Loopholes in the 124th Amendment

By virtue of their disadvantageous position in the society, the economically weaker strata of the society have always faced discrimination. Due to lack of resources to fulfill their basic demands, they remain excluded from the society and hence remain forever entangled in the vicious cycle of poverty. To combat this problem of social inequality and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, the state injects various educational and social schemes for their upliftment. India in the past had been a nation plagued with untouchability and caste system. To solve this problem and socially nourish the historically disadvantaged castes and tribes in the society, the system of reservation for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes was initiated by Dr. B.R Ambedkar, soon after the Independence .

On January 7, 2019, the Union cabinet came up with the consensus to provide reservations in educational institutes and government jobs to the economically weak section of people in the society which has raised new hopes among the underprivileged people in India. Reservation has always been a debatable topic for years after its implementation and it has seen results. Some argue against the idea of reservation, whereas some groups of other backward classes want their groups also to be considered for reservation. Currently in India, the central government provides 15% seats for Scheduled Caste, 7.5% to Scheduled Tribe students and 27% reservation to OBCs in higher education institutions, raising the cap to 49.5%, which might vary from state to state.

However, economically weaker sections of the society were never included for the privilege of reservation. With a view to ensure that underprivileged economically weaker citizens get a fair chance of receiving higher education and participation in employment in the services of the State, the addition of the economically poor people in the reservation system under the 124th Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution that will grant 10% reservation to the following group was made.

Many loopholes can be addressed with regards to the implementation of the amendment. Firstly, the 10% reservation will be in addition to the existing cap 50%, which is the maximum cap set by the Supreme Court for reservation which will raise the cap to 60%.The second loophole rests in the criteria for qualification. The first criteria is set to be  Rs. 8 lakh and less family income per annum. According to the record, approximately 94% of population fall under this category, who will be competing in the 10% margin now. Arun Jaitley’s statement that 76 lakh people in India show their income to be less than 5 lakh clearly weakens the case furthermore.

Th second criteria includes individuals who own 5 acres of land or less. The data stated that 86% people fall under this category. The third criteria takes into account the individual’s house, which should be less than 100 sq feet or less, making 80% households to fall under this category. The above mentioned criteria canhelp us to conclude that around 80-90% of people in India fall under the category of economically backward strata of the society. So the question that emerges is, what kind of reservation is this if almost everyone qualifies for it. This also makes one question about which strata of the society the government is trying to uplift. Can a person earning Rs 50,000 a month (8 lakh per annum) be termed as economically weak?

Isn’t it also unfair that an individual who is Below Poverty Line and another earning Rs 50000 a month, are both eligible for this reservation, and in a situation when there is just one seat available in a competition, who would get the seat? It is obvious that the person belonging to BPL does stand a fair chance of getting the seat because of lack of facilities in comparison to the richer person. If so, what exactly is the benefit for the poor? Studied from a different angle, we shall assume that the people from SC, ST and OBC who get selected, take their seats from their own reservations. But if an individual falls into the General category, what used to happen initially was that he would be competing for the remaining 50% seats with other students from the General category. Now with the new bill, because a lot of people are eligible for the reservation, the individual will be still competing with the same people for the same seats. The only difference is that now the seats have been divided between 40% and 10%.

Another interesting point be taken into account is that the income tax slab in India starts at 2.5 lakhs per year. So on one hand, our government expects that if the person earns more than or equal to 2.5 lakhs per year, he should pay income tax. But on the other hand, the government states that if the income is less than 8 lakhs, the person is then economically backward.

Reservation was introduced in the society with an aim to uplift the weaker sections, which is why caste based reservation was introduced to bring equality in the society. Poverty based reservation has been debatable as reservation is not a poverty eradication scheme for which the state has been working on numerous yojanas. The main purpose of reservation is combating discrimination against people in the society.

Picture Courtesy- Dailyhunt

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