May 1, 2006

Re-Serving Reservation

Much has been said about the election time gimmick a.k.a the reservation move of the Indian Government in recent times. Voices have been raised, and some have been heard.
Some were vehement, ridiculed the government, in cynical and sarcastic undertones. Some garnered mass support to protest. Some took a moderate stance -suggesting “affirmative action” as a more viable alternative.

But all these reactions are by people who haven’t an inkling of an idea of what oppression means. I read a short story , “the Strikebreaker” by Isaac Asimov set somewhere in the future, which runs somewhat like this:

A sociologist from Earth goes to a planetoid in the fringes of the Galaxy, to study the socio-cultural scenario there. He finds the planetoid to be gripped by a state of intense crisis. The planetoid, owing to its limited water resources, survives by recycling everything, including human wastes to replenish its supply of water. This might be revolting, but something similar to this happens in the natural cycles on our own planet.
The denizens are very well aware of this fact. The planetoid boasts of a very rigid caste system where even inter-caste marriages are allowed. The crisis situation is the family which does the recycling now has revolted and stopped doing so. Their demand: to be recognized as humans, to allow their children to grow with the other kids, their women to mingle with other women. For all that they do, these people just push some buttons which operate the recycling machines. The government wouldn’t give in, though they face the acute danger of a pandemic due to accumulating wastes and a diminishing water stock. The papers wouldn’t even mention his name while reporting the crisis. The earthman sees the glaring exploitation, but for the sake of larger good, offers to do the recycling, his offer is accepted with a sigh of relief. The protestor succumbs the loss of his last weapon to alleviation, and resumes his occupation. But the earthman is deported back to his planet having become contaminated with the abominable profession and is denied further entry into the Planetoid that helped to save from annihilation.

Asimov makes a passing reference to the gravediggers in Ancient India in the story. One might delve into the pragmatic origins of the caste system and how it degraded into an antithesis of human progress. Or one can argue that all that talk is irrelevant to the current situation now that post-independence caste system has been abolished and so have other forms of prejudiced oppressions. But having had privy to the so-called erstwhile “upper classes” mentality throughout my childhood, I wouldn’t say that the tell-tale “them” and “us” notions have'nt entirely disappeared. So many times, I have heard “ungalava” and “engalava” being used for absurd and mundane issues which wouldn’t lift a feather in the over-all scheme of things. So many households which use separate glasses and cups for the maids who wash their dirty pots and pans. So many houses constructed with separate entrances for the washer woman to wash and leave without infecting the sanctum and sanctorum of their divine abodes. People who do all this aren’t barbaric in the truest sense, cos they are compassionate to their household staff, helping them monetarily, never forgetting to give them the (excess) boxes of chocolates (which they got tired of eating) that their sons and daughters bring from their trips abroad. But the strains of meaningless superiority still linger on. Simply abolishing caste system hasn’t removed the taboo associated with inter caste marriages. Even in certain professions, especially the monetarily rewarding ones, the presence of the socially lower strata is sparse.

Some of my random thoughts on the subject: (inspired reaction to multitude of other random thoughts.

Attributing brain drain to reservation is actually a wake up call to the government. What does the government gain by investing in “brains” that look for the slightest opportunity to flee for greener pastures? Such brains would drain even with the teeniest of leaks in the pipe.

You are comfortable only where you belong. And a certain sense of fraternity holds good even when people leave their hometowns to fend for themselves. Not just to promote their culture and have a feel of home, but also to enjoy the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the “high and mighty” of the corporate echelons for they happen to be from your state/city/district/village/street and what not.. and caste still has the invisible binding effect that forms closed niches in places of “equal opportunity”.

Dilution of quality is a vehement argument against reservation. Those who are afraid of their pedestal being usurped, but wouldnt admit this fear even to their own sub-conscious minds, might see logic in this. If one prevents the dilution of quality by denying access, then by what means is quality maintained?? The same set of students with identical profiles/interest groups tend to pass out year after year with the same ideals, goals and aspirations.. which revolves around social apathy and self-promotion.

Improve primary education – A noble and lofty suggestion.. in the so called right direction.. Right for whom? God alone can answer this question. True, grass root reforms alone can be sustainable, but they consume the precious years that make the difference and generations would have to be passed to taste the fruits. By that time, the rich would have becomer richer and the poor poorer.

