Economically Weaker Section Quota Explained

Economically Weaker Section Quota Explained

What is Economically Weaker Section Quota?

The Central Government after much discussion in the two houses of the Parliament passed  the 124th Constitutional Amendment seeking 10% quota for economically weaker sections of the society, the assent of which was given by the President in February 2019. With this assent, the limit set by SC, that is ,max 50% quota has been breached.  But, simultaneously the government has notified educational institutions to increase the number of seats so that SC, ST, OBC and General Category do not face its negative ripple effects.

  Surprisingly, the opposition did not make any major effort to create barriers in passing the bill, whose electoral dividend will be reaped by BJP Government.  The act of providing 10% reservation to the economically weaker sections in the general category is historic, in the sense it was passed in both houses of Parliament without any opposition. The entire Opposition  submitted to the Government either for the fear of being dubbed anti-poor in the forthcoming general elections, or they believe the economic parameter matters for addressing backwardness through reservation. The legal experts, on the other side, refer it a ‘self interest based fraud on the Constitution’. This is because the origin of reservation in India addresses the caste- and occupational-based historical discrimination/injustice faced by some communities or groups rather than economic backwardness.

The Provisions for availing the 10% quota for economically weaker sections is as follows:

According to the memorandum of January 19, persons not covered under the current scheme of reservations of SC, ST, Economically and socially backward persons, and whose gross family income is below 8 lakh are to be identified as EWS to be eligible for quota.

As approved by the cabinet any of the persons who have the following assets would not be eligible for quota-

  • Five acres of agricultural land and above
  • Residential plot of 100 sq. yards and above in notified municipalities
  • Residential plot of 200 sq. yards and above in areas other than notified municipalities..


Problems  relating to providing quota to Economically Weaker Sections-

Sacrifices meritocracy:

For several decades now, quotas  have invited harsh criticism on the basis of sabotaging the quality of professionals .EWS quota will certainly undermine the culture of meritocracy in educational institutions. This would further deteriorate the quality of education in an already struggling higher education sector.

Problem to expand overall infrastructure:

The Centre has earlier notified that the number of seats in educational institutes must be increased so that it does not affect other categories. With the increase of seats, the institutions will be forced to expand their overall infrastructure. His will lead to increased costs for these institutions.

Pressure on government Funds:

With the increase in number of seats,  the government will be pressed to fund government institutions. This will put further pressure on government treasury. On the other side, state funded or autonomous institutes will face the financial brunt of EWS quota.

Fluctuating Income:

The income of business class is fluctuating as against the salaried people. The government of India would take into account the income earned by a person in the Financial year 2018-19. This would prove disadvantageous for salaried employees.

Promotes Corruption:

Other restraints like that of limit on residential plot and agriculture land calls for validation from a rank not less than tehsildar . This will promote license raj and thus, will breed corruption.

Invites fresh quota demands:

Quota for economically weaker sections will invite demands for further reservations. As seen in the case of Patel and Jat agitation, providing quotas call for further demands for reservation from other categories.

Worsen the Macro-educational prospects:

To improve the overall scenario, reservation of another category will certainly threaten the overall prospects of India emerging as a knowledge hub.


The controversy relating to EWS quota-

With this bill breaching the 50% reservation limit set by SC, this bill should stand Judicial Scrutiny. If the Supreme Court indeed agrees to lift the 50% cap, all States of India can extend the quantum of reservation and “upper castes” will stand to lose in State services.

If the Supreme Court rejects the idea of breaching the 50% cap, Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quotas can be provided only by eating into the SC, ST and OBC quota pie, which will have social and political implications.

The Indira Sawhney judgment given by Supreme Court in 1992  declared 50% quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations

If the government proposes to bring a constitutional amendment to include the 10% quota for “unreserved economically weaker sections”, the 13-judge Kesavananda Bharati judgment may stand in the way. The judgment held that constitutional amendments which offended the basic structure of the Constitution would be ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority). Neither Parliament nor legislatures could transgress the basic feature of the Constitution, namely, the principle of equality enshrined in Article 14.