April 11, 2006

The case for

The case for reservations, and I'm going to try to think about it afresh. I ask you to read this in that spirit. This is an issue that generates heat and passion, neither of which make a good climate to find answers. I'm searching for that good climate.

First, let me say this much: I wish we lived in a world where there was no need for reservations. This wish informs the way I react to them. But of course, I know we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world any time soon. (I honestly wish, too, that I am wrong there). Therefore, all things considered, I think reservations are the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem.

What is that problem? Put simply and baldly: A lot of people still face subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination, solely because of their station in life.

Second, let's quickly deal with the arguments against reservations.

  • Merit is left to rot. Maybe so, but for one thing, how much have we truly valued merit anyway? Favouritism, nepotism and the like are routine with us, even today. But more important, what of the merit we will uncover by giving a much wider pool of people the opportunity they feel is otherwise denied to them? Why should we assume that those who benefit from quota admissions, say, will all automatically be poor students?

  • There's rampant abuse. But any system will be abused. Consider diesel: for decades, we have subsidised it so that transport of freight -- by road and (earlier) by diesel-powered trains -- would be affordable. Yet today a substantial fraction of cars sold in this country are diesel-powered, solely to take advantage of diesel's lower price than petrol. Many people who would be able to afford the price of petrol buy diesel cars anyway. Are they abusing the subsidy, and should we therefore put an end to it, making freight transport that much more expensive? Maybe we should, I don't know. But that some people take advantage of a scheme is not, by itself, reason to throw out that scheme.

  • How long should we carry on with reservations? This is a prickly issue, and I don't have a good answer. My feeling is -- maybe this is wishful thinking -- that when reservations have benefited some critical mass of people, they will themselves call for an end to them. That's when it will become politically possible to get rid of them. We haven't reached that point yet, but I have faith that we will. I base this hope on the trickle of stories of beneficiaries who speak such a language.

  • Why not a purely economic basis for reservations, instead of caste? Actually, the truth about Mandal that should be better known is that it had very little to do with caste, and much to do with various other factors. The economic well-being of a community was one, but other social and educational factors also figured. So on the one hand, it is not true that reservations don't have an economic basis. On the other hand, I think Mandal had it right -- you have to look at more than just economic factors, more than just caste.

    Third, in essence the point of reservations is this: give more people greater access to opportunity than they have had.

    Think cricket. We celebrate the exploits of the Dhonis and Sehwags, young men from small-town India. Even ten years ago, their rise may not have been possible -- cricket was the preserve of the city-bred elite, Bombay being the dominant team. My theory is that this is why we have never been a true world power in the game. The spread of excellence in the game to our smaller towns and villages, the fact that players from such places are coming good, is the sign, I believe, that we can become dominant in cricket. Because many more people than ever before have access to the game, and we are able to tap into a huge pool of talent that we overlooked before. What a great thing that is. (And I wish it would happen with every other sport).

    What's significant here is the point about access.

    Think domestic airlines. Whether we had IA or later Jet and Sahara (and the now-dead Modiluft, East-West, Damania etc), airline travel in this country remained the preserve of the wealthy till recently. Fares remained high. It took the coming of an Air Deccan (and now its successors into the sky) to drives fares down. In some cases, they are now at least comparable with train fares. Why did this happen? Because Air Deccan thought of something nobody had seriously contemplated before: if the not-so-wealthy have access to air travel, if we get rid of the mindset that flying is for the wealthy, the potential for profits is huge (because the potential market is huge). So how do we do that? Answer: find ways to offer lower fares.

    Again, what's significant is the point about access.

    To me, this is the point of, the way to consider, reservations: to increase access. To break down mindsets. To tap into a huge pool of talent we might otherwise overlook.

    Sure, reservations are not voluntary. Sure, they upset a lot of people. But they have the potential to transform this country in the same way the cricket team and air travel have been transformed.

    It's worth not heat, but thought.

    ***

    This is a follow up to some of what's being discussed at my post here.
  • 48 comments:

    Venu said...

    What's significant here is the point about access.

    Completely agree. Which is why I say make an honest effort to give access to primary education and people will take care of themselves later without needing reservations. Or atleast ought to.

    One point: someone who's gotten till his/her 12th, (after which point all the quotas start), already has access. Which is why you mostly see already-well-assimilated sub-sections take advantage of reservations.

    Rahul said...

    I agree with Venu: the disadvantaged need their access much earlier in life than when they're joining IIT or Infosys.

    If reservations led to this sort of boom in the number of people with access, Tamil Nadu would be far ahead of the rest of the country today.

    I am certainly in favour of diversity in the private sector. Many highly qualified people lose out to English-speaking elites who know less but talk more slickly. We should think of a way to reward employers for diversity, and call it something less negative in tone than "reservations" (I prefer the Americanism "affirmative action").

    As for higher educational institutes like the IITs, they should realise that it is not enough to take in the government-mandated "reserved" candidates: they should give them additional help, and it is their social responsibility to do so. I remember my friends who went to the IITs nearly all came out with appallingly casteist attitudes, speaking of "SC-STs" in the sort of derogatory language that I never heard in Delhi University. Apparently they learned it from their teachers (like the IIM professor that you quoted in your other article). This sort of thing hurts, rather than helps, the "beneficiaries" of reservations.

    Most American universities at some point in the 1960s realised that diverse student bodies (and faculty too) are in their own interest, and became enthusiastic about affirmative action. Until that happens here, things won't improve.

