The government had introduced a bill to give 10% reservation to the economically poor that fall within the General category. This group had not received any reservation benefits until now, but would become eligible for reservation with the passage of the bill in both houses of Parliament on 9th January 2019.
The Obvious Flaws:
The eligibility criteria selected — an income less than 8 lakhs per annum, less than 5 acres of agricultural land and a residential plot below a certain area made over 80% of the general category population eligible for the reservation, making it useless in effect. Since the economically poor segment identified under this criteria already has a representation of over 10% in educational institutions and government jobs, there would be no logical reason for the cutoff of this reserved category to be any different from the cutoff for the general category itself.
The other criticism leveled by the opposition is based on the fact that in its 1992 judgment on the Indira Sawhney case a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled such reservation invalid. The bench categorically ruled that backward class cannot be determined exclusively on the basis of economic criterion, and that economic factors could only be used in addition to social backwardness. More importantly, the judgment also limited the maximum possible reserved seats to 50 per cent. If this new 10% reservation is enacted it would violate that limit and take the total number of reserved seats to 59.5 per cent.
How this is THE most anti general category legislation disguised as pro upper caste legislation:
In the best case scenario for the general category, the reservation will be struck down by the Supreme Court and nothing will change. In the worst case, the reservation will actually be upheld and the 50% ceiling placed in 1992 by the Supreme Court will be broken.
According to estimates, 20% of the Indian population belongs to the Scheduled Caste; 9% belongs to the Scheduled Tribe; and 41% belongs to the Other Backward Classes category. This means that about 70% of the population belongs to a currently reserved category while 30% falls in the general category. The reservation available in educational institutions and government jobs for the 70% population belonging to the reserved categories is at 49.5% due to the court orders, and the system maintains fairness by allowing those from the reserved categories to get seats from the general category if they meet the cut offs.
Therefore the 30% general category population of India is eligible to compete for 50% of the vacancies and seats, while the reserved categories compete for these 50%, plus the percentage of seats in their own category (i.e. Scheduled Castes currently compete for 50% + 15% = 65% of the total seats, OBCs compete for 50% + 27% = 77%).
What’ll happen when the 50% ceiling is broken:
As soon as the ceiling is broken, some politician will realize the political benefit of proposing a hike in seats for the reserved categories. A politician will tell the reserved categories that they’re getting far less than their fair share. The politician will make all people belonging to the reserved categories feel like victims and state that they must demand reservation at least equal to their share in the population. He’d claim that OBC reservation should be 41%, not the current 27%. SC reservation should be 20% instead of the current 15% and ST reservation should be 9% instead of 7.5%.
This would obviously get this politician tremendous support from all these categories — SC, ST and OBC — and consequently a lot of votes. The reserved categories are 70% of the population, and therefore they’re also 70% of the voters!
In essence, the removal of this limit will all but ensure that the number of seats that a person belonging to the General Category is able to compete for is reduced from the current 50% to 30%. This move almost guarantees that seats available for the general category will decrease by 20%, if not immediately then in 5 to 10 years. Will a 10% reservation on economic grounds still seem like a pro general category move, especially when it comes out of the remaining 30%?
Current and Proposed Reservation
# Scheduled Caste (SC) : 15%
# Scheduled Tribe (ST) : 7.5%
# Other Backward Classes (OBC) : 27%
# Total current reservation : 49.5%
# Vacancies for General : 50.5%
# New Reservation : 10%
# Total New Reservation : 59.5%
Population Percentage by Reservation Category
# Scheduled Caste (SC) : 20%
# Scheduled Tribe (ST) : 9%
# Other Backward Classes (OBC) : 41%
# Reservation Demand : 70%
# New Vacancies for General: 30%