Before we set to admonish reservation as a ruthless suppression of merit, we should first make clear what exactly “merit” is. Is merit the ability to quote the great men and women of litreture, art and politics even when one has to ask something as simple as the directions to the next street? Is merit the ability to mug up scores of unwanted information from the zillion books and CDs that your parents buy and win a trophy trove in quiz contests? Is merit the ability to belt out the cash for the “competitive – exam” coaching centers? Is merit the ability to have parents who enroll you into posh private schools?? Do any one of us stop to think what we are , is what we were born into? I for one wouldn’t be writing this blog, if I were born to tribal parents in Nagaland, or to a poor weaver in kancheepuram, or a flower seller in Chennai. We really dont know how much of our "success" is sheer luck and fortitude.

I hail from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where reservation rules the roost. And has been a regular feature of every party’s election manifesto, year after year. 69% is the reservation in this state, and if they choose to, the insane political competition here could well strive to make it cross 100%. And where every single caste, sub caste, sub-sub-caste scrambles to make the most of it, by marching to the state secretariat to be declared "backward".(This actually increases the rat-race amongst the BCs whose cut-off scores are almost as high as the OCs).
But all that has done the least to compromise “the quality” of the educated class.. The state boasts of some of the stellar entrepreneurs in the country’s younger industries, and the IT sector sees a sizeable representation of Tamilians, from ALL CASTES AND CLASSES.. It is a state where the lower middle class father could very well dream of sending his children to a high profile professional college.. I realized the true empowerment that reservation has given the masses, only after I entered college. In school, though the atmosphere was competitive, the mentality and background of the students used to be similar. Its in college, that I got to see people from different stratas of the society, with different kinds of upbringing, showing the equal amount of logical reasoning and thinking, although sometimes, prowess with the English word was something they couldn’t boast of. They had the same, if not more, amount of zeal and enthusiasm towards learning, and were very original and innovative in their grasp of new concepts.

A couple of my friends who belong to these apparently “backward” classes, have done pretty well throughout their collegiate years and have secured themselves enviable (even amongst meritorious standards) positions in private sectors which don’t have “reservation”. The only worry that plagues them now is they don’t have equally educated men in their caste when it comes to the question of seeking marital alliances.

Quality of education is mainly the responsibility of the educator and the pedagogy involved. It is highly ridiculous to place the onus of keeping up educational standards on the students. If a system of imparting knowledge depends on the student’s potential alone, then the system is very much at flaw and ironically, lacks in quality.

I am not a supporter of mindless vote-bank politics, which does nothing but up the ante on the reservation percentage. Reservation is an area where much thought and planning has to go in. And the present move may or may not include a thorough analysis of the pros and cons, and could even lack in foresight of its own goal and vision. It would serve a larger section of the populace, if the economic ( now more relevant) criteria is also included as a clause. I wouldnt consider myself a puritan supporter of reservation in its currently absolute form.
What had disturbed me is the pseudo-standards with which the reactions to the move came up. Flared by a commercialized and headline-hungry media , misinformed, superficial analysis, I was appalled by the “quality” (forgive the pun) of views and reviews from people whose writing I admire (used to) and adore. Not one bothered to give the other side of the coin, nor did anyone go beyond the calculatively moderate “affirmative actions”.

Disclaimer :

I did not intend to lash out at any particular line of thought. Each one is entitled to his/her own opinions. And so am I.
I did not intend to make this post 'this' long. If you had had the patience to reach till here, I extend my sincere gratitude to you.
I did intend to make this article neutral and tried to adopt a clinical approach to the issue. But I can hear myself puffing and huffing after all the ranting that I have done. My deepest regret at having disappointed myself.


Shrinath Nagarajan said...

I.M.P.R.E.S.S.I.V.E. !! (note the Caps)
One of the best posts I've read in a long time, and I hope more people read this.

As an aside, I consider myself one of the 'biased' individuals you speak about, and I'm extremely curious to know what you have to say about reservations in the private sector. Shouldn't reservations in educational institutions make 'the underprivileged' capable enough to get their own jobs?