    By the way, at the Indian Institute of Science I knew many students who were from genuinely disadvantaged communities, who did very well. I never heard derogatory things about "backward" communities from the faculty either. It was the most non-elitist place I've been in. (And IISc certainly values excellence -- research-wise it's among the best in the world and is leagues ahead of the IITs and IIMs, which are basically glorified teaching centres.) But even there, several students -- especially those in engineering courses, who'd been toppers at their small-town universities and were now at the bottom of the class -- found it very hard to cope. (I'm speaking of 10 years ago, when the IISc authorities knew the problem and were just beginning to try and tackle it; it may be much better now.)

    tejal said...

    In an unequal society, there cannot be equal opprtunity.It needs to be forced. In India, class and caste largely overlap, so I think the Mandal commision has it right. Kudos to VP Singh for doing what he did in just 6 months.
    A friend of mine told me the other day that he wouldnt even bother getting into the reservation debate with a middle class city bred person as this category consitutes a very small minority and who cares what they say. With all the access ppl like us (the middle class city bred) have to education, how may of us actually contribute back to society– work towards eradicating the vices of discrimination from our society so that we move towards a time when reservation wont be neccesary? I dont know the exact number here, but I bet at least 40-50% of IITians leave for the US after graduation, after the government has spent millions of Rupees on them. What right do they (and I am included here) have to say anything abt reservations. Maybe ppl who have been discriminated against for so long will actually do some meaningful work once they get the opportunity. And since this category makes up almost 50% of the Indian polulation, the arguement that it is only a “small section of the society” that will benefit goes right out of the window.
    The hypocrisy of the middle class is unbelievable. They buy the rotten “greater common good” arguement given by the state when it comes to the Sardar Sarovar project as it is just destroying the lives of THOUSANDS of Adivasis in some far away land and it is “collateral damage”. But when it comes to to reservations, the exclusion of a few Brahmins doesnt remain collateral damage but becomes “grave injustice” suddenly.

    Vinod Khare said...

    "Why should we assume that those who benefit from quota admissions, say, will all automatically be poor students?"

    Because the people admitted on quota are admitted on relaxed norms. They can get in even if they score less on the entrance exam. I know, exams don't mean everything but they do mean something. Scoring low does mean that you are lacking in certain disciplines that are supposed to be the judging criteria for admission into these institutes.

    drup said...

    Do you realise that the very examples you give show that state-enforced decisions are not the way to go?

    GoI took over Air India and kept a government monop[oly in the name of having a "public" carrier. It remained the domain of the elite. The moment it was opened up, commoners got access to it.

    Dhoni, Sehwag and Raina are not stars because of reservations for Jharkhand, haryana and UP. The era of Bombay-Karnataka-domination is gone because the others caught up by themselves.

    To use your own analogy, saying reservations will lead to access is like saying reservations in cricket teams will lead to a better access for cricketers.

    Ashish Gupta said...

    This is much better and honest post, yet even when post tries to answer questions on discussion on Other-India post, it eludes the very pertinent questions.

    #1 Merit - Merit is not valued in bureacracy and government, not in private sector. Actually if you think about it, your point 1 & 2 conflict. Just because merit is abused (not valued) doesn't mean that we should abandone it? Lastly, question about assuming reserved quota people less competent has been answered multiple times in your other post which I am sure you didn't miss.

    #3 Length - I wish you are true here, but if human psychology is any indicator, then it is impossible that reserved categories will ask for elimination for reservation. What would be their incentive at all to do so? People try to maximize returns and minimize efforts. There is no reason to avoide that EXCEPT that they feel being reserved category is somehow insulting to their capabilities or ego. To think of it, this will only happen if unreserved people discriminate actively against those reserved! Which is also not going to happen (or may happen given that many people will feel they are being denied fair chance by reservation) because that is the thing we want to eliminate in the first place.

    #4 Access - Fair point. But is access to graduate and post graduate level an answer, or at school level?

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Lots to respond to, and I am debating whether to do it as a comment here or as a separate post. Let's see.

    But I wanted to say -- Tejal, you end with this: The hypocrisy of the middle class is unbelievable. ... But when it comes to to reservations, the exclusion of a few Brahmins doesnt remain collateral damage but becomes “grave injustice” suddenly.

    I think this (and the tone of the rest of your comment) is truly uncalled-for. This is a contentious issue, and we don't advance any kind of debate about it by insulting people. I don't believe for a minute that all those who oppose reservations are hypocrites. Let's try to keep this discussion reasoned and sensible, which is the only way we might get anywhere with it.

    Mumbai Monsoon said...

    Hi Dilip. I greatly respect the environment you have tried to create here. It is the only way to actually calmly and rationally approach solutions to a very huge problem.

    First of all, I would like to point out that Dhoni has been playing cricket all his life. I don't quite agree with your analogy here. The reservation in education is akin to a hypothetical scenario where people in small towns and village are barred from playing cricket, and then you created a quota for them in the Indian Cricket Team, with the misguided intention of nurturing talent in the small towns. If someone has never played cricket, do you really expect him to just strut out on to the field, face McGrath's bowling and score a century ???

    You do see the fallacy in your analogy, don't you ?

    Personally, I do not feel that reservations in higher educational institutions will really serve the purpose and I will use a personal incident to do so.

    I stood first in my school in the 12th board exams, with a fairly decent percentage. Despite the fact that I was a CBSE student who are at a slight disadvantage marks-wise compared to State Government (HSC) students in Bombay, I expected to follow the herd and get into the top few engineering colleges, VJTI, Vivekananda etc.

    When the painful process of admissions took place, I realized that the reality was very different from what I had expected. With reservation for women, SC, ST, OBC.. . the competition for the remaining seats between students like me, not uplifted by reservation, was raised significantly.

    Now I am willing to face that extra competition if the purpose of the reservation was being met ie, providing an opportunity to grown and excel to individuals who lacked the exposure and facilities that I did, having grown up in a middle class bombay household.

