Economically Weaker Sections (EWS): As defined by Govt Panel
Cabinet in January 2019 decided to amend the Constitution (103rd Amendment) for implementing 10% reservation for EWS.
New committee constituted to revisit EWS criteria:
Prime basis: Income criteria
- The criteria include a Rs 8 lakh income ceiling for inclusion in EWS — which is the same as the criterion for deciding the “creamy layer” among the OBCs (those who are not in government).
- The notification said income shall include income from all sources i.e. salary, agriculture, business, profession, etc for the financial year prior to the year of application.
- Another criterion is that a person whose family owns or possesses 5 acres of agricultural land or more will be excluded from EWS.
- It followed the Supreme Court’s observation that the income criterion for determining EWS was “arbitrary”.
- The Supreme Court is presently hearing a number of petitions, including a special leave petition filed by the Centre against a Madras HC order on EWS and OBC reservation in the all-India quota for NEET.
- The “threshold of Rs 8 lakh of annual family income seems reasonable for determining EWS”.
- EWS may, however, exclude, irrespective of income, a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land and above.
FCRA amendment 2020:
Cap on administrative expenses: Reduces the limit of usage of foreign contribution for administrative expenses from 50% to 20%.
All NGOs who wish to receive foreign funding must create and solely use a new account with the State Bank of India at New Delhi.
The government may restrict usage foreign contribution if it believes that such entity has contravened provisions of the Act.
Previously, there was no way for NGOs in India to voluntarily forfeit their FCRA registration. Under the amended FCRA, there is now a means to do so.
- Committee has removed the criteria that excluded some categories from EWS. EG: Owners of residential properties of 1,000 sq ft and above.
It addresses the questions raised by the Supreme Court that the criteria was ‘arbitrary’ by stating that:
- 8 lakh cut off has a link with income tax exemption limit and it is therefore logical to use income tax exemption limit to determine EWS.
- By doing away with the residential assets criteria, it addressed the issue of earlier no difference between residential flat criteria of metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
- It asserted that the income criteria is similar to that of Creamy Layer in OBCs.
The hint of a ‘one nation one NGO’ regime
Recently, the ministry of home affairs extended the validity of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of non-government organisations (NGOs) by three months till March 31, 2022 (whose FCRA registration are expiring between September 29, 2020 and March 31, 2022).
Reasons to regulate the funding of NGOs:
- Some NGOs were reported to work against the national interests of the country. An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, alleged that several foreign-funded NGOs were stalling India’s economic
- NGOs lack inner democracy and siphon off to pay the owners of NGOs very high salaries. Thus, reducing limit on administrative expenses is necessary.
- Some NGOs were also charged with allegations of Money laundering and terror financing.
Concerns with the Amendment:
- Limit of 20% on administrative costs of NGO severely impact some NGOs which undertake research activities where overhead costs (salaries etc.) are more.
- Blanket requirement to open an account at one specific SBI branch is manifestly arbitrary and serves no rational purpose, violating the right to equality.
- The amendment has restricted the ability to sub-grant and choked many of the niche organisations working in very remote areas which had no direct access to international funding.
Why we need civil society organisations?
- They ask for greater efficiency, delivery and accountability from the state.
- They correct the extractive nature of markets. The groups asking for environmental accountability are looking at inter-generational justice.
- Picking up causes that are so niche that it is beyond the capability of the state to come up with such initiatives.