Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lunch? Dinner's On The House Too! - I

“Government gets Dictatorial”, screamed the headlines of today’s newspapers and I did not even need to read the article to know that it spoke of the government forcing through the reservation policy that now means that from the coming academic year, all central Institutions of education – including therefore, the IITs and IIMs – will have an additional OBC quota.

At the outset of this post, I’d like to enlighten those of you that may not be aware of this fact, that even Jawaharlal Nehru, the biggest proponent of caste-based quotas at the time of Independence, had by the 1960s realized the futility and the folly of this method of ‘social justice’. In this post and the next, I just thought I’d address a few points that the proponents of quotas like to raise in their arguments. After all, if I oppose the system, I believe that I ought to have enough valid reasons and facts to contradict those that support the system!

Point #1
The entire Parliament was – for once - in unanimous agreement on this topic.

Sure! It would be political suicide to oppose these reservations in the political climes that prevail in India today. Add to that the upcoming elections in UP and you can see for yourself the reasons for not opposing this bill!

Point #2
OBCs form a huge percentage of the population of the country.

Firstly, there is no accurate or dependable survey or census that proves this point. Three surveys have thrown up numbers ranging from 28% to 52%. The argument in favour of the quotas is based on the latter figure. What if the reality is the former? What of the argument then?

Secondly, even if we do, for the sake of argument, accept the figure of 52%, so what? How does that, in any way, reinforce the argument for the system? Which survey shows that these people are ‘underprivileged’ and backward? As a matter of fact, the Communists are asking that the ‘creamy layer’ of the OBCs be excluded from the quotas. The government does not dispute that this layer exists. So, how big is this layer? And how are the ‘underprivileged’ upper castes any different from the underprivileged lower castes? Does caste determine where the person is in society today? After 50 years of Independence in a ‘caste-free’ society?

Also, is there any evidence at all to support the fact that reservations do in fact help those that are the beneficiaries of the policy? If so, why does the government refuse to exclude the progeny of those that avail of this benefit from availing of the same themselves? Surely once they are provided the education, they cease to remain backward! If not, then are quotas serving their purpose?

Point #3
The Entrance procedures for these Institutes are incorrect and do not check the merit of the students in that profession anyway. So the merit argument is pointless

This is the most fallacious and ridiculous argument of them all! Firstly, does this mean that the Entrance procedures for Engineering should check if the person is a good Engineer, for Medicine that the person is a good doctor and so on? In that case, the very course is unnecessary!

Secondly, even if we were to grant that these are indeed the wrong methods, that still does not have anything to do with the quotas! After all, if it is wrong, change the system! After all, the general category students go through the same procedures too! The very fact that one student does better than another in this system shows that in this system he is the more meritorious in this system. Why should he then be penalized based on his caste?

Moreover, reservations in this regard would then mean that the people who get in through reservation are not meritorious anyway then, right? So, what point are you trying to make?

Point #4
An increase in the number of seats will ensure that the general category students are not harmed

Firstly, being from an IIM, I can assure you that none of the IIMs has the infrastructure to support the kind of increases that would be called for. Even the HRD Mininster, the Damnable Arjun Singh, admits as much. Secondly, the issue is of merit here. So, this argument is totally irrelevant.

Point #5
Access to quality education must be provided to these sections of society and this is the best way to do so.

I agree that access must be provided. But access is a problem to the ‘backward’ sections on mainly economic grounds! Reservations do little – if anything – to address that problem. That is the reason why candidates that I see availing the reservations are all middle if not upper class citizens! So, they didn’t need the reservations anyway. The ones who needed the access are still deprived of it. That is why, to this day, almost six decades after Independence, almost all the people that were ‘backward’ at that time, remain that way.

I know that I have overlooked a few arguments, but as I mentioned at the outset, I will have another post on this issue and aim to tackle the remnants in that one and if you let me know any that you feel I ought to, I will gladly counter them too. I also know that I have not yet said anything about what I feel could be done to address the undeniable issue that there are indeed people that are deprived of the opportunity to avail of a good quality education. I intend to do so as well in the next few days, but this post is already too long to incorporate that into this.

I you see any flaws in my reasoning, please do let me know of them and I will try to either clarify or will rethink my stand.

Also, please do go through an excerpt of Karan Thapar interviewing Arjun Singh at this link. I think that interview puts beyond the realm of any doubt, the issue of just why this step has been undertaken.


Neha said...

You have very meticulously put down all these points..if someone has evena little bit of common sense and logic they wud see how true all of this is...unfortunately thts wat alot of people lack..

I had thought the BJP wud probably take a stand against reservations, cud b an opportunity for them to get back their middle class support.. but they didnt..

Darth Midnightmare said...

Neha, I think I mentioned the reason why no party opposed this. It's the UP elections. As for the BJP, they maintained an ambiguous stand on the entire issue, with some leaders praising it, some lambasting it and some saying that "all sections should be taken care of". Political diplomacy at its best and obviously moral worst.

That is also the reason why the PM, who was earlier public in his stand AGAINST the issue made contradictory statements later, then assured the students that reservations would not be implemented till seats were increased and then, after being proved wrong by the HRD Minister, did a volte face and has since then maintained a deafening silence. Weak and spineless are the only words that come to my mind to describe our PM.

anonychooha said...

Logically, an increase in the number of seats ought to be accompanied with a reduction in the percentage of reserved seats rather than an increase, since more seats would be made available to everyone proportionally - including the reserved category. Plain, simple mathematical logic - even if you're one of those inferior JNU "intellectuals".

But political capital is to be made on the logic of electoral equations rather than national interest.

In the mean time, we can wring our hands all we wish and dream on.