    But it wasn't the case. It was all the other students in my school, who got into those colleges, while I had to wait for the 2nd and 3rd rounds to secure an admission, despite the fact that I had out-performed all of them in the board exams. Now, if those reserved seats are being taken by other middle-class students who had the same opportunities that I did, how is reservation helping the downtrodden ??

    I'm not bitter at reality, but the fact is that it is exploited.

    I very strongly believe that communities and individuals who are poor or due to other circumstances were unable to learn and grow in an environment that I did, need to be uplifted. But the focus needs to be much earlier at the primary and middle school level, when the foundation is really built.

    Education is the only passport to success. That has been the middle class adage and I subscribe to it. You need to promote better education, train teachers and provide resoruces, so the basics are strong. One that is there, they won't need reservations and will be able to compete with students from middle class and upper class families.

    I apologize for the length of this comment and look forward to your reply.

    anantha said...

    Access is a noble thought. Enforced access is not. Reservations is about enforced access. And hence will always be flawed by design. Access can be created with ease only by market forces. Which in turn can only be unleashed by deregulation. The examples you have cited are shining case studies for deregulation. For years, the Indian cricket team followed a quota system for North/South/East/West. In the recent years, in the absence of results, market forces took over. BCCI became more accountable. Selectors started feeling the heat. Merit started getting recognised. And the quota system was dismantled. The result is there are Dhonis, Rainas, Munafs and Pathans playing for India. Deccan Airways was also a classic beneficiary of delicensing & deregulation. So I think you've got a little carried away while defending the indefensible. I have seen enforced access fail in the IITs and IIMs. I have seen the SCs and STs do not-so-well. The reason they don't do well is because they haven't been trained to be competitive. In an ultra competitive environment, life can really be tough for a man who's never ran a race. That's the bitter truth. And that's the big flaw with the mandal school of thought. Reservation is too simplistic a solution for a rather complex puzzle. It will end up creating more problems than solutions. And in the hands of our half-baked politicians it can be a veritable nuclear bomb. Just look at where all they wish to extend this 49.5% principle. Schools, colleges, private companies...their list just keeps on growing. I am surprised that an intelligent mind like you is unable to see the pitfalls of enforced access. So my suggestion is wake up Dilip. Time you saw the other side with an open mind.

    tejal said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Eswaran B said...

    Dilip,

    It's nice to see a really civil discussion taking place here. Many commenters have made valid points, and I believe you will address them in the future.

    My thoughts on this..

    1. The reservation rules in India have a open quota for which all students compete and the OBC/SC/ST quota which are reserved for the particular communities. As a result, the final percentage of, say, OBC students is far larger than the reserved figure. I don't know if this is the intended effect. I think it will be better to have a target percentage of students from each community.

    2. Reservations in PG is really meaningless. If you are already a doctor, you are not disadvantaged and certainly don't need reservation for a MD seat.

    3. All this focus on reservation diverts valuable attention from more important things like getting basic education right.

    4. OBCs are not really "backward". I should know, I am one.

    5. A way to grandfather reservations can be built in. For example, if a certain fraction of students getting seats in open quota are from a particular community , then that community may no longer be considered backward.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    realitycheck said...

    Some interesting facts.

    Not one community has been promoted from the reserved category to the non-reserved category in 65 years in Tamilnadu.

    Instead we have a move in the reverse direction there are political parties that want to reclassify some OBCs as MBCs. Google for New Justice Party to start down that route.

    The focus again is not on SC/STs/Dalits. There is widespread consensus amongst all - yes even among the open category students - for the need for reservation for them. By continuing to club SC/STs/Dalits with OBCs prevents us from even having a focussed discussion.

    You dont see posts in the blogosphere or in the mainstream media protesting 22.5 reservation to SC/STs/Dalits do you ?

    So good - if we can settle down and narrow our focus. Let us talk about OBCs. Here too we cannot have a discussion without breaking down the composition of OBCs. God knows the communities within the OBCs are not equal.

    THe startling fact about OBCs is that there exists no data about what benefits have been accrued by their components over the past 50 years. So we will have no facts to fight with.

    If I tell you that in TN, for the past 40 years, Vellalas got 16 *times* the number of MBBS seats got by a so called forward community.

    Tamilnadu for example has already said "to hell with Mandal". TN does not implement the creamy layer concept nor the 50% cap. So what can you do ?

    Abuse is only when you utilize a system in a way that it was not intended to be used. When kids whose both parents are doctors - and who belongs to a land owning wealthy community with no history of oppression - sail into colleges. That is not abuse. That is exactly how the system is intended to work - at least in TN.

    Finally, it is too naive to expect that the reserved categories themselves will one day decide to call themselves forward.

    PS: I have read the Mandal commision report too. It does not breakdown OBC components statewise.

    tejal said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    tejal said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Gamesmaster G9 said...

    You know, the arguments you put forward are EXACTLY the ones used by Pramod Mahajan in a debate I attended recently - right down to the Bombay cricket example. You and Pramod - separated at birth, perchance?

    But I agree with you - I'm very much in the pro-reservation camp myself.

    tejal said...

    Dilip- the tone of my message is "angry". And I am angry. It is unbelievable isnt it, how there is such a strong reaction to the reservations issue from the upper castes which comprise nine-tenths of the educated population but when it comes to other issues, issues where peoples lives and livelihoods are at stake, barely a fraction of the same group even reacts. Just the idea of being possibly excluded(a big word to use for not being able to get into an IIT) becomes worrisome and injustice, when all our life styles are based on sacrifices made by other marginalized sections of society, e.g. access to Coca Cola which we get because people in Plachimada etc. get poisoned.

