The term “Economically Weaker Sections’ or the EWS category is used to refer to the General Category’s Indian citizens whose annual family income is less than 8 lakh rupees per annum (8 LPA). The Economically Weaker Section category was introduced in 2019. This category is meant for individuals or families belonging to economically weaker sections of society who earn an annual household income of less than a certain threshold amount. The EWS category was introduced to ensure that people from economically weaker sections of society have access to education and employment opportunities and to promote social and economic inclusion.
As of January 2019, the central government has allowed 10% reservations in government jobs and educational institutions to people belonging to the EWS category.
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In the year 2019, the Union Government tabled the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act in the Lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. This bill was passed in the Lok Sabha the same day and on 9th January 2019, it was passed in the Upper House of the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha. The former President of India, Shri Ramnath Kovind, gave his assent to this EWS bill on January 12th, 2019.
The 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act amended two articles of the constitution; Article 15(6) and Article 16(6).
With this, a 10% reservation was permitted to people who belong to the EWS category.
In the same month, an NGO named Youth For Equality opposed caste-based policies and challenged the government’s stand on the EWS amendment in the Supreme Court of India.
The NGO claimed that this amendment act breached the 50% reservation ceiling which was set by the Supreme Court itself.
This NGO said that they completely support the EWS reservation but wanted this to be done by converting the OBC quota, which stands at 27%, into the economic category non-caste-based quota. After this, the backward class groups also approached the apex court and opposed the EWS amendment.
On January 25th, 2019, the apex court refused to put a stay on the 10% EWS quota given to general Economically Weaker Sections (GEN EWS) in government jobs and educational institutions.
The Supreme Court, on August 6th, 2020, decided that a five-member bench would hear this case.
In Janhit Abhiyan Vs Union of India Writ Petition(Civil), the Supreme Court on November 7th, 2022, by a 3:2 verdict, sustained the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment and gave legal sanction to create 10% reservation for people belonging to Economically weaker sections (EWS).
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The terms Economically Backward Class (EBC) and EWS are both very different. People who belong to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category since February 1, 2019, now get 10% reservation in educational institutions and government jobs. In states like Kerala and Maharashtra, the term EWS candidates have different eligibility criteria, which are explained below:
- The annual family income of the candidate should be less than 4 lakh rupees.
- The family of the candidate must not hold more than 2.5 acres of land in the panchayat area.
- Candidates’ families must not hold house plots with an area of more than 20 % of an average plot in a municipality area.
In June 2021, the tripartite government in Maharashtra, Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) declared that the Maratha community now can enjoy the benefits under the Economically Weaker Sections.
EWS Category Eligibility Criteria
For a person or a family to categorise themselves as Economically Weaker Section, they will have to provide a number of documents for verifying their low family income. The government has fixed certain standards for an individual to categorise himself/herself as an EWS citizen.
These documents include:
- The person must not acquire more than 5 acres of agricultural land.
- The house/flat in which the person is residing should not be more than 200 square feet.
- And if the person is living in a house/flat which is more than 200 square feet, then this property should not come under the municipality.
EWS Category Benefits
With the implementation of the EWS Amendment by the central government, the person belonging to this category will be enjoying a lot of benefits. Benefits enjoyed by the EWS category people are:
- 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
- Unlike any other reservations which are based on caste and class, the EWS category also includes people from the General category who are not financially strong.
A person who wants to acquire the EWS Category Certificate needs to provide the following documents: Aadhar Card, PAN Card, Caste Certificate, Affidavit or Self Declaration, Bank Statement, Income Details, Passport-size photograph (not older than 3 months), Below Poverty Line (BPL) Card.
People belonging to the EWS category are given 10% reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.
The EWS category is a reservation category in itself, and it has a certain percentage of seats or vacancies reserved for EWS candidates in addition to the seats reserved for other categories such as SC, ST, OBC, and general categories. Therefore, an individual who belongs to the EWS category cannot be considered for a general seat as they are eligible for reservation under the EWS category only.
EWS is an important government rule offered to financially weak people in the country.
The government makes such laws to help the less-privileged students to get enrollment in good government colleges and hence, government jobs.