November 9, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Supreme Court’s decision on EWS quota is right. We also look at the historic Bali Yatra in Odisha, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Supreme Court Decision On EWS Quota – Was It Right?
Recently, the US Supreme Court heard arguments on affirmative action in universities. A central question the court tried to answer is, can race play a role in college admissions? The topic of reservations in India has been controversial and fraught for quite some time.
India’s Supreme Court upheld a 10% quota in government jobs and educational institutions for people from economically weak sections (EWS). In a 3-2 verdict, the court’s argument was that it didn’t violate the basic structure of the Constitution. Will this reshape caste and socio-economic politics and policies for the better? Or is the ruling incomplete?
In January 2019, the BJP announced the quota for EWS months before the general election. Needless to say, the decision was met with support and dissent. Since the announcement, more than 40 petitions have been filed questioning its constitutional validity.
Caste-based affirmative action goes back to 1950 in India. It’s the oldest such programme in the world. At the time, quotas only applied to tribals and backward classes like Dalits, deemed untouchable per the Hindu caste system. The rationale was to right the historical wrongs perpetrated by the caste hierarchy. It’s a small way to compensate millions who suffered due to untouchability.
The programme was controversial. Identity and caste-based groups look for fresh quotas since formal jobs and good education remained out of reach. It forced the Supreme Court to cap reservations at 50%. With the socio-economic effect came the political. The complication in India was political. Going back to Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, he hoped the caste issue would disappear post-independence. The opposite came true.
Heading back to the US for a moment, the courts have grappled with affirmative action for decades. The baseline for permissible affirmative action in higher education was established in 1978. Justice Lewis Powell said that in evaluating applications for admissions, race shouldn’t be a determining factor. He did say race could be used as one factor with other traits like special talents.
In India, caste is a powerful tool of self-identification. It proved to be a potent weapon in political mobilisation. In 1979, the Mandal Commission was set up to identify socially backward classes. In 1989, Prime Minister VP Singh extended it to OBCs based on the Mandal Commission’s recommendations.
The EWS quota is based on the financial health of the candidates. For example, the family’s gross income should be less than ₹8 lakhs. Also, they shouldn’t have more than five acres of agricultural land. These are just a few criteria outlined to be eligible for the quota. With the Supreme Court’s decision, some have argued that it is a step backwards.
VIEW: The quota is necessary
As far as the government is concerned, their hand was forced. From their point of view, the term ‘backward’ was strictly defined as economically and socially backward. There needed to be a new category of affirmative action. Concerns about it eating into other quotas are unfounded since the government said more than 2 lakh additional seats would be added in higher educational institutions.
It’s important to note the court’s view that it doesn’t violate the Constitution. The ruling provides an expansive view of the affirmative action vision from the Constitution. In 2019, the parliament passed the 103rd amendment that allowed clauses in Articles 15 and 16 to be inserted. It allowed the government to introduce quotas for EWS. In many ways, caste continues to be the main category of discrimination. But it also includes gender and economic status.
It’s also important to note that the very concept of reservations is to reduce inequality. Disadvantages could arise out of poverty. To achieve equality, economic and social justice is necessary. Denying EWS reservations would mean leaving out people who are qualified and deserving of their due. After all, only a relatively small percentage of India’s population is above the poverty line.
COUNTERVIEW: It’s a step backwards and exclusionary
A fundamental argument against the EWS quota is that reservations are meant to help socially disadvantaged groups and not be an economic tool to alleviate poverty. Leading the way in resisting income-based reservations is Tamil Nadu. In 2019, the state’s parties met to oppose the BJP’s move. The Madras High Court ruled against the 10% EWS quota. At the time, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin said the EWS quota would weaken the existing 69% reservation in the state based on caste.
The ruling is discriminatory and exclusionary. The dissenting judges questioned why the quota excluded SCs, STs, and OBCs. It’s not like these groups of people are uber-wealthy. The argument that they already have existing benefits contradicts the principle of non-discrimination as a basic tenet of the Constitution. Concerning employment, those from forward communities are already adequately represented even as they avail of the EWS reservation.
