Responses to various points raised as comments to my post The case for, thought they would do better as a post rather than as another comment.
1) Primary education. As I said briefly before, of course we need to make an honest effort to provide primary education to all. Where is that effort? Where is the agitation towards demanding it? Reservations were put in place for a period of ten years, and we all wished they had been removed in that time, which they were not. But the Constitution also directed that within that same ten years, we should have primary education for all (compulsory and free, etc). We don't have that, nearly 60 years on.
Let's make that honest effort, yes. For sure. Please.
2) When do the disadvantaged "need" their access, early in life or later or when? Well, I don't see that there's a whole lot of difference: once you put reservations in place, where you draw lines becomes politically hard to set in stone. Unfortunate, but that's part of that price to be paid.
3) Really, why do we assume that quota admissions will all be poorer students? I think of my own example: I got into a private college (no reservations except for board exam toppers) on my own steam, thought I was simply hotshit because of my school-leaving exam performance, and proceeded to have the pants beaten off me by guys of every possible sort who had scored far less than I had in their school-leaving exam. They were simply highly motivated to do well and make the most of the opportunity they had.
It taught me that the best indicator of performance is not an exam result, but that motivation.
4) Why would people taking advantage of reservations give it up after some length of time? Without an incentive to do so, they won't. But consider two things. One, for example there are successful and thoughtful beneficiaries of affirmative action in the US who sometimes argue for an end to AA. (I may be completely wrong, but I think Randall Kennedy is one, if I have the name right). Two, the programme of reservations can have built in incentives to achieve just that: perhaps the quantum of reservations decreases over time, something like that.
5) What about the examples of people, like Mumbai Monsoon, denied their own chance that they earned by their own hard work? Well, it saddens me too, such cases. There will be people who will abuse the system, there will be casualties like Mumbai Monsoon.
I think one way to address that is for the Mandal recommendations to be modified to say that even though they are 52% of the population, the additional reservations they get is not 27% (over the SC/ST 22.5), but a smaller number, let's say 10.5%. And that the total of 33 (22.5 + 10.5) is now open to SC/ST/OBC. So you have an increase, due to Mandal's recognition that some OBCs need help; but at the same time, it's not proportionate to their population, and it also simultaneously effectively decreases the SC/ST fraction. So in effect, you have a level of competition for those 33% reservations, with less of an impact on the open category.
Naturally this needs to be thought through some more, and sold politically. But it's one answer that comes to mind.
All I have time for now, will get to the rest when I can.