The Soliloquist said...

@Shrinath : Thanks. The "underpriveleged" have established themseleves in private sector. I know a couple of them myself. But one common feature amongst them is that they are second generation literates, and whose parents occupy high posts in the public sector, where reservation exists. Sometime back, i recieved an e-mail fwd on a person who went about selling snacks on Chennai's beaches as a kid, making it to IIMA. though inspiring, one must pause to think of the struggle this guy had to undergo to achieve the same ends as a "meritorious" student . Reservation still hasnt lost its relevance except that now the focus must shift on economic and geographic criteria. Private sector needs to widen its horizon, and look beyond the metros, and think of extending access, perhaps not necessarily through reservation. Afterall, The MNCs came to this country in search of cheap and better labour!!, and thus access was provided to our third-world geniuses..

and nero: ur post on reservation was the last straw!!! Me was expecting a more neutral stance from u!! :-)

Ashish Gupta said...

I am all out for reservations but primary opposition is the way reservations work. A meritorious reserved student will deplete unreserved quote but reserve quota will still take reserved student. If we completly segregate reserved and unreserved, and each group compete within its own quota, then we will have everything: fairness, proportional opportunities, and more similar backgrounds to make entrance test more effective. In fact this could be applief ad-infinitem, for each religion/caste/subcaste/economic group/etc. This will emphasize differences but that are there anyway, and not a issue in most pro-reservation arguments.

Second prominent opposition is that reservations can practically never be removed in India. So we have to very careful in what we end up starting.

rc said...

A good writeup perhaps from the 20,000 foot level. There is really nothing one can disagree with when it comes to talking about equality for all.

There is a great reluctance when we want to discuss how the incumbent reservation system works on the ground. Are we ready to talk about this ?

When you talk about scavengers, servants, washermen, cleaners, we are really talking about communities who have been correctly classified as SC/STs. Rightfully so, they have been provided reservation in line with their population. No one I know of is protesting this.

The thing that roils people is when OBCs lay claim to the fruits of reservation. The problem people are having is they cannot reconcile how a particular community gets classified as an OBC. The OBC components are chosen politically. We are left scratching our heads, wondering how wealthy landowning communities with no history of social repression continue to corner the benefits of reservation year after year , generation after generation. Yes, in TN the creamy layer is not excluded. I would bet that most of your examples (colleagues) would be from the creamy layer OBC communities. Please dont mistake I have nothing against them - they are merely taking advantage of their favorable political position. Anyone would do on given half a chance.

You also make an assumption that FCs have a stranglehold on precious resources like colleges and industry which they use to suppress the OBCs. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In Tamilnadu, FC (read brahmins) do not control anything. It is a figment of our imagination that they are seen as a power to reckon with. Of the 100's of private colleges less than 5 have any significant FC control. All top colleges Crescent, Satyabhama, Venkateswara, SSN Nadar, PSG, CMC Vellore, Pachaiyappas, New, MEPCO, you name it - is not controlled or even lightly influenced by the FCs.

Even in industry, the entire textile belt of tirupur is dominated by Gounders and Naickers (who being Vaishyas would probably have been classified as FC anywhere else in India). Chettiars dominate banks and finance - both at micro and macro level. The richest man in TN (Tamil Bill gates) is not a FC. Except for TVS and Amalgamations - there is no industry that is dominated by FCs.

This is not a recent phenomenon as you might think. Even 70-80 years back this was the case.

The point of my comment is that your fundamental premise - "that OBCs are being denied or have been denied access to education and employment" is totally misinformed and can be easily proven to be so on the ground.

Nero said...

Smile! You're on Desipundit!! :D

(And now let Nero shuffle around a bit and mumble that his was not a post on reservation per se, but just an observation about the uncanny resemblance between a certain book and the happenings in his life. Lawyerspeak saves the day once again!!) :D

Enough digression. It appears I've not been quite articulate about my stance. I am not entirely against reservations, but it sure is irritating when certain underperforming losers possessing a higher economic background / are second generation literates with well settled parents, take advantage of their birth to obtain seats in institutions which a brilliant, though impoverished "upper caste member", can't.