Concerning the semantics of economic criteria, there’s no scientific data that provides an accurate picture of who falls under the EWS category or needs assistance or constitutional protection of this sort. It’s not easy to identify weaker sections based on economic yardsticks and mandatory income cut-offs. The way to dismantle marginalisation is through social equality and political empowerment.
- India’s supreme court beat SCOTUS to reviewing affirmative action – Quartz
- Is affirmative action in India becoming a gimmick? – BBC
- Why India needs a new debate on caste quotas – BBC
- Decoding EWS quota and its implications – Hindustan Times
- Supreme Court order on EWS quota can redefine welfare – Indian Express
- Explainer: Why the Supreme Court upheld the validity of quotas for the Economically Weaker Sections – Scroll
- EWS quota: TN’s long history of resistance to income-based reservation – New Indian Express
- EWS quota is against the basic structure of the Constitution, counsel aver before the Supreme Court – The Leaflet
- Dissenting view: Injustice to exclude SCs, STs & OBCs – Financial Express
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the EWS quota is correct.
b) The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the EWS quota is wrong.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Narendra Modi’s India And McCarthy-Led US: How Patriots & Traitors Remain Same
For the Left:
SC Refused To Abolish Domestic Work For Army Sahayaks. But Agniveer Era Can End It
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Development, beautification works ahead of G20 meeting (Punjab) – In preparation for the G20 conference that will take place next year, ₹100 crores will be used for development projects and beautification in Punjab’s Amritsar city. At this summit, the presidents and prime ministers of the G-20 nations, as well as representatives from other nations, will be present.
Why it matters: An intergovernmental meeting of the world’s leading developed and emerging economies known as the G20 or Group of 20 will be held next year. With the help of this international event, Punjab will become more well-known among travellers worldwide and encourage global tourism, and it will also encourage investment in the state.
Posts of school teachers to be abolished (Assam) – The school education department wrote to the state Accountant General (AG), Assam, stating that the government has chosen to eliminate 8,000 sanctioned vacant regular teacher positions within the Assam Directorate of Elementary Education. To address the teacher deficit, the Assam government decided to appoint guest teachers in July of this year.
Why it matters: As iterated in the letter, the posts were kept vacant in order to maintain financial neutrality in the context of providing additional service benefits to the State Pool Teachers under SSA.
Historic Bali Yatra commences (Odisha) – On Tuesday, the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima, the historic Bali Yatra honouring the prosperous maritime trade of Odisha began in the Millennium City of Cuttack. Bali Yatra is a replica of the yearly occasion in ancient India when traders would sail to towns in Southeast Asia.
Why it matters: Both Odisha and Indonesia are eager to advance marine trade, civilization, economic progress, and cultural ties on the eve of the historic Bali Yatra 2022, as the week-long event is devoted to the centuries-old maritime trade links between India and (Bali) Indonesia.
Controversy over naming of Mopa Airport (Goa) – Before Mopa International Airport is officially opened, there’s debate in Goa about whether to name the facility after the state’s first Chief Minister, Dayanand Bandodkar, the previous defence minister of the Union, Manohar Parrikar, or the first leader of the Goa Opposition, Jack de Sequeira.
Why it matters: The Central Committee of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) has unanimously decided to request that Prime Minister Narendra Modi rename Mopa Airport in Bandodkar’s honour. Netizens have, however, also called for it to be named after Parrikar or Sequeira.
New electronic beat system (Tamil Nadu) – Beginning at the end of November, the Tamil Nadu State Crime Records Bureau will roll out a new electronic beat system for police officers utilizing the Smart Kavalar App throughout the State. With the aim of employing technology to manage the beat activities digitally and improve patrolling and field policing, the field policing application was created for use by Tamil Nadu police.
Why it matters: Reports on the data gathered during beat and other field operations are available to the user/beat constable. Station records can be labelled and maintained on the app, including “bad character” checklists, lookout databases, and important locations. The app will be accessible in Tamil and English.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
576 – The Ministry of Home Affairs has successfully completed the Mother Tongue Survey of India with field videography of 576 mother tongues.