The deception and injustice behind EWS reservation.

The reservation for ‘Economically Weaker Section’ or the EWS, as it is commonly called, is implemented with haste, deception, and ill intentions.

Reservation is the affirmative action followed in India at the Union Government level and at the State Government level and ever since its inception, the reservation system has been heavily criticized. It was criticized on various grounds such as it being a system of reverse racism, promoting mediocrity, being used for divisive politics etc. However, no political party had dared to say openly that their motto is to end the reservation, even if they want reservation scrapped.

Why was the Reservation implemented?

Reservation was conceptualized to ensure representation of all sections of people in education and employment, who are otherwise divided into various castes and sub-castes. The peculiar thing about castes is that no two castes are equal in the thousands of castes that exist in India, and they are inherently discriminatory in principle. The caste that a person belongs to can either give them an immense social capital or a huge social disadvantage. The caste system had kept certain sections of the population backward for a couple of millennia and oppression is still as relevant as it has always been.

Hence, reservation was implemented in India gradually over the years starting from the early 20th century. It has historically been given on caste basis as that was the differentiating factor which causes social backwardness. The most important aspect of reservation has been its clarity in not being a poverty alleviation program but a tool to ensure representation from all sections of the society who are otherwise excluded. The recently introduced EWS is in stark contrast to this as it takes into consideration of economic criteria and also undermines the concept of reservation based on caste.

Who is eligible for EWS reservation?

  1. A person who does not avail reservation in any of the other reserved categories such as OBC, SC and ST.
  2. A person whose family income does not exceed Rs.8 lakh per annum.
  3. A person not having more than 5 acres of agricultural land.
  4. A person with residential plot of not more than 100 square meters in urban areas or not more than 200 square meters in rural areas.
  5. A person with a residential house of not more than 1000 square feet.

The deception of EWS

The name ‘Economically Weaker Section’ led many to believe that the reservation is based on the financial situation of an individual irrespective of the caste due to the ambiguity in the name. The names OBC, SC and ST very clearly specify that the reservation is for Other Backward Communities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and there is no room for any confusion or obscurity in the name and who it would benefit. But EWS cannot be attributed with the same adjectives as it is for the socially forward castes who had faced no historical oppression or those who are prone to face caste discrimination and on the contrary, have been historical oppressors.

Moreover, if economic criteria are followed, there are poor people in SC, ST and OBC communities as well. But EWS excludes them and creates a reservation specifically for “Upper Castes” but deceptively called EWS rather than straight forward Upper Caste reservation. Another problem with EWS is the eligibility for this quota. It is being hailed by some as not being caste based but it still very much is, as it is for those who do not fall under OBC, SC and ST.

EWS reservation is unfortunately not based on any proper study or a census which determines social, economic, or educational backwardness of the upper castes. In addition to that, there is no widespread population census based on caste to determine the population of the upper caste people who do not fall under any reservation category.

How the implementation of EWS changes the reservation dynamic?

The reservation percentage varies from state to state but at the Union Government level it is the same overall. Before the implementation of EWS, the reservation percentages were 27% for the OBC, 15% for the SC and 7.5% for the ST. The remaining 50.5% is open to all and it is called General Category or the Open Category. The upper limit of the reservation was capped at 49.5% by the Supreme Court of India in the famous ‘Indra Sawhney Etc. vs Union of India’ case. The upper limit has been criticized too as judiciary’s overreach into the legislation.

With implementation of the EWS quota, the numbers might look the same for the unwitting mind, as the numbers for the OBC, SC & ST remains unchanged. but when we look closely, we realize that it is not. The 50.5% seats in General Category have been reduced to 40.5% seats. The General Category seats have been accessible for the OBC, SC and ST too. So, in essence, the seats potentially available to the OBC, SC & ST has been reduced.

What next?

The DMK President and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K.Stalin had declared the recent Supreme Court verdict upholding the EWS reservation as a “setback in the century-long crusade for social justice.” The party had convened an all-party meeting to discuss what can be done next but the Congress, its biggest ally, had welcomed the Supreme Court verdict. There is not much opposition to EWS from other major parties in the country. Hence, the likelihood of overturning EWS is improbable.

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Ramasamy Jayaprakash

Ramasamy works as a Senior Sub-Editor at YouTurn and writes articles in Tamil and English. He also makes videos for YouTurn's Tamil & English YouTube channels.
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