ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The 10% Quota

Is Caste Still an Indicator of Backwardness?

The 10% quota for the economically weaker sections completely overturns the original logic of reservations on its head, while misconstruing the EWS category itself. Data suggests that caste remains a critical marker of disadvantage, even amongst the “poor.”

The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019, popularly known as the 10% quota for the economically weaker sections (EWS), is a landmark in the history of the reservation policy in India; not because it advances the original raison dtre underlying quotas for marginalised and stigmatised groups, but because it completely overturns the original logic of reservations on its head.

Reservation for the most oppressed groups was conceptualised as a policy of compensatory discrimination, as a remedial measure for contemporary handicaps faced by individuals due to historical discrimination and deep stigmatisation on account of their untouchable caste status. As B R Ambedkar pointed out in his speeches to the Constituent Assembly, which was discussing the contours of the new constitution of independent India, the country was entering an era of contradictions: it was embracing the ideal of formal equality by enshrining it in the Constitution in a society lacking substantive equality. One element of formal equality between caste groups was the legal abolition of the deeply stigmatising practice of untouchability. Despite this important measure, or more appropriately to complement it, the reservation policy was deliberately caste-based, as Ambedkar envisaged that a legal end to untouchability would not automatically end discrimination against castes stigmatised on account of their untouchable status.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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