Published: 30th October 2020
Kerala implements EWS reservation: Why are so many people criticising a national mandate?
The Kerala government's implementation of EWS reservation in KAS posts and educational institutions has been criticised by many
Earlier in October, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that the government will implement 10 per cent EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) reservation in the Kerala Administrative Services (KAS) posts. This was in addition to the 50 per cent reservation implemented for the candidates from SC, ST and OBC categories.
The EWS reservation for candidates from the general category was implemented on the basis of a recommendation made by a commission headed by Justice (Rtd) K Sasidharan Nair. The report was submitted in January 2020, almost two years after the Union Government introduced the EWS reservation. "Persons who are not covered under the scheme of reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes and whose family has gross annual income up to Rs 4 lakhs are to be identified as Economically Weaker Sections for the benefit of reservation provided under Clause (6) of Article 15 and Clause (6) of Article 16 of the Constitution of India," the report reads.
Pinarayi Vijayan says that this will not affect the existing reservation system
However, the income mentioned here is exclusive of agricultural income, social security pensions, family pensions, unemployment wages, festival allowance, terminal benefits and travelling allowance. The person should also not hold more than 2.5 acres of land in a Gram Panchayat area or more than 75 cents in a Municipal area or 50 cents in the Municipal Corporation area. While announcing the same, Pinarayi Vijayan said that this reservation will not in any way affect the classes that are eligible for reservation.
The good, bad and the ugly
Since the announcement, there has been a lot of hue and cry against the reservation policy from politicians, job aspirants and academicians. Prominent Dalit feminist writer and academician Dr Rekha Raj's voice was at the forefront. "Reservation aims at social justice and equal representation. But the Congress and the Communist governments that ruled Kerala never aimed at it serving social justice. And in India, you cannot talk of social justice without understanding caste, something that was always ignored by the governments," she says, adding, "The EWS reservation only aims at uplifting the uplifted."
Dr Rekha Raj
Raj adds that reservation was never introduced as a scheme to alleviate poverty or solve the unemployment issue. "People in Kerala across all categories think of reservation as an economic solution. But that's not the idea. The idea is to make the underrepresented and the oppressed a part of the system and uplift communities socially. This mindset says that social science isn't taught in our country properly," she says.
The move was backed by the Nair Service Society and the Syrian Catholic Church. It was opposed by the SNDP Yogam (a group of the backward Ezhava caste), the Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha that represents the scheduled Pulaya caste and the Indian Union Muslim League. While the NSS demanded that the state government implement the proposal with retrospective effect, the SNDP Yogam said the proportion be brought down to five per cent.
The resistance of these outfits, despite their political allegiance, for Raj, is a welcome trend. (The SNDP Yogam chief Vellappally Natesan is considered close to Pinarayi Vijayan) "This is a welcome trend. I hope it paves the way to a new wave of resistance," she says. She also says that over the years, the graph of progress of the upper caste people in Kerala has only gone up. "People from upper and influential castes always stand a chance of being employed in institutions run by their own caste outfits. This is not a privilege that many Dalits and Adivasis enjoy. Even today, you see educated Dalits who are in search for a job that suits their educational qualifications," she adds.