But the issue that sparked off this debate is not just reservation. It is reservation for the OBCs bringing the quota in the IITs and IIMs to close to 50%. Let us not forget that everyone in Tamilnadu had learnt to live with close to 70% reservation in the total number of engineering seats. But why 50% reservations in seats of post-graduate learning like the IIMs? If a student could not utilize his reserved undergrad seat and make the best of it, I feel he has no business with the IIMs. Reservations for the Scheduled Castes/ Tribes is understandable (and I do not say this just to make my stance appear moderate) because they will take some time to come to par with the rest of the "developed communities", and they'd also need people from their own communities to rise and uplift the group as a whole. But why "O"BCs? What enables any community to be recognized among the significant "others"?

(all guns blazing like most Tambrahms who've had enough. You'll never convince me :D)

Nero said...

Oops.. guess rc's said most of it before me.

sukumar said...

Nice post. You may find my post titled "Why and How of Affirmative Action" gives a better view of why we need it.
Permalink below:

obc voice said...

'What had disturbed me is the pseudo-standards with which the reactions to the move came up. Flared by a commercialized and headline-hungry media , misinformed, superficial analysis, I was appalled by the “quality” (forgive the pun) of views and reviews from people whose writing I admire (used to) and adore.'
do you know, it's these reactions that sometimes hurt the OBCs and dalits more than the disappointment caused by low representation in 'elite' institutions?
a very well written, very objective post.

R.Subramanian said...

actually enakku nee ippo enna solla varen nu than puriyale :)

Very confusing post :D

The Soliloquist said...

@ashish :
A: Though the exam is common, with the burgeoning number of OBCs , it actually is a segregationist competition that exists at the time of application. The OBC seats into professional colleges (where reservation exists) get filled up as quickly as the OCs, with a negligible phase shift.The cut-off marks too differ by a slight percentage alone.
B:When differences exist, they need to be acknowledged.
C: A reserved student applyin as unreserved is a rarity, except in cases of temporary memory lapse at the time of filling out the application form. On the contrary, there have been cases of fake OBC certifications helping people to achieve their means. That, of course is a policy driven causality.
D: Agree with you on the reservation being a populist measure.But, then again, it can be a viable permanent fixture, if it adapts itself to changing times.
E: And Please dont take a stance when you dont actually mean it. "I am all for reservation..." Is it a cynical tone or is it a hollow statement?

Ashish Gupta said...

I am checking this post after long, and hence your response to me but an answer is in order. First thing first: I am for reservation, IF reservation system is changed as I mentioned. Practically it means, instead of 100 seats for all people, we have 30 for 30% FC and 70 for 70% OBCs. Very crudely, having two Indias.

And when I said that OBC deplete unreserved quota, I did not mean that OBC will apply as unreserved. But if you know how reservation work, then you may know that EVEN IF OBC applied as OBC, but cleared the separate (and probably higher) cut-off for general category, OBC person will not deplete OBC quota but will be classified as general. At least, thats how reservation work in Rajasthan medical entrance, and AFAIK at other places too.

Abi said...

Thank you for this very impressive post! I don't see why you were disappointed with the tone of this post. IMHO the passion in your writing makes your arguments all the more forceful.

Gaurav Shukla said...

I'm closely following news/views/articles/comments on 'Mandal-II' since april 6th.
intially I was 'anti-reservation'..but after reading articles regarding other side of 'Mandal-II', My stand changed..and now I support Reservation in ALL the fields.Why?
(A)because, nearly 90% of the 'Open category Seats' at IIT/IIM/AIIMS/NID/NIFT/IIHM are offered to those who can afford-
(1) >Rs. 1,00,000 for coaching(in case of IIT/AIIMS/NIT/Top-10 Med colleges).
(2)>Rs.1,00,000/4,00,000[in case of IIM's]('Fact:nearly 70-75% seats at IIM's are offered to Engg. graduates'.Now of these 70-75% nearly 15-25% are grabbed by graduates from 7 IIT's & 15-25% by graduates from NIT's/Other Govt-funded Colleges,So Rs.1,00,000 for 30-50% and most of the rest 25-40% by graduates from Pvt. engg. colleges where most of the students pay ~Rs. 4,00,000 for their 4-year-Education).
(3)>Rs.2,00,000 (in case of NID/NIFT/IIHM,for those with high-profile-Convent-Education perform better when it comes to Aptitude test/GD-PI for 'Govt-funded Design/Fashion/Hotel management' Institutes).
.....So it means that even 'Open-Category' ppl have 'Reservation in between them' in also means that most of the 75% 'open-category-seats' in famous govt-established institutes are repeatedly used by the 'Rich Open Category'(5% of the Indians) and the 'Poor Open Category'(10~16% of indians) gets only a miniscule of these Seats.[This is my Counter-argument to "Children of Quota-beneficiary Govt-officers will repeatedly grab most of the Reserved Seats" raised by our Anti-Reservation activists.......comeon ppl!!when this practice prevails even in 'Open-Category'.why deprive 'Non-open category' ppl from this...and if want to eradicate this evil from our society then all of First eradicate the evils of 'NRI/Management quota' which I'm going to discuss in my next point].

