New Delhi: Earlier this year, Parliament passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019 to help the economically weaker sections (EWS) of Indian society. However, new research suggests that the move may not benefit those who really deserve it.

In a new study published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Ashwini Deshpande and Rajesh Ramachandran discuss how this quota completely overturns the original logic of reservations and highlight how caste continues to be a critical marker of disadvantage, even among the poor.

The authors consider data from successive rounds of the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) between 2005 and 2012 and study the caste profile as those classified as poor.

They find that even among the poor, there remain caste-based inequalities. The average income of the poor scheduled caste (SC) household was around half (56%) of the average income of a poor upper caste household.

The authors argue that by making economic status the focus of the reservation, the government is disregarding the inequalities rooted in the caste system. Based on the IHDS data, the authors estimate that 98.3% of Brahmins, 97.93% of other upper castes and 99.75% of SC families report incomes less than the EWS limit of 800,000. Therefore, this criterion far from captures the true extent of those who are disadvantaged. As upper-castes under this cut-off are already more privileged, the quota is not likely to benefit the most vulnerable, the authors argue.

The authors highlight that over the past two decades, the absolute number of government jobs in India has actually decreased. Therefore, the increased quotas in these jobs would be ineffective in combating poverty.

Instead, the authors make a case for strengthening anti-poverty programmes, as well as ensuring more inclusive growth

READ | The 10% Quota: Is Caste Still an Indicator of Backwardness?

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