    I understand that majoritarian politics is deeply problematic and to better the situation of a majority, a minority cannot be disregarded. Thats precisely the arguement of the the goverment in many other cases also (sacrifice by a "few" in the name of development for "many"). I do not have a ready answer as to how implementation should be done to ensure total participation/inclusion of all marginalized communities (thats where the poor Brahmins come in) but it just takes one look around to know that discrimination is rampant and "equal opprtunity" if we plan on talking abt it at all seriously needs to be forced.

    Neela said...

    Nice debate.

    Dilip would you have any literature on whether late stage educational reservations have led to significant improvements in the status of SC/STs? Since those rservations have been around for 60 years, I presume there's a rich mine of data there to look at and see if reservations are indeed the best answer to ensuring social justice. In any case, it might provide pointers as to how to make this reservation policy better.

    Oh and one more thing Dilip. I don't think (and I agree with the commenter here) that once implemented, you can ever scale back the quota without significant repercussions. You see, the new quota becomes a reference point and any cutback will be seen as losses which will be deeply resisted by those who will feel that loss.

    n!

    Prerona said...

    i am also against reservation. but i keep thinking that there must be some kind of logic for the cause. is there?

    ab said...

    IITs are educational institutions funded by the government, hence their ultimate responsibility lies to the government which in turn stands for the collective desire of the population through means of the parliament.

    The key point is to determine CLEARLY the goals of institutions like IITs/IIMs. The policies for different goals will of course be different as the goals change. If the goal is to enforce access to technical education based on demographic calculations, then certain methods for admission follow.

    If the aim is to provide a high quality of technical education to whosoever is fit to receive it, then certain methods follow. Of course, the contentious point is who defines "fit to receive". There can be two solutions to that, one those who shall teach will decide who is fit to receive, the other is that those who receive education will decide that.

    Questions of academic standards due to reervations in such institutions can be looked from many perspectives. One is that the correlation of potential for academic performance within the undergraduate program and the admission modality can not only be speculated but can be experimentally verified by past history. As things stand today in the IITs, statistically speaking, their performance is in the lower half percentile. Can this be changed, yes maybe but would require more than one year of extra training which is given today to the SC/ST students who enter through the cateogary. But this would be equivalent to the IITs providing high school training to certain class of students,something which may be a feasible idea. All such training would again make sense if we decide clearly as to what kind of education we want to provide to whom?If the aim is to provide access to enforce social justice then of course questions of academic performance will hold different priorities.

    A comment on the side, The idea for equitable enforced distribution of all tasks based on demographic distribution is ultimately in conflict with the right to private initiative and voluntary association. Maybe we have already made a choice on that issue by the 104th amendment.

    Ideas of brand value are the creation of a mixture of myth created by media and actual performance by the graduates in the real world. Ultimately , the elctorate will decide the kind of brand value we want the IITs to have by the kind of policies that these institutions will follow. The University of Allahabad , Delhi, Anna University , NIFT, IIMs, IITs , IISc all have different brand values which have been created and destroyed many times.

    Prerona said...

    i am also against reservation. but i keep thinking that there must be some kind of logic for the cause. is there?

    Falstaff said...

    Hmmm...I could have sworn I posted a comment on this. But apparently it didn't go through. Oh well.

    1) "Merit is left to rot. Maybe so, but for one thing, how much have we truly valued merit anyway?" / "There's rampant abuse. But any system will be abused"

    In other words, if you can't beat them, join them. You realise that's a recursive loop right - abuse of the system / lack of meritocracy is used to justify even less meritocracy and even greater abuse. Surely you're not serious.

    At any rate, the whole point is that the IIMs / IITs are the few institutes that have truly meritocratic admissions - to the best of my knowledge no one's ever argued for nepotism / favouritism in the selection of candidates. So what your argument comes down to saying is - because we don't have meritocracy elsewhere, why let it last in the institutes that do have it.

    2) "Why should we assume that those who benefit from quota admissions, say, will all automatically be poor students?"

    If that's not true they don't need reservations do they? You can't have it both ways - either they aren't good enough and need state assistance to get in - in which case you're destroying value - or they are good enough in which case there's no case for reservations at all.

    3) About providing access - as many commenters have already pointed out, the real issue to solve if you want to provide fair access is much earlier in the system. And notice that guaranteeing people seats in a system is not providing access - it's blatant favouritism. Providing access means ensuring that they're able to compete (so for instance, if funding is an issue, the government could look into providing financial assistance to deserving candidates), not that they don't have to. Take your cricket analogy: would you really want to have a cricket team where half the players had to be from small villages, irrespective of their ability to play the game?

    Backfromhell4u said...

    We need in India a new system of education which will bring quality equally to every child in a locality. The solution must be neighbourhood schools, i.e. a businessman's son living in Sarita Vihar and his servant's son living in a nearby slum, should go to the same school, and sit in the same class. We must provide everyone an equal quality of education, if we want to abolish the reservations at college level. But today's India says, that the quality of schools would go down by this, but then won't it expose the majority of people suppressed because not gettin the same quality..? We need a social uplifment in the backward society too. We students of general category should move and talk freely with an SC\ST. If today, the dropout percentage of backward classes from schools is high, then we are responsible for this, for not treating them equally when they were supposed to. As an example, in USA , the afro-american community has the same share of admissions in schools as the general category, and students don't look down at the other one just because of his caste. We should clean our country first, take every child in our stride towards the future, even if it means stepping back for some time, and compromising on our own higher education and its quality.

    tanuj said...

    D, a few thoughts:

    1. 'Access' needn't mean reservation. did Dhoni or Sehwag make it to the Indian cricket team because the opener and keeper slots were reserved? in fact, i think what comes out from this example is that "something else" (for want of a better expression) enabled these guys to make it to the team, without the selectors having to reserve seats for them. how about using this example and drawing parallels with education/ employment - is there a "something else" that will enable a truly oppressed class kid to make it to the IIT or get a decent job? there probably is, and I don't think reservation is the answer.

