10 per cent quota: A panacea for poverty? Here is what else Modi govt could do

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New Delhi | Updated: January 29, 2019 3:28:24 PM

The 10 per cent reservation is meant for individuals whose annual earning is below Rs 8 lakh per annum and those who possess less than five acres of agriculture land.

The Parliament passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 to grant 10 per cent reservation in education and government jobs to economically weaker individuals.

The recently announced 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections in the general category by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has added one more chapter to the reservation saga in India.

Reservations were provided in the constitution to create a level playing field for historically discriminated and weaker sections of the society. However, with time, the policy has become a political tool in the hands of politicians to manipulate electoral outcomes.

Earlier this month, the Parliament passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 to grant 10 per cent reservation in education and government jobs to economically weaker individuals from the upper caste, across religions.

The 10 per cent reservation is meant for individuals whose annual earning is below Rs 8 lakh per annum and those who possess less than five acres of agriculture land.

Since the new quota exceeds the 50% total quota and the criteria for backwardness prescribed by the Supreme Court in its earlier judgements, its validity was questioned earlier.

Whether the act has the potential to help the economically poor requires careful analysis.

Many opposition parties have expressed apprehensions against the act. The CPI(M) recently said that the government is not accepting even a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month, but here it is including an income of almost Rs 70,000 a month for the benefit of reservations. This particular criterion will deprive weaker sections of any benefits which will be cornered by the better-off, the CPI (M) said in a statement, adding that the 10% quota is not going to help the poor.

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Similarly, while speaking at a press conference, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said that they are not against the idea, but the timing and the intention behind the move are questionable. According to Singh, the move is an election stunt. Notably, the amendment also includes reservation in the private sector.”Won’t the private companies take the matter to court? And, if we are giving 10% quota in private jobs to EWS category, then why are the reservations for Dalits not extended to the private sector,” Singh asked.

Meanwhile, CARE Ratings’ chief economist Madan Sabnavis told The Financial Express Online that such a move will help the poorer sections as it is neutral to social background. He, however, suggested that the government should focus on creating awareness about the policy and simultaneously focus on skill development to make them better equipped to carry out the jobs.

Speaking of other ways to help the poor section, Sabnavis said that the employment generation is the most productive way of helping the poor. Direct cash transfers, theoretically sound good, but identification and transferring the same is a challenge as the low income earning people may not have access to identity and even a bank account. Therefore, the government should address these issues first before making transfers, he added.

Sabnavis also suggested focussing on providing quality education and sustainable employment to rural folks particularly, for which states should take the initiative in farming and directly supervise it.

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