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Govt agreed to review Rs 8L income cap over fear Supreme Court might scrap EWS quota

The Times of India logo The Times of India 29-11-2021 Subodh Ghildiyal
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NEW DELHI: The fear that 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections as a whole may be scrapped by the Supreme Court led to the Centre tamely submitting that it will review the eligibility income ceiling of Rs 8 lakh for the quota catering to mostly the upper castes.

While the Supreme Court had focused on how could the income ceiling for OBC reservation and the EWS quota be the same at Rs 8 lakh, the implied question of parity between the two quotas was up for argument.

Seemingly similar, the Rs 8 lakh ceiling for OBC and EWS is different. The one for EWS is more stringent as it includes income from all sources including “salary”, while the income ceiling for OBC does not include “salary” and “agricultural income”. This is a key difference that makes Rs 8 lakh for OBCs relatively liberal as compared to the EWS.

However, when the Supreme Court questioned the government about the parity between the OBC and EWS, and asked if there was any study done to arrive at Rs 8 lakh for the EWS, the Centre caved in. As per government sources, the concern was that complications on the tricky issue of process adopted to arrive at the figure could lead to the entire EWS policy being scrapped or put on hold.

This was a big fear which prompted the Centre to pre-empt any drastic court order by agreeing to review the EWS norm. That was apparently the reason why the government did not argue that Rs 8 lakh in case of EWS and OBC were different in the sense of how they were calculated, and did not amount to parity between two groups that the court suggested.

Well-placed sources said the government will form a panel to study the income ceiling for the EWS, and a decision may come early this week. Given that the implication of the court’s queries is that EWS income ceiling is on the higher side, the new income cap for eligibility May be much lower. The downward revision of eligibility income, which will make it more stringent for aspirants from the EWS bloc, is likely to be resented by target group.

Sources said the EWS issue is unlikely to affect the proposal to overhaul the eligibility income criteria for OBC reservation. The government has proposed that income cap for Mandal quotas should include “salary”, which is not done presently. But Cabinet note is pending for over one and half years after it ran into a controversy with OBCs who protested the move to make eligibility norms stringent. It has also delayed periodic revision of income ceiling for OBCs, which government has proposed to be raised from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 12 lakh.

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