The Staff Selection Commission’s (SSC) notification dated February 1 for fresh vacancies does not provide any relaxation in terms of age as well as the number of attempts to candidates belonging to the economically weaker section (EWS). The notification issued recently for the appointment of Junior Engineers — the first recruitment notice after reservation for general castes was announced — grants the same relaxation to candidates under the OBC and SC/ST categories, but not to the EWS.
The move has resulted in discontent among lakhs of aspirants who were under the impression that the newly-implemented 10 per cent quota would help them with age relaxations, translating into extra attempts in the highly sought government examinations.
The Commission’s notification for recruitment of Junior Engineers (Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and Quantity Surveying & Contracts) for various departments and organisations in the Government of India, carries details of age relaxations given to other reservation beneficiaries such as OBC and ST/SCs.
For instance, the commission has given 5 years age relaxation for SC/STs, 3 years for OBC, 10 years for Persons with Disabilities. However, if an SC/ST or OBC candidate also suffers from physical disabilities, then s/he is entitled to get cumulative relaxation as per their castes coupled with relaxation given on the basis of physical disabilities. Such OBC, SC/ST candidates get 13 years and 15 years respectively.
However, there is no mention of relaxation in the upper age limit for those falling under EWS. When quota for the economically weaker section was announced, it was expected that job aspirants from the general category would get all the benefits — age relaxations and extra attempts — that a candidate from OBC category enjoys.
In fact, the Commission has treated EWS candidates at par with OBCs when it comes to minimum qualifying marks required in paper-I and II. It has fixed 25 per cent minimum qualifying marks for both the sections — OBC and EWS. However, the SSC has not explained why it has not extended other benefits to candidates under the EWS category.
Even though the notification does not provide age relaxation to the EWS, it does mention the EWS category while explaining the process of certification of age. It says: “Candidates who wish to be considered against vacancies reserved or seek age-relaxation must submit requisite certificate from the competent authority…otherwise, their claim for SC/ ST/ OBC/ EWS/ PwD/ ESM, etc will not be entertained and their candidature/applications will be considered under Unreserved (UR) category.”
The commission has also stated that the property held by a family in different locations or different places or cities have been clubbed while applying the land or property holding-test to determine EWS status.
Disappointment is writ large for many students Financial Express Online spoke to. Asserting that they feel cheated, they termed the government’s EWS quota move a ‘political gimmick’. One job aspirant Saurabh Kumar Singh said: “10 per cent reservation was compared with OBC quota. But in the notification, there is no upper age benefit for the general category candidates coming under EWS. It’s a fraud on a whole generation. Now it looks like a political gimmick to get votes in the upcoming elections.”
He further said that the government should come out and clarify whether there will be any age relaxation for EWS candidates. “There was a positive vibe among the job aspirants after the quota was announced for the general category. It was less about 10 per cent reserved seats and more about age relaxation and attempts. But, the very first notification after quota implementation has exposed the government. This is not fair,” he said.
Last month, the government introduced 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker section in the Parliament. Within two days, the bill was passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Gujarat became the first state to implement it from January 14, 2019.
Another job aspirant MS Ram from Andhra Pradesh shares the same feeling. “It is very disappointing. This government stands accused of resorting to cheating and manipulating general category and minorities for the sake of votes. They are not sincere in extending this benefit to all eligible EWS students and job aspirants.”
He further said that the government had referred to the Sinho Commission report which recommended a reservation to the EWS. “There has been a substantial delay of nine years to implement the commission report. It is ideal to give age and attempts relaxation to extend the reservation benefits to all affected EWS students and job aspirants,” Ram added.
Explaining why age-relaxation is important for candidates coming from an underprivileged background, Ram said: “As soon as I completed my graduation, I had to take up a job to support my family. By the time my family settled, I was already 28 and had realized my prospect in life. I’m 32 now but would like to get in top government services. I could not do it in the past because I had to support back my family.”
Ram said that the government should follow the principle of equity and provide relaxations in age and the number of attempts to EWS candidates.
BJP leader and foreign policy analyst Sheshadri Chari admits that the government should come out with a clarification on age relaxation but argues: “Economic status-based reservation is different from the caste-based one and both cannot be treated as same. The two have different origins and 10% quota for EWS among the forward class should not be compared to caste-based quota such as OBC. Economic conditions may change over time but caste doesn’t.”
He further says that people who are economically weaker today may not have necessarily been so 10 years ago. “Considering this, age becomes a less important factor in determining the reservation benefits for EWS. It is possible that the general category may not get age relaxations.”
However, Chari’s arguments do not cut any ice with job aspirants. Abhilasha, who has been preparing for competitive exams, says that the economic condition may change and that is why a person will automatically come out of that slab once the economic limit is breached.
“But, this is not the case in caste-based reservations. They are permanent. That’s why I don’t understand why age-relaxation cannot be there for EWS.” She further says: “I’m not sure how this 10 per cent reservation will help without age and attempt relaxations. It would have made much more sense if they had provided age-relaxations.”
Financial Express Online reached out to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions for clarification. The story will be updated once the ministry gets back with its response.