Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where is the need for this quota policy?

The anti-reservation agitation is spreading. The danger of a confrontation is real. Because the government is going ahead with the new reservation policy.

The question the government must ask itself is: where is the need for reservation in IITs and IIMs?

Consider this: A person of OBC has come up to the undergraduation level (Bachelor's course) in engineering, medicine, management or whatever. If he has scored well, he goes through to the next level. If he doesn't, he doesn't.

How can technocrats like Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh etc be such mute spectators to a device that makes one's lower caste a qualification over and above the academic merit?

What matters: the quality of the bridge constructed, or the caste of the engineer who constructed it?

What matters: the efficiency of a manager / doctor or his caste?

Does the value of an end product change depending upon the caste of the people involved in the chain or their professional and academic brilliance?

The fact that a candidate has been able to reach the level of graduation is reason enough to let him sail ahead himself. Does he need to be walked through still? It's also enough proof that he has been able to overcome any discrimination, if at all there was any.

So, why reservation in higher educational institutions, where nothing, absolutely nothing, other than merit should matter?

Where is caste-based discrimination in higher levels of education? If there is, this policy is not going to remove it at all.

People in all walks of life, belonging to all strata of society are handicapped in one way or the other. Gone are the days when caste was the biggest handicap one faced. Not now, at least in cities, where a person resides while pursuing higher education.

Handicaps that citizens face have to be addressed and redressed. But definitely not this way.

Read my earlier post on the Way out of the caste cauldron.


  1. This comment is not to say a Yes or a No. But to add some value to the discussion.

    If we think that higher education in IITs are only based on merit, say on the basis of GATE scores, that is not correct.

    There are some seats for candidates who come via QIP (Quality Improvement Program). This is mainly for lecturers who are recommended by their respective institutions but will not go through the GATE exams.

    A Master of Science course can also be completed by project than research. In such cases, the project associates bypass the regular system.

    Then, of course, there are recommendations from Professors for their relatives and some loop holes to accommodate them.

    The most important point I wish to make is that I have found all of them equally capable and good enough. By the way, I was there through GATE.

    About Quality: We had almost 15 out of 40 students who came through reservation during my bachelors. After four years of BTech course, I did not find any problems in quality. Worse, the ones who came through reservation outperformed others in marks (if that is what we call merit!!!)

    This is 21st century. But from my experience, things are not much different back home. I agree that they are improving. But if you ask me whether it has reached a stage where we can call it quits, I don't know. In my case, at least, that was not the case.

  2. I think we needed reservations in the 1940s. It was required to 'level the playing field' so to say. But now, it is beyond time that we make much needed changes to our reservation policy. Do we need reservation ? If so, where ? on what basis ? Is reservation hurting upper caste kids, Did it help the lower caste or did it infact make them less competitive.. .It is time for a detailed post mortem :)

    Pradeep Sir, I really enjoy reading your blog.

  3. * Myna:

    Good observation. Success has many definitions, and it is dependent on many parameters.

    There was a reason why caste took paramount importance. I feel, that reason no longer exists. We need to get out of this caste fixation.

    It's because of this fixation that we have a prejudice that lower caste child less intelligent, may not do well etc etc. Your experience confirms my view academic or professional brilliance is not solely dependent on caste, just as it is not dependent on whether one studied in English medium or not.

    Caste -- for a student of higher education -- is a personal attribute and it is incidental.

    Why caste alone? Imagine having reservation for left-handed students, students coming villages, student's who parent's are not literate. Where will it all end?

    * Byju:
    Yes, we need an assessment and an impassionate discussion on where have we reached after decades of reservation. Thanks for your kind words!

