GD/PI: Understanding 10% Reservation Bill for Economic Weaker Sections (EWS)

To understand and to be able to debate on the benefits of this reservation system, it is essential that we understand the following aspects and by means of which the topic gets more clearer.

What was reservation implemented in India during the British era or in the first decade of India’s independence?

1. The concept of reservation in the administration was brought in primarily by Dr. B R Ambedkar, the creator of Indian constitution. This was first brought to picture by him in front of the British led Indian government to uphold the rights of the downtrodden and socially backward people. Since the socially backward also meant economically backward, back then, as connections in the social environment was only the way for better trade.

2. After lot of fight within the constitution committee, the Article 46 was amended to ensure equal right to the socially downtrodden, so that they come economically ahead by using the reservation rights. Such people were categorized as Scheduled caste (SCs) and the Scheduled tribes (STs).

3. Later, many other castes that they should be also provided with special benefits as they have been deprived of basic amenities for growth from very long time, a new category of people with total reservation of 27.5% was brought in. Such people were categorized as Other backward classes (OBCs).

Therefore, a total of 50% of seats in education and jobs, in the government quota was reserved for a pool of people named as SCs, STs and OBCs.

Why the basis of the reservation system in India was only caste based?

In the early independence days, the means to economically grow was either to be a government servant or to trade for their goods, which were predominantly grains or services like barber, potter, blacksmiths etc.

With the market size limited and the influential people in the villages being from forward caste, they never let the socially downtrodden to grow economically.

This meant, in those days, a person who is socially downtrodden is also economically downtrodden.

Therefore the reservation system was completely based on social status or caste.

What exactly does this new amendment speak about? How different it is from the earlier passed reservation bills?

The present bill, if passed will be the 124th amendment in the constitution.  All the previous reservation systems were caste based and now the basis will be the economic status of the forward caste only.

This clearly means that the people who are still poor and are SC, ST or OBS cannot avail this reservation.

The following are the highlights of the amendment:

  • The bill proposes to add provision of reservation of up to 10% for economically weaker sections in educational institutions including private, whether aided or unaided, by the state, except minority institutions.
  • The bill seeks to add provision to provide up to 10% reservations to ‘Economically Weaker Sections’ of the society, over above the existing quota.

Two most important things to be analyzed:

Up to 10% – The state governments have their rights to consider the reservations up to 10%, basis on their economic and social conditions. However, the state governments cannot exercise more than 10% of reservation whatsoever.

Economically Weaker Sections – How would the government define the EWS in a state or in the country? The bill further clarifies, that EWS shall be such as notified by the state from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

Therefore the status of the EWS is dynamic to any individual and the person would lose the rights of reservation once the family is notified and economic stronger section.

Were there any attempts earlier by previous governments, either at state level or central level to implement reservation based on economic status?

There were multiple attempts to bring in the reservations based on the economic status of the individuals and they have failed to stand either at the Centre or at the Supreme Court.

  • In 1992, P V Narasimha Rao’s government proposed 10% reservation to the economically weaker class. The plea was filed at the Supreme Court and seems to be dusting there since then.
  • In 2008, the Kerala government, under chief minister V S Achyutanandan, wanted to reserve 10% the seats based on economic status, in all the government colleges of graduate and post graduate level, and 7.5% in universities.  However, the appeal is still pending in the Supreme Court.
  • In 2011, Mayawati led Uttarpradesh government wrote letter to central government seeking 10% reservations for the economically backward forward castes. The plea remained unheard.
  • In 2008 and 2015, the Rajasthan assembly raised a bill for 14% reservations for the economically backward forward castes. The legislative assembly did not give a nod for a go ahead and it remained untouched later.

What might be the misunderstandings of this amendment by many a common people and how should we be alert to ensure complete understanding and the implementation of the same in our respective states?

While we are happy about the proceedings, it is very essential that we understand the nuances and be ready accordingly to avoid last minute disappointments and surprises. 

  • It is in the hands of respective state governments do decide upon, if complete 10% or lesser percentage of the EWS to be allowed for reservation amongst the forward castes, in their respective states.
  • The vague definition of the economically weaker section is definitely an issue to ponder upon. However, income has been mentioned as one of the criteria, it is difficult to understand, until the clarity between the household/family income or the individual income.
  • The political game of ruling parties differing from the Centre also will matter for the exercise of this reservation.

Ex: Mamata Banarjee might not be ready to exercise this reservation in West Bengal as that would make her state people, pro Centre.

  • This reservation does not disturb the 50% reservation provided to the SCs, STs and OBCs. The implementation of this bill will ensure that we have 60% reservation in the country.