    2. in your post, you chose to 'quickly deal with the arguments against reservation', but as others have already pointed out, this is probably not such an efficiently clinched debate.

    - merit may be 'left to rot' in most aspects of our lives, but there are some truly 'meritocratic' institutions, such as the IIMs or the CAT/JEE (I haven’t heard of anyone complaining that JEE is not meritocratic). should we have these rot too, given that everything else is rotting? i think by making this point, you are agreeing that reservation will adversely impact merit, and that there is nothing wrong with that happening.

    - on your point about giving opportunity to a wider pool of people that is otherwise denied, which opportunities are these? no one is denying any of us the right to write the CAT and qualify for the IIMs. further, what do you think is the profile of those 200 or so additional OBCs will be who get into the IIMs through the increased quota? – first class graduates, obviously educated, as aware of opportunities post-MBA as non-OBCs – hardly an oppressed lot, one might argue.

    A couple of reactions to your post on the other half:

    - “Why are we assuming that students on quota will be worse academically, can’t cope with curricula and can’t afford the fees?” As Falstaff has pointed out, if people can afford to shell out a few lac for an MBA over 2 years, they don’t really need the reservation.

    Also, to me it is logical that a college grad who writes the CAT and doesn’t make it IS “worse academically” irrespective of whether he/she is an OBC. Any person who wouldn’t have ordinarily made it, but gets in via the reservation can be therefore expected to perform worse relatively.

    Finally, Neela makes an important point about impact of reservations. This debate is probably quite pointless if we can’t prove or disprove conclusively that reservations made a significant difference over the last 60 years?

    ankan said...

    I hope this will be read in spirit.

    1. "Favouritism, nepotism and the like are routine with us, even today"

    Right. And that is one of the reasons of substandard standard of life in India, for everyone. It is better to let merit survive where it is surviving now, instead of institutionalizing nepotism and favouritism.

    2. "But that some people take advantage of a scheme is not, by itself, reason to throw out that scheme."

    It may be sufficient reason. For example, if kerosene is no longer available for the poor because the rich decide to use it to heat their houses( hypothetical), it is time to take away the subsidy on kerosene.

    3. The cricket analogy is, unfortunately, flawed. Dhoni and Sehwag came in when they were ready for the team. And they could come in because the small towns got decent enough facilities to produce players. If we had a quota system for getting X percent of players from Y region of India, it would not have worked.

    Access is not about the opportunity of playing in the Indian team; it is about the chance to compete in your local league so that you can get noticed. It might also be about the ability to buy the kit and the availability of a local playground.

    The incompetence of the state in providing basic facilites for the citizen should not lead to destruction of quality at the top.

    Raj said...

    Yes, you're right about reservations and what they are intended to achieve. But now its not about reservation itself, it is about the extent of reservations. How does one justify increasing the reserved quota from 22.5% to 49.5%? Was there a need for it? Is it just a move to gain more political mileage?

    You're right about the criterion for reservation too. It's not just caste, its much more than that.

    But what makes you think that increasing the quota reservations would tap into a larger pool of
    talent? The talented ones wouldn't require any reservations, they'd clear the exam anyway.
    And why do you think its only the elite class that gains entry into the IITs, that has access to
    resources that lead them to their goals? I myself have appeared for this year's IIT JEE amidst
    all this talk of reservations and a new exam pattern. And let me assure you I belong to no elite
    class. I come from an extremely ordinary background and so do a lot of my talented peers. Some
    friends of mine, whom I'm expecting to ace the exam, are poor and have limited financial
    resources. What help have they been given? Where has all the talk of bringing out talent gone now?

    And they plan to implement this new rule even on superspecilality courses in medicine- an area
    untouched by reservations until now. What if students without the required levels of intellect,
    those who are otherwise unworthy of admission into such courses get through? Can we still trust
    these doctors and leave our lives in their hands? Can we still expect India to stand on an equal
    pedestal as other advanced countries(if not overtake them) in Science and technology?

    How will a student, who loses out on a seat only because someone else got a reservation, only
    because he is told that he is 'more privileged' in some manner, feel? How will I feel when I find out that I haven't been able to clear my entrance exam but someone less talented than me has,
    purely on the basis of reservation? So isn't it actually the other way round- that the ones who are categorised as 'general' are actually the underprivileged?
    Will this not prompt another wave of brain drain? Why then blame the youth for it and label them traitors? If their very own country doesn't provide them with opportunities which they very much
    deserve, are they left with any other alternative than to look for them elsewhere? And what if
    they are incapable to do so? Are they to be doomed for the rest of their lives?

    I want someone to answer my questions but I doubt if anyone can do that satisfactorily.

    There is nothing wrong with providing the really underprivileged with opportunities. But in the
    name of it don't deprive someone else,who if not more deserving are atleast not undeserving, of
    those very same opportunities.

    Raj said...

    And its not that I'm just worried about my chances of clearing a particular exam.

    I'm against the proposal that the number of seats be increased so as to accomodate those students not covered under reservations, the so called 'general' category.
    Another debatable move I'd say. The reason that instituitions such as the IITs,IIMs,AIIMS,etc take a limited number of students is to ensure that they only have the very best.Those they think can bring out the best in India(its another thing that it is unfortunately not happening).
    So increasing the student intake would only lead to dilution. Not by way of increasing the number of seats but by increasing the number of the reserved seats.
    Wouldn't it therefore be better to leave it the way it already is? Or make amendements in a manner that actually benefits.

    Woolf said...

    Somewhere someone wrote that ppl from IITs become more casteist than university students. The fact is that avg. GPA of an SC/ST BTech student is lower than that of average GPA of a general category student. If stating that fact is being casteist .. so be it.

