Lay down clear-cut criteria for identification of EWS
THE state government has decided to implement the central law providing for 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections (EWS) in the general category for admission in educational institutions and recruitment for government jobs. The decision will help poorer sections of the ‘upper strata’ among all communities regardless of religion that are not enjoying the benefits of reservations to avail of opportunities in education and employment. The poorer families in the general category, though not as poor as the lower sections of society, are held back in progress owing to obstacles that keep them from competing with persons from better-off backgrounds in getting admissions into institutions of higher education, especially professional colleges, and jobs in the public sector. Much like the less privileged sections of the lower castes, they also lag behind owing to poverty. The irony of their being seen as higher in the social hierarchy on the one hand and their suffering owing to their poverty might not be totally erased with the 10 per cent reservation but will at least be alleviated to an extent.
However, the government has to be clear who are the target beneficiaries. There is no EWS survey done. There are no data with the government. Though 10 per cent reservation has been announced, there is no clarity on who are going to benefit in the absence of precise data. That might suggest that the decision would not be implemented soon. The central government has left it for the states to draw up their own action plan to define requirements to prove backwardness and frame a mechanism for implementing the quota.
The central law lays down certain criteria for defining backwardness. One, the family’s annual income should not exceed Rs 8 lakh. The family should not hold more than five acres of land. The family’s house should not have an area of more than 1,000 square feet. These criteria might not be easy to apply in the Goan environment where the family’s economic status might not be high, though its income may exceed Rs 8 lakh. Owing to growth in education and employment, there are many double income families in the state. The land ceiling could be equally difficult to determine as property might not be legally divided in joint families. In the absence of clear-cut guidelines it would be difficult for the government to implement the decision. Necessary changes to determine the EWS and other requirements would have to be made with the approval of the Assembly which is meeting next month.
According to the broad guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, a candidate from general category must fulfill five conditions relating to annual family income and landholding. The candidate will also have to obtain an income and asset certificate from an officer not below the rank of mamlatdar of the concerned taluka. The total income would include salary, income from agriculture, business, profession and other sources. A candidate’s parents, spouse, siblings and children below the age of 18 years come under the definition of family. There is no clarity though on whether parents’ share needs to be included to determine EWS status if the candidate is living separately with spouse and children. Since Goa does not have official income data it will be difficult to determine the exact number of EWS households.
The government needs to carry out a survey and provide eligibility certificates to those qualifying for EWS status. Absence of authentic data could lead to a large number of ineligible applicants running away with the benefits. In many government schemes undeserving candidates have availed of benefits by producing documents and making statements that are not true. The idea of seeking family members’ income tax returns data might be one way of preventing appropriation of the benefits by undeserving candidates. However, a much more sound set of guidelines must be formulated for the candidates from genuinely economic weaker sections of the general category to be able to avail of the benefits. The Goa government can take a leaf from the Bihar government which announced and implemented such benefits for the EWS in general category much before the central government made the law.