(2)Nearly 15-25% seats in most of the famous Private Engg/Med/Management institutes are Reserved for the applicants whose Parents can either offer 5-50 LAKHS as Donation/Capitation fee or use their 'Political connections'...most of times these students thoroughly 'Njoy!' their Time at college and then join the Big Engg-firm/Hospital/Business of their Parents/Relatives...Now tell me,Why you anti-reservation supporters don't challenge merit of these Engineers/Doctors/Managers?

(3)Although Financial/Intellectual/Cultural WEALTH/Success of a person depends upon his/her own efforts but most of us will agree that this success can not be achieved without using 'Resources' of his/her 'Country'.
.....Now,as per Govt-approved-Reports nearly 79-85% population of India comprises of 'OBC+SC+ST'. whereas Only 15-21% of Indians come under 'Open-Category'. we the 15-21% of the Indians are using most of the Country's Resources and when the Majority(79-85%) of Indians are asking for their 'Proportionate-Share' in the Country's resources ..we are protesting/yelling..why ppl why? haven't we heard of "Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam-all the world is but one" culture or are we chasing Jungle's Law-'Survival of fittest'?

Be Warned & allow 80% of the ppl to get 50% of the 'Resources'....otherwise they will no more tolerate us 20%-Kicking India at first opportunity-'Open-Category' ppl!!!

Thanking you for bearing my comment,

an 'Open Category' pre-final year undergraduate student @ IIT kharagpur

Anonymous said...

Man is a social animal . And he forms communities to work with , marry ,socialise .

In the pre-agricultural economy of forest ,communities are tribes .

In agricultural economies of village, communities are the traditional castes (like you see in India) . Favourable conditions in agricuture through history made castes a widely practiced phenomenon in the subcontinent . Even religious conversion has failed to remove the caste system .Caste clearly follows a different dynamic which has nothing to do with religion .

In industrial economies of city based, communities are a new “cosmopolitan caste”.

These three kinds of economies 1) tribal ,2) village(traditional caste) and 3)city (cosmopolitan caste) have fashioned the modern nation as it exists today .Most modern nations are have come into existence during the Industrial revolution .

Modern nations all over the world have had to grapple with the problem of how to assimilate those left behind in the forests and villages in pre-agricultural or agricultural economies . In India due to poor economy growth the problems are vastly more acute .

We cannot wish away the existence of these pre-agricultural tribes or agricutural castes and exclude them from our industrial cosmopolitan caste.

Forest covers are disappearing. The very habitat of the tribal in endangered .

And its tough to compete with the developed countries Industrial technology based agriculture with India’s traditional pre-industrial agriculture . Take for example today 57 of the Indian population is engaged in non- machine aided agrarian activities, this translates into an Indian food worker producing enough food for himself and a surplus for another Indian.We are still importing food from time to time. Contrast this to US, where less than two percent of American population is engaged in machine aided agriculture or related activities. An American farmer produces enough food for 50 people including himself, with even more left over for export. Therefore the American farmer is very productive and very rich by comparison.
Agriculture needs water. Water table is receding in India. Today 70 per cent of irrigation needs and 80 per cent of domestic water supplies in India are met through pumping up groundwater through tube wells. But this massively deployed private response to public failure can only be temporary. Water tables are plummeting and aquifers are running dry. Estimates show that 15 per cent of aquifers are already critical and the number is projected to rise to 60 per cent in just twenty years .
For more read

With each passing generation inherits ,the share of the agricultural land of each subsequent generation becomes less and less . When each person has a very small plot of land you cannot have advantages of scale .