    Sanketh said...

    Hey Dilip,

    Interesting article, interesting comments.

    I have a problem with the question of "access". Aren't you, by addressing the question of access at a undergraduate or graduate institution, trying to throw a blanket over the larger question of access to primary and secondary education? Isn't that where the real problem is. The lack of "access" to schools.

    And I really don't think your cricket analogy is well thought out as many people have pointed out in the comments.

    The problem is that the suggested solution of reservations isn't one that is aimed at "eradicating" social justice in the long term. I don't think there is a plan. I remember your post on the Mandal Report a while back and that was educating in many ways and did remove some biases I had. However, is it even realistic to assume that reservations by themselves can address a complex issue like social justice. Isn't it too simplistic a solution?

    My final grouse really is with our polity. If they feel reservations are a way to ensure social justice why not have reservations in parliament. Why not ensure that there is diversity there? That every one is represented. Isn't there discrimination in politics? And why on earth have the fought the Women's Reservation Bill tooth and nail? (lets not get into where I stand on this)

    I think it boils down to "who's interests are on the plate". :)

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Once again, a heck of a lot to respond to, and I want to respond and will -- but bear with me as I try to catch up with some other stuff.

    Quick few points, though.

    * Dhoni/Sehwag is an analogy. To me, analogies give you something to think about. I'm not saying they got where they are via reservations, I'm just saying, their success is a sign of the increased access people have to cricket now. (Another analogy on similar lines, think of basketball and boxing in inner-city USA).

    The important point about reservations, for me, is access. You provide such access -- and you can do it in various ways -- you catalyse the flowering of talent like Dhoni's.

    * Of course we should make primary education available to all, free and easy. In my opinion, this is the most important task before this country, and has been since 1947. Nobody in public life seems to have the political fibre to address this.

    * Tejal, you're right to be angry. But you've got a much bigger job to do than be angry: you have to persuade people of your case. (My case, too). You won't get anywhere doing that if you insult people. Leave the insults to others -- you will see for yourself how their anger and insults only undermine their case.

    To all of you, thank you for your thoughts and tone, and I hope this keeps going for a while. I promise to reply at greater length very soon.

    Anonymous said...

    What's significant here is the point about access.

    Think domestic airlines. Whether we had IA or later Jet and Sahara (and the now-dead Modiluft, East-West, Damania etc), airline travel in this country remained the preserve of the wealthy till recently. Fares remained high. It took the coming of an Air Deccan (and now its successors into the sky) to drives fares down. In some cases, they are now at least comparable with train fares. Why did this happen? Because Air Deccan thought of something nobody had seriously contemplated before: if the not-so-wealthy have access to air travel, if we get rid of the mindset that flying is for the wealthy, the potential for profits is huge (because the potential market is huge). So how do we do that? Answer: find ways to offer lower fares.


    ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!
    Now let's build runways in Dharavi and all those rural villages so entire nation has access to Deccan air. Roads, electricity, water and those 6 eggs a week can wait.

    srinivas said...

    Dilip,

    I am really disappointed. While disagree with you often, I used to think that you are sincere and honest. You keep repeating that Mandal is about class not caste. I asked you this question in anothe blog and I ask you again. Can a poor brahmin student get reservation under Mandal as it is presently consituted? The answer is a resounding no. His brahminism is against him. Where is the question of class. Mandal begins with class but ends with caste. Ultimately, one eligibility is dependent on one being in the "right" caste. Whatvever the methodological foundations of mandal, the reality is caste, caste, and caste. Period. Show me one brahmin subcaste from anywhere in the country that is included on Mandal (dont tell me all brahmin sub=groups are rolling in the moolah).

    Just for the record, I am a brahmin by birth (something that I will reminded every so often by the hate-spewed by the Ilaiah's of the world, by the periodic reference to the brahmin bogey) but casteless and agnostic by practise.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Srinivas, you're really disappointed? Why? If I'm not sincere and honest, why are you wasting your time on this issue here?

    Mandal defined Other Backward Classes, not Other Backward Castes. What else must I do but repeat this? If you read his criteria, you will understand that there is nothing really to prevent a disadvantaged community of Brahmins gathering enough points to qualify as OBC. I have no clue if some such community of Brahmins did qualify, nor am I interested in finding out. But one pointer towards this is that the same communities are OBC in some states, not OBC in others.

    Ultimately, one eligibility is dependent on one being in the "right" caste.

    What else must I do but say this is not true, if you go by the criteria Mandal laid out?

    Just for the record, I am a brahmin by birth.

    I couldn't care less what you are by birth or by anything else, and it makes not a jot of difference to how I react to what you say, so I wish you wouldn't feel the need to tell me.

    Though I need to say I don't understand how anyone can be anything by birth but human.

    Anonymous said...

    I have no clue if some such community of Brahmins did qualify, nor am I interested in finding out.

    Read the fine print Srinivas. If he was really interested in getting to the root our Dilip would be without a job.

    I used to think that you are sincere and honest.
    Accept that he's insincere and his writing will make a lot of sense.
    Like he's sincerely using that Hindutva Pramod Mahajan's examples ;)

    MumbaiGirl said...

    Neela, Marc Galanter's Competing Equalities may provide a partial answer to your question. However, I don't think it's been updated for some time.
    Dilip, appreciate what you are trying to do here.

    srinivas said...

    Dilip,

    I also used to think that people couldnt be anything other than human beings at birth. But Mandal clearly thinks that people are OBCs by birth. What do you have to say for that.

    You dont care to find out because you know the answer. Mandal ends in caste and no amount of spinning will take away that conclusion. The final recommendations are caste-based not class-based. Otherwise the criterion would be economic status. Period. I know you are not so dense as to not understand this. You simply dont want to acknowledge this.

