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.

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.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Free Lunch Anybody?

Think about this scenario for a moment if you will. Let’s say that you’re the financial head of a corporation and the chap in charge of R&D comes up to you asking for an increase in the budget for a project that’s been in progress for over 55 years with ever-increasing budgets. What do you think your most likely response would be?

Frankly, my first instinct would be to question the existence of the project itself. Surely if 55 years have failed to show any results, the project should be shelved! That however is clearly not the way the current Congress government sees things. Particularly not Arjun Singh and there doesn’t seem to be any political party that has the will to stand up for logic either!

Yes indeed, I am talking about the recent proposal of Arjun Singh and the Congress to increase by 27% the reservations in the top Indian education Institutes including AIIMS, the IITs and of course, the IIMs.

If you desire a pointer to the national sentiment on this issue, the survey results in the morning papers today said a lot. Over 97% of people across the country actually support the doctors who have been on strike over this issue for 4 days now! This in a country which condemns doctors and criticizes them roundly whenever they even threaten to strike! What a change…and that is purely because of the grounds for the strike. As of yesterday, the students of IITD have also joined the stir. I hope that the protestors win this war…for a war is what it is.

I’d like to deviate a bit from the normal issues that are debated when this issue is brought up. I think the issue of merit has so many proponents that nobody with the slightest shred of sense would argue that on grounds of merit, all that reservations do is to ensure that sub-standard and Low IQ people are promoted at the expense of more deserving people, wrecking lives, households, morale and of course damaging greatly the economy and the image of the country.

What I examined the other day though was the logical construct for having reservations in the courses for higher education, even if I do – though I don’t – the logic for reservations in schools and junior colleges.

Let us therefore assume that these castes are so underprivileged (despite over 55 years of reservations) that they can’t actually afford to give their children money and a proper environment for education and therefore require reservations at the school level. Let us extend this hypothesis further and say that these reservations are also required at the junior college level.

But what after that? After all, surely this is where this crutch should be taken away! I mean, this person who availed of these reservations has now been educated to a fair level. Surely now it should have brought this nitwit to the same level as those peers of his who used their own merit and not a crutch to rise!

I’m an Engineer and I refuse to accept that any person at all who has cleared his XIIth is so underprivileged that he/she needs reservations to be at the level of those that are ‘more privileged’. The only reason I see that could make anyone ask for this is that the reserved categories are inherently less meritorious and I don’t think they would like to be considered as such.

Moreover, if they are – for whatever reason – less meritorious, they shouldn’t be in the best Institutes competing with the brightest minds. Apart from demoralizing the meritorious who fail to make it to these Institutes due to these undeserving people, it would also be devastating for these people who would, quite understandably, lag behind the rest (DNA in Mumbai carried an article to this effect and actually quoted reserved category students echoing these sentiments).

After my XIIth, I remember standing at VJTI leafing through sheet after sheet that listed the candidates who had made it to the best Engineering Instituted and I remember the helpless rage that coursed my body when I saw tons of students with more than 10% lower than me who had made it to the best Institutes in the first list while I had not. As things turned out, I didn’t need those seats anyway, but I have nothing but sympathy for so many that must have lost out just like I nearly did…and nothing but pure hatred for those that created this system.

BR Ambedkar is often vilified as the person who created reservations and he is eulogized by the Mulayams and Lallus of the world for creating reservation, but that is one of the biggest lies of the 20th century. BR Ambedkar, by all accounts was vehemently opposed to reservations!

His contention, along the same lines as those of the present-day opponents of reservation, was that reservations would be a crutch to the depressed classes and would give them an incentive to become lazy and not attempt to rise. He wanted it ensured merely that there was an equal opportunity in terms of access!

The detestable duo though – none other than Nehru and Gandhi – ensured that they forced reservations on Ambedkar and the nation and condemned the nation to decades of mediocrity that show no signs of drawing to an early close…sad…so damned sad but true.

Think about these questions. Have 55 years improved anything? Are the poor any closer to quality education? Does caste really have anything to do with economic welfare? Is caste or money a bigger barrier to education? Would you consider taking your family to a doctor that you knew was a ‘quota’ candidate?

Finally, I’d like to just point out the biggest irony of them all. As per the Indian Constitution, the caste system stands abolished and discriminating on the basis of caste is illegal. Ironic then that discrimination on the basis of caste is exactly what reservations do!

PS: Reservations, when written into the Constitution were (at the behest of Gandhi) time-bound and were meant to be reduced as the years wore on till they were abolished. As it stands, every ten years the vote-hungry governments pass Constitutional Amendments to increase the term of reservations and also the castes, sub-castes etc included in the purview…not to mention the damned percentages of the quota…a practice started by the biggest natural disaster of them all – Jawaharlal Nehru…

PPS: With the proposal to force reservations on the private sector on the anvil as well, please treat this as an entreaty and an advertisement… I am a Business Consultant…any vacancies in Vegas? ;-)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Don't Kid Me!!!

I have often expressed my opinion – much to the anger and occasional dismay of my female friends – that I detest children. I abhor them and consider them to be ugly and filthy fiends that are best stayed away from. I have nothing against the critters. All I say is that while they may live, keep them away from me!

It’s so much nicer to have a dog! Dogs are far more affectionate, far more loyal, obedient, more fun, great companions, cleaner, not troublesome and are so much better looking!!! I mean, take a puppy and a newborn baby. The baby is absolutely revoltingly ugly while the puppy is so damned adorable. It makes me wonder how even a parent can like a baby! I’ve seen pictures of me as a baby and trust me, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!!!

Babies are horrendous creatures. As per my mother, she always wanted a girl but when she saw me, she immediately thanked her stars I was a boy…then of course she discovered that all babies looked as ugly when born and swore not to have another child, thus explaining why I am the only offspring of my parents.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I abhor babies and adore dogs and have always maintained that rather than have babies, people should just keep dogs.

This morning’s newspaper carries an article that has truly warmed my heart and has given me the ideal holiday destination where I can have a really peaceful time.

If you get the DNA, you can find this on the back page of the main news section.

Kids not allowed, dogs OK

An Austrian hotel owner has banned children – but says pet dogs will always be welcome. Hotel Cortisen turned away a German family with two young children when they turned up for a holiday in the Alpine village of St Wolfgang. Owner Roland Ballner, 38, said, “I have just had the hotel redecorated for more than 2 million euros – kids will put their dirty paw-prints on the white walls, stand on the white leather sofas in their dirty shoes, and scream and run around and disturb other guests. I have decided to make a stand and I am sure others will follow suit and say no to kids. From today, children are no longer welcome – and I plan to advertise it as I am sure it will attract guests. But he added, “I don’t have a problem with dogs…dogs are always welcome in my hotel.” He claimed his customers had welcomed the move.