A solution in search of a problem: on 10% reservation

The Government passed 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act creating a 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS), for those, who have an income threshold of Rs. 8 lakh per annum. This article discusses potential implication of the EWS Amendment, followed by some alternatives:

Issues with the amendment:
  1. Excludes no one: As per India Human Development Survey (IHDS), the annual household incomes of 98% houses are less than 8 lakh. Other exclusion criteria applied (e.g. amount of land owned and size of home), the Amendment still covers 95% of households.
  2. High costs to other reserved categories: The Amendment removes 10% jobs from “open” category i.e., which can be taken by anyone – SC, ST, or OBC. Hence, it reduces opportunity for the reserved groups. It can also lead to a demand for more reservation as the amendment breaches the 50% limit.
  3. Getting caste certificates: As a large number of SC/ST/OBC households report difficulties in obtaining these certificates. A few non-reserved individuals also get fake certificates.
  4. Specialized fields: Skill demands are rapidly outpacing supply of candidates in specialized fields. In such cases, the compulsion to select a candidate from a particular category including EWS, acts as a restraint.
Need for redesigning reservations:
  1. Spreading the benefits: This can be done within the existing framework and ensure that individuals use their reserved category status only once in a lifetime. This would result in spreading the benefits broadly within the reserved community and more upward mobility.
  2. Focus on skilling: To ensure that citizens regardless of caste, class, or religion are able to participate in the economic growth. For ex: IHDS data shows that at Class 1 level – 68% of forward class students can read, 56% OBC, SCs (45%), STs (40%). Thus, there is a need to target such inequalities.

Source: This post is created based on the article “A solution in search of a problem: on 10% reservation” published in The Hindu on 22nd March 2022.

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