    If you cannot acknowledge this simple truth (which still does not take away the argument for reservation), then there is really no point engagin in a discussion. Yes, i am not going to waste any more time on this board or the other one.

    Neela said...

    Thank you MumbaiGirl, seems like a nice website (presume that's what you are referring to).

    n!

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    I have a response to some of the points raised here as a new post, Case for, contd.

    Srinivas, what is the sense in talking past each other like this?

    His criteria lay out a methodology to identify OBC communities, only one (of 11) of those criteria can be construed as caste. He says, apply that to communities and see what you come up with. He says nothing about looking at the "birth" of anyone. the criteria include economic status, very definitely. Also other factors.

    Please read those criteria.

    56 said...

    Interesting discussion going on here. But it seems to me that the basic point seems to be lost somewhere.
    My points are (and please read all of them before coming to any conclusion):

    (1)It has often been stated thet originally the concept of reservations was supposed to be a temporary boost to the backward classes at the time of its inception post independance. Unfortunately neither did the concept of reservations work to the desired level nor did the population outburst help and so we have reservations continuing till today. this demands the basic question, not that whether reservations are neede or justified, but that do they really work?
    it is true that reservationsin the public sector have contributed to the economic and social upliftment of many, however as far as reservations in educational institutions are concerned, they most definitely have not had satisfactory effect.
    (2)Should we then scrap reservations? No, at least i dont think so. reservations do help as far as institutions in rural areas where casteism is still prevalent, and the scheduled castes are still regarded unequally. it is there that reservations act as a leveler, not in big metropolices where most people care to hoots which caste or religion one belongs to. yet, for the benefit of those in the rural areas who want to move to cities to gain higher education reservations do help.
    (3)The concept of 49.5% reservations - it ios preposterous! Upto 25 to 30% reservations are about uplifting the downtrodden, but 50% reservations propogate the feeling of denying the rest their right!
    (4)I completely agree with the others who have stated that for the uplifment of the downtrodden the government ought to concentrate more about their primary education so that by the time they reach college level they are in no way behind the so called affluent.
    (5)Dilip and Tejal, your points about the backward brahmin are misplaced. there are many capable people who require the quotas and belong to non-backward communities. there are many communititesd that have say a few rich brahmins and a few poor ones. they cannot be classified as OBCs. However the poor brahmin kid may be in as bad a situation ac a poor person from a scheduled caste, and yet the quotas may not benefit any of them but a rich person possesing a scheduled caste certificate.
    (6)Lastly, i feel that these reservations are inteded more for pollitcal gains by the political paries rather than out of concern for the OBCs. these reservations (i mean prepostorous 50% reservations) may lead to furthering of prejudice among people against one another, and reservations may end up further dividing the country rather than ridding the country of its divisions, which were perhaps the ultimate goal of reservations at the time of their inception.

    MumbaiGirl said...

    Neela, no, it is a book.

    Pure Amla Juice said...

    "Think domestic airlines. Whether we had IA or later Jet and Sahara (and the now-dead Modiluft, East-West, Damania etc), airline travel in this country remained the preserve of the wealthy till recently. Fares remained high. It took the coming of an Air Deccan (and now its successors into the sky) to drives fares down. In some cases, they are now at least comparable with train fares. Why did this happen? Because Air Deccan thought of something nobody had seriously contemplated before: if the not-so-wealthy have access to air travel, if we get rid of the mindset that flying is for the wealthy, the potential for profits is huge (because the potential market is huge). So how do we do that? Answer: find ways to offer lower fares."

    Dilip, this argument is kind of turned on its head.

    Air Deccan does NOT and never did reserve 50% of its seats for the poor or the not-wealthy. You and the kind of protectionist policies your kind supports did EVERYTHING possible to PREVENT the Air Deccans of India from emerging, and they have come up now DESPITE quotas and reservations, not because of them. In fact your example of low-cost airlines is perfect for showing exactly how, if you allow people to do their own thing and not fetter them with artificial monopolies and caps and entry/exit barriers, there will be greater ACCESS and greater good for a greater number of people.

    You're smart, c'mon, work it out.

    Doctor Bruno said...

    Society is like a bullock cart with two bulls.......

    Now if the cart has to run fast, BOTH BULLS are to be good....

    WHat is the use of a cart where one bull is very strong and another bull is weak........ The MAXIMUM speed of the cart CAN BE ONLY THE SPEED of the weakest bull....... So we improve the nutrition of the weak bull even if it leads to starving the STRONG BULL.....

    This is what reservation is exactly.... You give the seats WHICH A STUDENT FROM FORWARD COMMUNITY WOULD HAVE GOT to a student from the weaker community, because ONLY if the weaker community gets a little stronger, the cart can move.............

    Now what criteria to follow who is strong and who is weak.....

    1. Economics........... It is a well known fact that THIS is the easiest factor to cheat.......... If we give reservations based on economics, the students of employeed sector will suffer....... WE very well know that you and me pay more income tax than the leading textile owner in your town who earns 2 to 3 lakhs per month............ Except for salaried class of people, how can you check the TRUE income of other sectors . Another factor is that wealth is not stationery.......... Many persons who had a comfortable life were rendered homeless after Tsunami or earth quake.. A rich person can become poor over night......... Many people earn well by their hard work and a poor person can become rich in few years (if he enters cinema or other art field for example)..... So MONEY is subject to change and can be hidden

    2. Religion... Easy to change....... If you say that there is 20 % of reservation for those following Din-e-Ilahi, every one will embrace that .....And more over I can show you atleast 100 people who do not believe in god........... What religion will you fix to them.......And then there are people who believe that there is ONE God......... What religion can you give them............ and there are few who follow more than one religion (when both their parents are of different religion, for example)...... Other than the fact that Religion can be changed with regard to time, it can be hidden.........

