The ₹8 lakh income criterion has worked smoothly to identify and provide Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota benefits to deserving candidates in UPSC exams, NEET-UG and JEE (Mains), separately since 2019, an expert committee report in the Supreme Court has said.
The report, which is part of a government report in the court, said the committee examined the actual outcome of the EWS income criteria as applied in the past two years as “the proof of the pudding is not in the recipe but in eating”.
The committee said it found that for UPSC selections (2019 and 2020), there was no obvious bunching at the top of the income criteria that would suggest exclusion of deserving lower income candidates. Further, the annual household income distribution of qualified EWS candidates for NEET-UG and JEE (Mains) for 2020 reveals that a mere 9% and 8.2% of EWS candidates were found to be in the income bracket of ₹5 lakh-8 lakh respectively.
“In other words, most selected candidates who got the benefit of EWS reservation had annual family income lower than ₹5 lakh. That is why the committee has come to the conclusion that the existing annual income criteria of ₹8 lakh is not over-inclusive,” the report said.
The report said there is no evidence to show that the ₹8 lakh limit has led to the inclusion of undeserving candidates for the EWS quota.
“There is no evidence of the bunching of EWS candidates at the highest income bracket of ₹5 lakh -8 lakh, the current cut-off of ₹8 lakh is not leading to a major problem of the inclusion of undeserving candidates. Despite the fact that the bulk of the qualifying candidates is below ₹5 lakh, a somewhat higher threshold is needed which ensures that deserving beneficiaries affected by various factors such as income volatility, size of family, high cost of living in certain locations are not excluded,” the report said.
The committee, the report said, also deliberated how the process of review of EWS criteria could be managed in future.
It said the traditional approach of ever more detailed multi-dimensional surveys or studies at a frequent interval alone would not be especially useful for the operation of the EWS reservation.
It said information technology should be used extensively for better targeting.
“There is now a wealth of information about incomes, assets and spending patterns from GST, income tax, digital payments, financial institutions, real estate registration and so on,” the committee recommended.