The cost of implementing the 10 per cent quota for the general category poor has to be borne by central educational institutions (CEIs) out of the additional revenue generated by them on account of increased seats, and this will have no financial implication for the government.
This is as per a proposal moved by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) and approved by the Union Cabinet on January 7. This is in sharp contrast to the UPA government’s introduction of 27 per cent reservation for OBC students in 2006. At that time, the CEIs were assured of financial aid for building additional infrastructure.
The HRD Ministry, under the UPA government, had granted additional funds to the tune of Rs 2,166.89 crore to central universities and Rs 4,227.46 crore to centrally-funded technical institutions for 54 per cent capacity expansion, over six years up to 2014, to accommodate OBC reservation without reducing general category seats.
According to the official proposal, all CEIs, to accommodate the newly-announced EWS quota, will have to increase their student intake to ensure that the existing number of seats for SC, ST, OBC and general category students do not face cuts. At a press conference held Tuesday, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar pegged the seat increase for CEIs at roughly 25 per cent.
Currently, the annual intake of CEIs — including institutes of national importance such as IITs, NITs and IIMs, central universities, central open university, colleges and government and government-aided deemed universities — is 9.28 lakh seats. A back-of-the-envelope calculation by the HRD Ministry estimates that the additional financial burden, on account of 25 per cent increase in student strength in CEIs alone, could be Rs 4,200 crore.
Although central institutions will be permitted to stagger the 25 per cent increase, it is unclear in how many years will they have to wrap up implementation. However, what is evident from the official proposal is that the government is not willing to bear the financial burden on account of implementing the quota.
It is learnt that the proposal stated there would not be any financial implication following insertion of new clauses under Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution to provide reservation benefits to the economically weaker sections. But any financial implication arising due to the increase in number of seats would be borne by the institutes out of the additional revenue generated on account of increase in seats or otherwise, it stated.
The 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill for granting 10 percent EWS reservation was passed by both Houses of the Parliament on January 9 and got Presidential assent on January 12. With this notification, the EWS among the general category can avail 10 per cent quota in government jobs and higher education institutions. This is as per the amended Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution which has, for the first time, allowed reservation on economic grounds in addition to the existing quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.
Although the MoSJE used the report of the Sinho Commission to justify the EWS quota in its proposal, the Ministry ignored the Commission’s recommended criteria for identifying the poor among the general category.
The proposal stated that the Commission, for identifying EWS beneficiaries for welfare schemes, recommended inclusion of those families in the general category who are Below Poverty Line (BPL) or whose annual family income from all sources is below the taxable limit. Overruling this, the proposal stated that since establishing of BPL was open to debate and in order to maintain parity with similar categories, it would be appropriate to apply the income/wealth test made applicable in the case of OBCs for the purpose of exclusion from the benefit of reservation.
Incidentally, the Sinho Commission, whose terms of reference included suggesting criteria for identification of EWS, had cautioned against maintaining the cited parity on the ground that the concept of creamy layer among OBCs included economic backwardness compounded with their social and educational backwardness.
As per the proposal, an EWS beneficiary would be a person whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh. The family includes the person who seeks the benefit of reservation, his/ her parents, siblings below the age of 18 years, his/ her spouse and children below the age of 18 years.
To ensure that the benefit of reservation only goes to the needy, the MoSJE proposed an exclusion criteria by which persons whose family owns or possesses five acres of agricultural land, residential flat of 1000 square feet and above, residential plot of 10 yards and above in notified municipalities and residential plot of 200 yards and above in areas other than notified municipalities, cannot avail the 10 per cent EWS quota.
To operationalise the law, an office memorandum will be issued by MoSJE latest by next week.
The HRD Ministry has issued a statement on our report:
This is with reference to an item published in Indian Express on 17th Jan stating that there would be no financial assistance for expanding the intake on account of EWS reservations in Central institutions. This is to clarify that no such order has been issued. In fact, whenever there has been an increase in the intake, Govt has always provided funds as per actual requirements.
The Indian Express responds
The Indian Express report is based on the official proposal moved by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and passed by the Cabinet on January 7. The Indian Express stands by its report.