Traditional means of incomes are drying up in forests and villages .

Farmers have been commiting suicide . Naxalites philosophies are attracting a greater following in some jungles. Situation is grim . There remains a large part of population simply unequipped with skill set required to compete in the industrial/service world . We have a tragedy of enormous proportions staring in our face .

Castes are a form of social stratification from the agriculture economy era . Some castes have been able to make the shift to industrial economy to become a member of the new cosmopolitan caste to a greater extent than others .

Castes in India are endogamous . Majority of indians still marry within their castes .The sense of traditional caste is weak for the new cosmopolitan castes in urban Indians as they work in industries in these cities .In their case a more cosmopolitan anglacised sense of community has replaced the pre-industrial traditional caste system. This is simply the industrial version of the traditional caste system .Members of this new cosmopolitan caste also practice endogamy . They marry their own kind . And prefer to work ,live and socialise with their own kind . It is an unacknowledged caste in the sense they see themselves above the caste system . “Caste no bar” if you belong to this cosmopolitan caste . Looking through the matrimonial advertisements in news papers or surf through matrimonial sites on the web . You will see right away that those who consider themselves diehard cosmopolitan is miniscule .Most people still retain that weak link to the traditional caste system when it comes to important decisions like marriage .

What needs to be kept in mind that people prefer to work with their own castes . For example for his medical needs someone from the cosmopolitan caste is not likely to see a general practioner who has poor english skills. In the same way someone who is a say from a tribal village is unlikely to be comfortable with a general practioner who is a english speaking westernised dandy. Where possible people go to physicians who they consider as one of their own, some one who speak their language and understand their lifestyle .

You see this same division in private sector as well. If you are corporate entity and your company has predominantly members from the Cosmopolitan caste you are likely to reject someone who does not seem to reflect your cosmopolitan culture,especially for the important high profile,high visibilty appointments . Companies call this “cultural fit”.

Will Azimbhai Premji announce that the next owner of Wipro will not be his son? Will he make that decision on merit ? Why did Ratan Tata succeed Bharat Ratna JRD Tata ? Was he the most accomplished person in the Tata empire ? So you see the cosmopolitan caste reserves the topmost creamy posts to one of their own in a very similar way like the traditional caste system .These posts are very much “Reserved” . If the english speaking members of the cosmopolitan caste fails entrance exams , group discussion, interviews all of which are often conducted in English , then there are always management quotas ,governing body quotas ,NRI quotas ,paid seats within India or paid seats abroad all of which can be accessed with money or influence .

Owners or management recruiters from each caste almost always recruit people from their own castes .Some one of their own kind . If you do not have enough members of your own caste as recruiters whether it is government or private jobs the entry points into the industrial economy drastically come down. Each caste has its ‘Creamy’ layer .Some castes have very thick layers of cream . Some castes have a thinner layer compared to their size. Thick or thin…. this creamy layer is its entry point into the industrial world .

This problem is by no means peculiar to India .What is different is the sheer magnitude of the problem .

Governments all over the world use “affirmative action” to remedy this serious problem.

Reservations and quotas are a form of Affirmative action.

What is affirmative action ?
Affirmative action is a policy or a program aimed at increasing the representation of members of groups that have traditionally been discriminated against. This typically focuses on education,employment, government contracts ,health care or social welfare.

Just look at how it is practiced in the following countries :

American President Lyndon Johnson said "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others', and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

In USA : American President Lyndon Johnson brought in affirmative action by an “excecutive order” . The order aims "to correct the effects of past and present discrimination".

The order specifically requires certain organizations accepting federal funds to take affirmative action to increase employment of members of preferred racial or ethnic groups and women. Any organization with fifty or more employees and an aggregate revenue exceeding $50,000 from a single federal contract during a twelve month period must have a written affirmative action plan. This plan must include goals and timetables for achieving full utilization of women and members of racial minorities, in quotas based on an analysis of the current workforce compared to the availability in the general labor pool of women and members of racial minorities.