    3. Caste..... Because this system is routed deeply in our culture, WE CANNOT CHANGE our caste..... hence this was based as the criteria for reservation........ because of the various criteria we can consider this DOES NOT CHANGE WITH TIME

    Doctor Bruno said...

    That is reservation need not be given to children whose parents have enjoyed the benefits....

    That is ......... If Mr.A has got MBBS seat or a Govt job by reservation, his children have to compete is Open Quota ONLY.......

    We have ample proof to say (see the admission list in Tamil nadu in the link given at the top of this post) that Once you give an oppurtunity to backward class, the next generation are able to be on par with other people

    Kapil said...

    whoa ! a whole lot of noise here..i would jst quote an example.
    A farmer has many two apple orchards. One of the orchards produces premium quality apples and the other is just average or mediocre.
    Now since thr are hardly any buyers for the poor apples ,he puts a piece or two in the good apple crate to get rid of the stock.
    His customers overlook the odd bad apple in the crate.
    The farmer thinks its since the people buy just by lookin at crates ,he can dispose of most of his bad apples in the good crates.
    The customers realize that the quality of his apples has deteriorated and simply stop buying from him...
    Govt is acting like the farmer only who instead if working on disposing his bad apples rather than treating the bad orchard.
    Just by packing the bad apples in the good crates(IITs/IIMs)..the govt is trying to hide its guilt and lack of action ..What is going to happen that eventually the whole crate is going to be rejected by the customer

    barbarindian said...

    Great blog!!
    http://barbarindians.blogspot.com/

    Anonymous said...

    RESERVATION ISSUE AS USUAL GENERATES A LOT OF HEAT.LET ME CONSIDER ONLY AN ASPECT OF IT.

    50% OF THE INDIAN POPULATION CONSISTS OF BACKWARD CLASSES.HOWEVER THEIR REPRESENTATION IN THE MEDICAL, ENGENEERING , MANAGEMENT AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS IS NEGLIGIBLE COMPARED TO THEIR NUMBERS. THIS BRINGS US TO AN IMPORTANT POINT. THIS IS DEFINATELY BECAUSE OF THEIR DEFECIENCY IN INTELLIGENCE AND OTHER SKILLS AS THEY WOULD BE NORMALLY DISTRIBUTED IN THE POPULATION. THUS THIS CLEARLY SUGGESTS THAT FOR VARIOUS REASONS THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO COMPETE.

    THUS I DO THINK THEY REQUIRE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION THROUGH RESERVATIONS. HOWEVER THEY COULD BE REQUIRED TO GET A MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE SCORE. ALSO THEY COULD BE ASKED TO TAKE A INTELLIGENCE TEST BASED ON THE SKILLS REQUIRED TO SEE IF THAT THEY CAN IMPROVE AND MAINTAIN THE DESIRED EXCELLENCE.

    LASTLY FRIENDS, I WANT TO POINT OUT THAT IT IS NOT ONLY THE QUESTION OD MERIT OR FAIR PLAY. THE BACKWARD CLASS WHICH WAS DENIED THEIR SHARE OF OPPURTUNITIES THROUGH THE AGES ARE UNIFYING POLITICALLY AND ARE INDEED BECOMING A GREAT POWER. SO MY FRIENDS, 50% VOTE MEANS THAT THEY WILL HAVE THEIR RESERVATION, WHETHET ONE LIKES IT OR NOT.

    Anonymous said...

    this is to rectify the error while typing in one of the criticl sentences in the message posted directly above.

    in the second para i wanted to say that the small representation of backward classes in the various instituions was NOT because of lack of skills or talent as it would be uniformly distributed in the population.thus it is for entirely other reasons that they are not able to compete effectively

    Anonymous said...

    First, I feel people should see the issues of SC/ST's different then OBC's . Infact the whole Indian community target the brahmins, but I feel the "other" upper castes including the OBCs are responsible more for the plights of SC/ST's.
    Secondly, I have observed that the media as well as the people gives way out of proportion advertisement to quota issue. I wish they could have stood for better issues for countering terrorism or placing back the displaced people of kashmir back or even abolishing caste then reservation (well cant expect that).
    Third, the upper castes mostly blame politicians for "dividing hindus" , I have been in various places and I saw that people are anyway divided on basis of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
    People also argue that reserve everything , I say ofcourse everything is reserved for upper castes !! Statistically, I have seen that upper castes get more promotions on basis of leadership capability or intelligence capability in MNC's , so where is reservation gone? There are people who says that SC/ST's waste a seat by dropping out, and what about the hordes of IITians who settle abroad , well forgive the "gifted ones" (There r more gifted anyway in upper castes mostly male, observed that?) what about those people who graduate in for example mining but takes job in computers? wheres the seat gone and governments money? Some say caste is complex subject , I would say dont try to confuse , read the vedas and its clear, name of jatis might be different but rest all is same. Summary is more then any other thing, its the attitude of people which matter not reservation, since attitude wont change reservation is must. As long as caste is alive an outcaste is alive. Hinduism might die , caste wont die (converts to islam and christianity are proofs).

    Anonymous said...

    In answer to one of the questions "have reservations helped" I have to say yes. I am an ST. My mum worked as a labourer in somebosy else's farm and earned enough to pay for her education and got a job. Almost same case with my dad. And yes it was never a life of luxury. my mum supporting her younger brother and my dad his elder brothers 4children. Between all myself, my brother, my uncle and one of my cousins are reasonably well settled. I even finished my Ph.D. though the rest couldnt do as well. However at least all have jobs and can live lower middle class lives. My kids definitely do not need reservation but the other might still need it for one more generation.

    So yes somebody sacrificed a career but a whole bunch of labour class family could go to a decent level.