new quota announced by the government
+ on Monday will cover practically all of the population not already covered by reservations, reveals an analysis of the exclusion criteria spelt out for the quota. With this, therefore, almost all of India’s population will be entitled to one quota or the other.
Here’s how that works out. The income criterion to be used is an annual household income of Rs 8 lakh. Data from the I-T department as well as reports from the NSSO show that at least 95% of Indian families will fall within this limit.
An annual household income of Rs 8 lakh would mean a per person income of a little over Rs 13,000 per month assuming a family of five. The top-most income slice for which the NSSO survey of 2011-12 (the latest) gives data is of over Rs 2,625 per person per month in rural areas and Rs 6,015 in urban areas, both well under this mark. Yet this top slice has a mere 5% of the households in it.
Further, for 2016-17, just under 23 million individuals declared incomes of over Rs 4 lakh. Even assuming two such individuals in each family, that would mean about 1 crore families at best would be over the Rs 8 lakh cut-off. That translates to roughly 4% of Indians.
Incidentally, government data released on Monday shows a per capita income of Rs 1.25 lakh. That translates to Rs 6.25 lakh for a family of five. Thus, a household that gets Rs 8 lakh a year would be significantly above the national average, certainly not poor.
The land-holding criterion is just as liberal. The agricultural census for 2015-16 revealed that 86.2% of all land- holdings in India were under 2 hectares in size, or just under 5 acres. So, once again the bulk of the population qualifies for the new quota under this.
A third criterion is that the size of the house should not be over 1,000 sq.ft. The NSSO report on housing conditions in 2012 shows that even the richest 20% of the population had houses with an average floor area of 45.99 sq.m, which is almost exactly 500 sq.ft. That is barely half the ceiling being imposed. Here, too, at least 80%, and more likely well over 90%, would be eligible.
What this means is that the new quota will be available to almost anybody not currently covered by the SC/ST or OBC reservations. SCs and STs constitute around 23% of the population while OBCs make up another 40-50% though no official data is available. That leaves about 27-37% currently not entitled to any quota. Considering that the big slice of all ‘open’ jobs or seats go to these sections anyway, and that the relatively better off among them are better placed to make use of opportunities, it is not clear just how much the new quota will change things on the ground.