Regarding Native Americans there are today more than 563 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States. The United States recognizes the right of these tribes to self-government and supports their tribal sovereignty and self-determination. These tribes possess the right to form their own government, to enforce laws (both civil and criminal), to tax, to establish membership, to license and regulate activities, to zone and to exclude persons from tribal territories. The recognition confers benefits, including the right to label arts and crafts as Native American and they can apply for grants that are specifically reserved for Native Americans.

In Japan : there is an informal policy to provide employment and long term welfare (which is usually not available to general public) to Burakumin (untouchables).

In Brazil :Brazilian Universities (State or Federal) have created systems of preferred admissions (quotas) for racial minorities (blacks and native Brazilians), the poor and the handicapped. There are also quotas for the disabled in the civil public services.

In Malaysia :there are laws called bumiputra laws which are a form of affirmative action meant to provide more opportunity for the majority ethnic Malay population versus the historical financial dominance of the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian populations.

In New Zealand :individuals of Maori or other Polynesian descent are often afforded preferential access to university courses, and scholarships.

In South Africa : there is a the Employment Equity Act aims to promote and achieve equity in the workplace, by encouraging equal opportunity amongst all workers. It includes efforts to identify reasons for inequalities and change the employment rates of previously underrepresented groups for a more equitable job market.

In UK: according to the Good Friday Agreement the law requires that the Police Service of Northern Ireland recruit equal numbers of Catholics and non Catholics.

In Indonesia: affirmative action programs give natives preference over Han Chinese who have immigrated into the country.

In Macedonia :minorities, most notably Albanians, are allocated quotas for access to state universities, as well as in civil public services.

In China : there is a quota for minority representatives in the National Assembly in Beijing, as well as other realms of government.

In the European Union: there is an antiracism directive which concerns the application of the principle of equality without regard to race or ethnic origin. This anti-racism directive, is to be implemented in national law of the member states.

In Germany :there are programs stating that if men and women had equal qualifications, women had to be preferred for a job. The anti-discrimination law which is yet to pass, aims at improving the protection of minorities.

Belgium government :proposed in January 2006 a measure that will make some job opportunities available exclusively to immigrants, disabled and elderly people.

Much of the developed world does believe that social justice can be done by reservation/quotas for those that are discriminated against.

Dalit issues of India have already been linked with human rights issue in International forum like the UN .

To repeat what past American President Lyndon Johnson said "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others', and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

Anonymous said...

What "merit" are we talking of anyway ? Scores in entrance exams at age of 17?

Take the claim of "merit based" entrance to all IIMs and dozens of other institutes.

The CAT exam is based on the SAT exam in the USA . It has been proved beyond doubt that the SAT test is culturally biased . Blacks and hispanics do poorly at it year after year .

If a student who is eligible for admission to IIM on the basis of his CAT score, were to take the same CAT exam in which he/she cleared in a language that he/she did not understand then he/she would be at a disadvantage compared to someone who was schooled in that language . Not knowing that language does not mean you lack the capacity to clear that exam.

Approximately 25 % of CAT test is about English! Another 25 % is about English Comprehension!!!! There you are !!!! About 50 % so called aptitude test is a hoax for someone who is from a non-english speaking background .

This is how the CAT like the SAT is discriminatory .

See the full form of SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test . The problem is aptitude testing is not so simple . There is no test on earth which can reliably tests aptitude .

Aptitude tests such as the SAT have a historical tie to the concept of innate mental abilities and the belief that such abilities can be defined and meaningfully measured. Neither notion has been supported by modern research. Few scientists who have considered these matters seriously would argue that aptitude tests such as the SAT provide a true measure of intellectual abilities.

It was found that people could be coached to better their scores at SAT . The name SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test could not be correct . So under such valid criticism the name was changed to Scholastic Assessment Test, since a test that can be coached clearly did not measure inherent "scholastic aptitude", but was influenced largely by what the test subject had learned in school. Even the College Board which conducts the SAT has beaten a hasty retreat.This was a major theoretical retreat by the College Board conducting SAT, which had previously maintained that the test measured inherent aptitude and was free of bias.

