EWS QUOTA: BEYOND THE SMOKESCREEN

  • Reservation was introduced as a short-term measure to give opportunities to classes of people who were socially and educationally backward and/or inadequately represented in education, employment, politics and other spheres.
  • The intent was laudable. Reservation has increased the standard of life for many. But what was supposed to be a short-term measure got extended due to various political and sociological compulsions.

Eliminating the cause

  • Even after seven decades of reservation, we are not able to claim success in eliminating the cause that required reservation in the first place. In our personal lives and careers, if a solution to a problem doesn’t give the expected result within a reasonable time frame, we reconsider the solution and try to improve it. However, successive governments kept extending the reservation system, hoping for a different outcome. People who benefited from reservation wanted the system to continue for successive generations too. It was clear that the reservation system was being used by them as a self-perpetuating mechanism. As a result, those who really needed reservation were deprived of its benefits.
  • At the time of Independence, the economy was primarily agrarian and based on traditional commerce. People were largely unskilled.
  • They continued engaging in the professions that their family had practised for generations.
  • However, free school education and industrialisation helped people learn new skills, which gave them scope to migrate to greener pastures. As cities became cosmopolitan, the class divide became a thing of the past.
  • Employment in the industrial sector became largely skill-based rather than caste-based.
  • Social and educational backwardness go hand-in-hand with economic weakness. More than 70 years of reservation has brought economic prosperity to a large section of people and given them adequate representation.
  • Ideally, families that have been brought above the poverty line through adequate employment opportunities and other benefits should make way for others who are less fortunate; instead, they oppose extending the system to the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society only because some of the beneficiaries could be from the so-called ‘forward’ communities.
  • The cause for social inequality and oppression was somewhat wrongly attributed to a particular faith and the practice of caste system prevalent in those days.
  • In this technology-cum-information age, the surging middle class population makes the caste system less prevalent.
  • The economic prosperity seen today has neutralised to a large extent the very reason for social injustice — the class disparity.
  • However, the caste and reservation system are still being kept alive only so that political parties and those who have benefited from the system so far can continue to milk it.
  • The government has a constitutional and moral duty to achieve the goal of “social, economic and political justice,” mentioned in the Preamble.
  • The 10% quota for the EWS aims to correct an anomaly in the system that is depriving deserving and qualified people.
  • We need to accept that reservation on the basis of economic criteria is the need of the hour and the stepping stone to achieving economic and social justice.

Misconceptions

  • Most objections to this come from a misunderstanding that the basic structure of the Constitution has been violated by the EWS amendment, which seeks to empower the privileged sections of society who are neither socially and educationally backward nor inadequately represented.
  • Another misconception is that the 10% quota in the open category in favour of ‘forward’ communities reduces the availability of seats in the open category for other classes and communities.
  • But the government has clarified that this 10% is in addition to the existing reservation in favour of SEBCs. This means it does not in any way affect reservation up to 50% for SEBCs, OBCs, SCs and STs.
  • The judgment that sets the basis for this 10% quota said, “If an egalitarian socio-economic order is the goal…, the deprivations arising from economic disadvantages, including those of discrimination and exclusion, need to be addressed to by the State; and for that matter, every affirmative action has the sanction of our Constitution…”

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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