NEW DELHI : The reservation norms for candidates belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society in central government-run higher educational institutions may be tweaked as many universities have complained of practical difficulties in implementing it.

Several universities have informed the human resource development (HRD) ministry that implementing the EWS quota in the present form is difficult and have sought government’s intervention, three government officials said requesting anonymity.

The institutions have told the ministry that implementing the EWS quota is impossible beyond the entry-level assistant professor’s post. The argument is a practical one. The associate professors and professors earn a much higher salary than the EWS income threshold and are, therefore, ineligible to be hired under the quota at those levels.

Individuals who are not covered under reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes and whose families have a gross annual income of less than 8 lakh are eligible to be recruited under the EWS quota. The income includes earnings from all sources for the financial year prior to the year of application, according to the EWS quota rules.

“Once you become an assistant professor, you earn more than the 8 lakh EWS quota limit. So the question the institutions and universities are asking is how to do it. There is merit in their communication," said one of the three government officials.

The second official said allowing an assistant professor to get EWS quota throughout his or her career will make it similar to caste-based quotas and shall undermine the intention of the quota. “That is a complete no. The problem needs to be handled after consulting relevant ministries," said the second official, adding that over half a dozen central universities and few other national institutes, including the IITs have reached out to the HRD ministry.

“We at the HRD ministry cannot do it on our own. We are in touch with the department of personnel. The bill is yet to receive presidential assent after the passage in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Hopefully, we shall find a solution," said the third official. As the ministry wanted the central sector higher educational institutions to fill up all vacancies within three months “we have to quickly find a way out", the person said.

Both the Houses cleared the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019, with near unanimity. The proposed law seeks to provide for 10% reservation in jobs for EWS candidates in central institutions across verticals, besides effecting other statutory reservations (SC/ST and OBC reservations) in hiring of professors by considering a university as a single unit, instead of implementing quota by considering each department as a unit.

“The quota can be implemented only at the assistant professor level. The government brought it before elections and it seems it was not well thought through in terms of its application," said a Delhi University professor who also did not want to be named.

There was some talk about increasing the 8 lakh income limit for the non-creamy layer but an associate professor’s salary is more than double this limit. Hence it will be tough to increase the income limit to increase the eligibility criteria for EWS candidates.