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

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Employment Scenario and the Reservation Policy

In its haste to placate the growing resentment amongst the unemployed youth, the Indian government has come up with an ill-informed and loose definition of who constitutes the “economically weak.” Some of the major arguments that have been levied against the 124th amendment to the Constitution are empirically substantiated in the light of the current state of employment generation, particularly in the public sector, as well as the performance of the state with respect to fulfilling the existing reservation policy.

It would be an understatement to say that the decision by the Narendra Modi govern­ment to introduce the 124th amendment to the Constitution has taken people by surprise. The proposed bill (now law) that sought to amend Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections” (EWS) was passed almost unanimously in both houses of Parliament without much debate. Introduced in the run-up to the general ­assembly elections of 2019, this “pro-poor” amendment provides for 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward sections in the general category (International Business Times 2019).

The element of surprise was owing to the fact that prior to the cabinet note, reservation for upper castes was not a major issue of debate. In 2010, the S R Sinho Commission had submitted a report to the government recommending the carving out of a cate­gory for those classified as Economically Backward Class (EBC). However, no further action was taken in that direction. While there have been caste-based agitations by different interest groups during the tenure of this government, much of these agitators demanded their inclusion within the groups that qualified for reservation in the existing 49.5% structure (Dangwal 2017). No independent commission or enquiry was set up by the Modi government that would shed more light on who exactly comprised these “economic­ally weak” persons and what the economic and social conditions that informed the lives of such persons were like.1 Since the bill was first announced, there have been varied reactions to this legislation. Some commentators have absolutely decried the move citing it “as the beginning of the end for social justice in the form of caste-based reservation” (Shinde 2019). ­Others have welcomed it, claiming it is a good initiative for the poor, the very first, in fact, that includes Muslims under its umbrella (Bhalla 2019). Some have gone to argue that if it were to be given at all, it “would have made more sense to have limited 10 per cent EWS reservation to those with farming or rural backgrounds” (Damodaran 2019).

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Updated On : 13th May, 2019

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