unaided educational institutions: They have argued that their fundamental right to practice a trade/ professionis violated when the state compels them to implement its reservation policy and admit students on any criteria other than merit.

About EWS Quota:

  • 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 to caste and most often the upper caste looks down upon those who come through the reservation.

S R Sinho Commission:

  • The EWS reservation was granted based on the recommendations of a commission headed by Major General (retd) S R Sinho. The commission, which was constituted in March 2005, submitted its report in July 2010.
  • The Sinho Commission recommended that all below-poverty-line (BPL) families within the general category as notified from time to time, and also all families whose annual family income from all sources is below the taxable limit, should be identified as EBCs (economically backward classes).
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