  4. I can say that situation is somewhat different from what it was 30 years ago. This observation is based on my experiences, my surroundings and partially on media. But how much different it is? Not very much or a lot better, but again based only on my experiences. This may not be true in another family or another village. Did the reservations help? Of course, they did. An aspiring student from a background which was traditionally oppressed has to go through a hell of shackles to get out of the system and the incentives or privileges or reservations or whatever we call it makes that life a lot easier. I am 31 years old, the first one to join for a professional course from a family tree that now consists of around 200 houses and 500 people. In the last 10 years, I have seen just two more who followed. Even today I see lack of confidence and fear in those eyes of my dear and near. There is twinkle in their eyes seeing us, but it takes time for them to believe in theirselves. I encourage you to go deep into their hearts, thousands or millions of them and ask for a solution. We, including me, are not the ones to decide unless we make sure that how many of them still exist and what problems they still face. Sitting here, I can't prescribe a treatment based only on the symptoms and without seeing and examining the patient.

    Having said that, I admit that there are a lot of loop holes in the present system of reservation. For example those who take advantage of it. Or the students who does not enjoy reservation but are economically backward. There is a need to take action but based on facts. And again, the decision has to be theirs, the less privileged. If they are less privileged because of money, then their economical background is a factor. If there is caste based discrimination now, then caste is a factor. If being handicapped is the reason, that is a factor. Reservations, I feel, will continue because the world is not fair.
    And all those factors still remain, may be to a lesser extent as it was before, whatever be your experiences.

    Every face of life needs a proper mix of people. I remember the words of a human resource manager. In order to run an organ
    ization properly, he wanted a proper mix of employees from grade A, B, C, D and E. If everybody were As, the competition wo
    uld be so high that he would be in a difficult position to pay and keep them. It is possible that not everybody performs as
    the toppers. But we need them all. It could be from a list of merit or a list of reservation. Some of them will drop out,
    some of them will become drug addicts, some of them will complete their course but will be content to be housewives (the reason for them to do the course was to get a better groom), some of them were there because their parents wanted them and not because they wanted to be there, some of them will not do higher education because they have to support families....It goes on. Quality, waste of tax payer's money, dedication, commitment and what else. A heart to recognize his fellow beings. Merit is not just a number. It is much more than that and there is no way we can devise a system to measure it in the best possible manner.

    I wished more than once and even now that the doctor who treated me in medical college hospital, mentioned in Ride of a Lifetime, was somebody who came through reservation. If so, he surely should have been able to relate to my plight and consider me as a human being. Sad that it was not the case. I know that there are a lot of good people out there. But as long as we make comparisons to only our peers and above, there is a problem. We must look below. That's where the problems remain. That's where the solutions remain.

  5. I read a very nice article which said that it does not help the really poorer sections to have reservations in professional degrees and higher education.What they need is skills based education that will help them earn a living. Once that is satisfied the second generation might think of taking up higher education and then they may be facilitated through some relaxation in requirements. Makes sense ...otherwise the quotas are all being cornered by the better off sections among the reserved categories.

  6. the comments above are thought provoking. esp that of myna. Iam of the opinion that the concept of reservation has not acheived its intended aim of uplifting the under pivileged class of people. All it has acheived during these years is to create a divide among the people of our country.If we had certain class of people doing certain jobs at one time we have every people doing every job today. For creating this situation, maybe what was required was not reservation but providing of opportunities to the really intersted mebers of the underprivileged class,without compromising on merit. Opportunities should be provided to the members who are really serious and have the capability in them. Like myna said there are people who join professional courses, depriving others of the chance, and end up either as drug addicts or housewives or total bores, not because they wanted to be that but because they were in one way or the other pushed inot doing it.

  7. To be honest, I do not know the reasons or facts, if any, that led to the introduction of this new set of reservations.

    I am confused and afraid too. Confused because I hear different, opposite, neutral, valid as well as invalid opinions. Afraid because right and wrong in this world is relative. Valid and invalid are relative. Neutral and partial are relative. Most of the times, we give it a value based on what we have learned, what we have seen, what we know, what others have told usetc. Is there an innocent child out there to say that the King is naked? Will there ever be a consensus and that too unbiased?

    Intestingly the world, not alone India, is divided on many other points. Gender, race, country, state, district, politics, marriage, sex, boundary of our land or house, date, time. In that diversity lies the very existence of this world.

    Ms.Usha has a point there. Mr.Suresh also has a valid point. So are Pradeep and Byju. So am I. As Pradeep says, there is nothing that time cannot change. I agree.