CHENNAI: The State that has a long association with reservation matters and provides a high 69 per cent reservation to backward sections, also has a long history of rejecting quotas based on annual income. The decades-long debates have come to the fore again with the Madras High Court recently ruling against providing 10 per cent quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of forward communities in medical and dental admissions under All India Quota.
The quota for EWS in jobs and education was introduced by the Union government in June 2019. While many States ruled by BJP, Congress and CPM implemented the provision, Tamil Nadu has not accepted it yet. The State has always been against reserving jobs and admission to colleges on the basis of economic factors.
In 1979, the AIADMK government headed by former chief minister MG Ramachandran introduced a Rs 9,000 annual income cap for availing reservation for Backward Classes, and they were provided 30 per cent quota. After AIADMK suffered a severe blow in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, winning just two seats out of 40, MGR withdrew the ‘creamy layer’ and increased the reservation for BCs from 30 to 50 per cent.
Interestingly, the previous AIADMK government tried to extend the EWS quota in non-central institutions, but retracted the decision soon following stiff resistance from other political parties. The DMK even moved the Supreme Court against the EWS quota.
At an all-party meeting organised on July 9, 2019, the DMK, PMK, VCK and MDMK strongly opposed the EWS, while the BJP, Congress, CPI(M), TMC(M) and Puthiya Tamizhagam backed the decision. DMK president MK Stalin had said then that 69 per cent reservation was achieved in the State through long legal and political struggles. “Extending the quota on the basis of economic factors would weaken the caste-based reservation,” he added.
Political commentator Raveendran Duraisamy feels there are no takers for EWS in Tamil Nadu. “In the eyes of political parties, upper castes comprise only 4 per cent of the State’s population, and half of them are Brahmins. While the DMK perceives them as negative voters, AIADMK takes them for granted because of its alliance with BJP,” he said.
The implementation of EWS quota in Civil Services and Banking examination also became controversial as the cut-off marks for candidates belonging to EWS (general category) was lower than that for OBC and SC. In 2019 UPSC civil service exam, the preliminary exam qualifying mark for EWS was 90, while it was 95 for the OBC. Similarly, the mains cut-off mark for EWS was 696, while it was 718, 706 and 699 for OBC, SC and ST respectively.
BJP State unit spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathy noted that the law for EWS quota was passed by both Houses of the Parliament with support of Congress and CPM.
“While extending the SC/ST quota for admission under AIQ in 2007, the Congress government failed to provide 27 per cent reservation for OBC. Later, the Narendra Modi-led government provided it for backward communities. Congress and CPM should support us to implement EWS quota in Tamil Nadu. The cut off marks will increase when more people appear for the exams under the quota,” he said.