Home India EWS Quota: This vote catcher is fine. News Jani

EWS Quota: This vote catcher is fine. News Jani

EWS Quota: This vote catcher is fine.

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The Supreme Court’s November 7 verdict could not have come at a more opportune time for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which upholds the reservations of the ‘economically weaker sections’. The majority verdict came just five days before polling in Himachal Pradesh and less than a month before polling in Gujarat.

Are the decisions of the Supreme Court subject to the code of conduct of the Election Commission? If the decision came a month after the elections, would the sky fall? Is it fair to argue that these decisions can affect election results?

It was perhaps a mere coincidence that the outgoing Chief Justice of India, who was retiring two days later, was also on the bench. Perhaps another coincidence is that two of the three judges who wrote the separate majority judgments (CJI Lalit did not write the separate judgment but concurred in the majority) have served in the Gujarat High Court.

Not surprisingly, both the ‘Forward Castes’, which are generally opposed to caste-based reservations, and the BJP, which opposed the Patidars’ movement demanding reservation in Gujarat, ” has welcomed the decision to achieve “social justice for the poor”. There is no doubt that the Supreme Court will take its time to hear the review petitions challenging the verdict. It remains to be seen if the court stays the reservation after the polls are over in both states, by which time the BJP’s short-term focus will have worked well.

A majority of the court held that the 50% quota limit applies only to caste-based quota but not to EWS reservation, constitutionally unsustainable and discriminatory as well, being questioned. It has been argued that the EWS is a vertical compartment made up of open competition.

This decision has opened up all sorts of dubious possibilities. With the Supreme Court effectively validating reservation beyond the 50 percent threshold, there are chances that many states will increase the reserved quota for SC, ST and OBC categories. The Jharkhand Assembly has already passed a resolution to take it to 77 percent. A similar resolution is expected to be passed in Chhattisgarh next month. More states are likely to follow.

To set the record straight, the 103rd Amendment does not mention caste. But by allowing EWS reservation to those eligible for caste-based reservation, the amendment effectively reserves 10 percent quota only for the next castes. Only five communities in Karnataka – Brahmins, Jains, Aryaveshyas, Nagarthas and Mudaliars – are outside the ambit of the existing caste-based reservation. It is said that these five communities constitute a mere four percent of the state’s population and yet they will be eligible for the 10 percent EWS quota. In Karnataka, unlike other states, even religious minorities like Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Digambara Jains and others are eligible for the 32 percent OBC quota.

Attempts to grant caste-based reservations to Jats in Haryana and Marathas in Maharashtra were earlier thwarted by the Supreme Court’s 1993 judgment in the Indira Sahni case, which set the threshold at 50 percent. It was a bench of nine judges in 1993. Can a five-judge bench overturn it in 2022? With the EWS decision being allowed to be violated, there is a possibility of snowballing into demands for quotas higher than the proportion of the communities’ population. Tribal population in Jharkhand is around 30% and Madhya Pradesh is 21.5%. In Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, OBCs constitute a larger proportion of the population than their quota.

Many such demands will have to be decided. There is a clear shift in the duration of the quota debate, with an emphasis on the relative merits of economic status over caste-based reservations. But even the Sino Commission report, which forms the basis of the EWS concerns, acknowledges the ambivalence and difficulties in making the switch.

However, this is not the only issue thrown into relief by the Supreme Court decision. Based on a petition, the Madras High Court has issued a notice to the central government to explain why people with income above Rs 2.5 lakh per annum should pay income tax when the EWS quota would have set an income limit of Rs 8 lakh per annum. Is. In 2021, the central government had defended the income standard in court. He had argued that for the purposes of EWS reservation, the income limit is for a family whereas for caste-based reservation, the income criteria applies to individuals. It had also argued that income from all sources including agricultural income is included for EWS reservation, but not in case of caste-based reservation. But the government is unable to explain how it arrived at this limit and on what basis the 10 percent quota for economically weaker sections was fixed.

No empirical data is cited to justify the ceiling or quota. Can upper-caste nuclear families earning up to Rs 8 lakh per annum (or 66,000 per month), who also own possibly 1,000 sq ft houses and up to 5 acres of land, be considered economically vulnerable? For perspective, consider that a household earning Rs 75 per day is said to be above the poverty line but an upper caste household earning Rs 2,200 per day is ‘economically vulnerable’. Also, revenue department data shows that less than one percent of the country’s population has a household income of more than 1 million. More than 300 million Indians live below the poverty line (spending less than Rs. 32 per day in urban areas and less than Rs. 27 per day in rural areas). All available data show that Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) have a higher share of poor people than upper castes in both urban and rural India. But they will perversely remain outside the ambit of EWS reservation.

The extension of EWS reservation to institutions offering higher education in the private sector is also controversial. Most of such institutions in the private sector are promoted by forward castes and there is no reliable data for forward caste reservation. On the contrary, the forward castes are believed to be overrepresented virtually everywhere — in political appointments, in the executive, in the judiciary and in universities — and now, thanks to the EWS decision, have an additional quota for themselves. has obtained.

Gujarat saw anti-reservation riots in the 1980s, and then made a mockery of its own history during the 2015 Patidar Andolan, which demanded reservations for the state’s upper-caste Patidars and was widely believed to be It has set the stage for EWS quota. This new quota has exposed the so-called ‘Gujarat model’ of development in at least two ways. This shows that this model of development has not even succeeded in lifting the lower castes out of poverty, and has only widened the gap between the rich and the poor. The EWS quota is proof that for the poor in India, even for the lower castes, reservations are still a sure ticket to a better future.

Patidar Andolan leaders, who were brutally dealt with during the pro-reservation movement, are now BJP candidates in the upcoming assembly elections. The Patidar community, which can rightfully claim Assembly seats in proportion to its population, has also been given disproportionate seats to contest. The social class that has given the most political space in the state is the OBC community. The BJP has developed an image that is not only pro-Hindu but also pro-caste, and the EWS decision will strengthen its claims with these communities. An arbitrarily fixed upper income limit (`8 lakh per annum) for the new quota, and the simultaneous exclusion of social categories covered by other quotas, will ensure that almost everyone is eligible as long as That they belong to the next caste. This is a huge catchment area for votes and the BJP knows it well.

Martin McEwan is the founder of Nusarjan, a grassroots Dalit organization fighting for human rights.

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