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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reservations : Betrayal, Opportunism and a Sly Human Resources Minister

The decision by the Union Cabinet to implement reservations for OBCs in higher education institutions is without an iota of doubt a highly condemnable one. I do so not because I am from upper caste (which I am), but purely on logical-objective grounds. To my knowledge these grounds (many of which are in public domain) have not yet been disputed on objective parameters.

If anyone comes up with objective manner of disputing these objections or if later information contradicts any of the points made here I would be more than happy to reconsider my view points. Indeed there could even be a situation wherein I support reservations (which I am opposed to in principle), if data points out that the condition of OBCs (or for that matter SCs and STs) is even worse than what we think it is and that this is down in large proportions simply to their being of a particular caste rather than any other reason.

Here it goes..
  • What makes us believe that we need reservations for OBCs? The main justification given is that OBCs are disadvantaged lot. Does any data bring that out? We cannot go about taking such a decision based on our gut feelings. Indeed the latest government data (NSSO study in 1997) indicates that the OBCs - so far as education is concerned are not as disadvantaged as most of us think. If this data is thought to be incorrect or outdated - there needs a fresh study so that we have facts before us. This is common sense to me.
  • Even if the data points that in terms of education the OBCs are a disadvantaged lot, for them to enjoy reservations (if at all), that condition of theirs needs to be attributed to their caste rather than any other reasons. For example it may be the case that a OBCs are disadvantaged educationally - but that is down to their economic backwardness and the economically advanced amongst the OBCs are not educationally disadvantaged. Further, the data may show that the economic disadvantaged amongst the upper caste are equally disadvantaged educationally. Such a scenario clearly calls for a different course of remedies. But unfortunately, we do not have any data - we have not identified the problem, we are doing chemo without knowing where the cancer is (if at all!)
  • We have had reservations for more than 50 years now for SCs and STs. There has been no study on the efficacy or otherwise of this measure. What is sacrosanct is the objective - that of uplifting the socially disadvantaged sections (not castes), and not the remedy - reservations. One pointer towards the efficacy of the remedy is that even after 50 years, the SC and ST seats in educational institutions are not fully occupied. This prima facie points towards a deeper malaise or a wrong medicine, certainly (again prima facie at least) warranting the employment of a different medicine. Again continuing the same medicine without knowing for another section of the society without knowing its efficacy (indeed having reason prima facie to believe that the medicine has not worked) seems a bizarre thing to do.
  • Finally, there has been no national debate on the said topic. Last time this issue was brought up (in 1990), it had to be shelved due to widespread student protests. What made anyone presume that the objections students had or in general people had gone away? In fact given the fierce competition that exists for the fairly limited seats at institutions of higher education, the stakes are if any, considerably higher today than they were before. If the minister has/intended to address the concerns while bringing this proposal then the manner in which the concerns were going to be addressed needed to be highlighted - this was not done and as it now turns out the concerns have not been addressed.

Don't get me wrong - I am not against the upliftment of the socially disadvantaged sections of the society. I am all for it - my only point is that we identify exactly who the socially disadvantaged sections are and that we apply the right medicine. What we are currently doing sounds highly political to me. The fact that UP elections (a state in which the Congress party has for the last few years done very very badly) are round the corner where a significant portion of the population comes from the very section of the society to whom the proposed reservation (appeasement!?) policy is aimed at.

The opposition - well, no one can really dare to oppose this proposal. If anyone does, they stand to lose the OBC votes.

As a last ditch effort, even if we finally did decide to implement reservations I hope we do so in proper manner. What I think is a right way to implement reservations is mentioned here.

Thats it for now...

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