Thursday, May 25, 2006

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

None of us – neither those that write or post on the issue, nor those that read the same, nor the ones that participate in or lead marches and rallies on either side – has investigated the entire issue of reservations. The only investigation into the same was done was by the ‘Group of Ministers’ and one of the leading lights was of course, Monsieur Pranab Mukherjee.

Post the inevitable thumbs-up from this group, Mr. Mukherjee said openly on a television interview that the GoM was unanimous in their opinion and that the government would not permit any ‘non-political’ body or person to look into the issue. Arjun Singh too (as you would have read in that interview with Karan Thapar) has refused to really divulge any details at all on this increased reservation by 27%! Strange, when one considers that the Act ensuring Free Access to Information to the public was one of the closest to the PM’s heart!!!

I mentioned that there were a few issues that I had not touched upon in the previous post. Well, here they are:

Point #6
The merit argument is unfair as can be seen in the fact that over 65% of the top 2000 candidates in TN are from the reserved categories.

Sure! But then, TN (by virtue of a Constitutional Amendment that over-rides the Supreme Court ruling, has 69% reservation anyway! Do the Math for yourself and then let’s reopen the discussion on this point.

Point #7
Reservations will ensure diversity in batches and show the ‘real India’.

Sure. Let’s also have the IITs and IIMs adopt a better policy! To ensure more diversity in the intellectual capital, let’s have them recruit the top 50% and the bottom 50% after the Entrance exams. After all, the ‘real India’ can’t be all smart!!! There must be a fair number of people with low IQs in the public…we need that perspective too, don’t we? As per the law, there is no caste system and in today’s cosmopolitan society, different castes don’t have different ‘cultures’. It’s region, language and economic strata that cause this diversity, not caste.

I think it is quite obvious by now – or should be at any rate – that reservations are merely a sham put on by the politicians to earn – or at least to not lose – votes in certain sections of society.

Now, I’d like to raise a few other points which the pro-reservation guys also touch upon. For one thing, they blame the general category students of looking down upon those from the reserved category and say that this is a great example of the crying need for reservations!

I think this is totally asinine! If anything, this reason actually proves why caste-based reservations defeat the very purpose for their existence. I have yet to see any student looking down upon a financially less fortunate person who avails of the need-based scholarships. Indeed, these students are greatly admired as everyone realizes the effort that these students have put in and the hardships they have endured to reach the position that they are in.

The scholarships do not detract from the achievement. They are seen as a just and sometimes even ‘not-really-enough’ reward for these students. Reservations however, earn the scorn of the same students. The reason is obvious. The recipient of the benefits of reservations is more often than not, from the more affluent sections of society and is, most often, one of the laggards in the class (as proved by the fact that 50% of all reserved category students that enter the IITs fail to graduate even after 6 years!!!). This is then seen through the eyes of students who have seen several deserving acquaintances and friends fall by the wayside by the last 10th of a percentile. How do you expect these people to react to seeing someone with 10 percentile lower score than that person in their Institute by means of a crutch? Are they (and I too fall into this category) not justified in their judgment of the ‘quota’ student as undeserving and as a person diluting the concept of a meritocracy?

It is ironic that just a couple of years ago, Arjun Singh’s voice was the loudest in opposition to the then HRD Minister’s (MM Joshi) decision to slash fees in the IIMs to make the education more affordable and increase the number of seats to provide education to more students and also to ensure that the IIMs still drew in enough cash. He claimed that increasing the number of seats would ‘dilute the quality of education’ and that this decision ‘violated the autonomy’ of the IIMs.

Now, he has imposed reservations on the IIMs; reservations that I know the IIMs bitterly oppose. Did he consult them? I’d like to end this post by highlighting just how unfortunate the fallout is of caste-based reservations. I’ll give you three examples from my personal life, but here’s a bit of background before that.

I hail from the North of India and have spent my entire life in Bombay. Never for a minute in my upbringing was caste ever spoken about. Caste was a word I read about in the History texts; a word that we considered a relic and a reminder of a bygone era. We didn’t even know about how various castes could be gauged from surnames. Yes, that was what society was like…and then came the VP Singh government and the Mandal Commission Report…the self-immolations and the brazen bulldozing of the government. Caste politics were here to stay and these are the results.

I, along with two really close friends, have often discussed our ideas and ideals regarding how we ought to stay in India and do something good for the economy. Give back something in return for all that the nation and every single taxpayer gave us in the form of education, facilities etc. For the past few weeks, we have been discussing if it may actually be time to do a rethink now. As one of my friends pointed out, “Would you be willing to entrust the lives of your loved ones to the hands of a doctor who only got admission through the quota system?”

My friend’s father is a recruiter for one of the world’s most reputed and famous companies. He told us over dinner the other day, “I always ensure that I don’t recruit the quota candidates. Regardless of what they may seem like in an interview, you can never really be sure!”

A professor at one of the IIMs mentioned to a group of students, “The super-strict rules regarding failing students in the IIMs were framed with the intention of weeding out the quota students.”

Yes, these facts sadden me. I sympathize completely with those deserving people among the quota candidates who face these prejudices and are unfairly penalized. Yet, these are now a sad and cruel reality and the blame for this scenario quite clearly lies squarely at the doors of those that have put this unfair system in place.


Anonymous said...

i really appreciate ur thoughts i m against any of such systems which create a rift between the classes i think that even the 22% quota should b abolished in fact if u want 2 reserve somethin why dont u reserve the post of pm or seats in parliament?

Vidhi said...

hi mukund!! how r u?! long long time since i wrote on my blog or visited anyone else's!!

Preeti said...

Well you also need to take care of the fact that we(i represent ST)do not have adequate funds to make it into big league colleges as you people.And why should IIT and IIMS not have reservation?

Memoryking said...

Read your blog.Liked it a lot.Here is mine
"You say, if a student knows a seat is reserved for him he is not going to work towards it. Ask yourself- If a person knows Education is subsidized for his kids, food items are subsidized for him, is he going to work? Isn’t it harming the Economy? Isn’t the highly subsidized education we avail a classic example of social injustice? "