About ten years back , however, even the redundancy of the term assessment test was recognized and the name was changed to the neutral, and non-descriptive, SAT. At the time, the College Board announced, "Please note that SAT is not an initialism. It does not stand for anything."

The framers of these SAT tests assumed that intelligence was a unitary inherited attribute, that it was not subject to change over a lifetime, and that it could be measured and individuals could be ranked and assigned their place in society accordingly. The SAT evolved from these questionable assumptions about human talent and potential.

More and more people are questioning the validity of SAT . In the past MENSA used to accept high SAT score individuals . For the past decade it has stopped accepting SAT scores .

The whole exercise of deciding merit based on CAT scores discriminates against those from lower socio-economic status.

Though many non-IIM institutes have started accepting CAT scores, the application fee of these institutes is still inexplicably high.

The CAT is primarily an exam of Math and English. Logical and Analytical Reasoning is nearly absent (except for some verbal reasoning which again depends on knowing English well!!!!).

CAT is a clever way to keep those from lower socio-economic strata away Institutes funded with tax payers money .

So claims of “Merit” based on CAT scores is hollow and discriminatory against those of lower socio-economic strata.

Dhirubhai Ambani had a poor command over English . He would not have made it through CAT. So what "merit" are we talking of?

Amit Kelkar said...

How and where do i contact you? Please reply

The Soliloquist said...

@rc: It is not just the ownership of an organisation we are talking about. Though the OBCs and others have taken up the enterprenueral baton, the executive in most of these organisations and in the burgeoning class of MNCs is and has always been predominently seen a hightened "upper class" representation. Although the so called top 10 colleges are run by community backed persons, the admission is not based on community and the students who make it to the campus placement drives are those who have had a "favorable" background.
True, Politics corrupts the face of any noble move, but that doesnt remove the need for it.
It wouldnt be entirely appropriate to mix up personal dejections when discussing a move that might have a deeper intention.
@nero: " If a student could not utilize his reserved undergrad seat and make the best of it, I feel he has no business with the IIMs". Think again, will you exchange your years of grooming, and educational training to a seat reserved for you in the IIM??? Will those 2 yrs of IIM time prepare you for the world in the same way your 14 yrs of training did? Would like to know your choice.
@sukumar : Thanks.
@obc voice : Thanks. I dont think any particular human is ever disappointed with existing policies. By nature, man adopts to his circumstances. One man's loss is another man's gain. So reactions or no reactions, communities arent truly hurt except in cases of open discrimination. What i was fed up with, was the so called arguments which had strains of personal gains but carried the tag of being "academic and neutral".
@rsu: Please remain confused ;-)
@rebel iitian: Whew! thats a bunch of convincing stats!!, what i vaguely percieved by crude observation, you substantiated with numbers.. Now spaketh a "true technograd" !!
@ashish: Anything can be changed to suit our requirements and we can then go "FOR" it. I am not sure about other states, but in TN, thats not the way reservation works. And perhaps the scenario you present is a skewed implementation of a policy and needs to be re-looked.
@anon 1: Thanks for that world tour of reservation. People who fly west for a "free and fair" society should probably think twice!
Probably if one gets to be a minority member somewhere, the system doesnt seem to suck, after all!!
anon 2:thats a good take on CAT exam.. Besides the mental pressure of the exam duration, and the skills in plannin that goes into the preparation, the exam tests very less... an "upper class, 2nd / 3rd generation litretate" having a natural advantage...
@ amit: Why?, if i may ask.

Nero said...

"Think again, will you exchange your years of grooming, and educational training to a seat reserved for you in the IIM???"

Sorry, didn't quite understand...

Okay, in case I wasn't clear enough, X belongs to a "backward" caste and has a seat reserved for him in Engg college. After FOUR long years of Engineering, X wants a RESERVED seat in the IIMs. If he's not capable of standing on his own feet and competing with the rest of the world , what the was he doing those four years?
Point being, why reservation for Post-Graduate seats? The idea behind reservation in graduate colleges is to give the "underprivileged" a chance to develop their competencies. Don't you think that the very fact that there is reservation in Post Grad institutions underlines the fact that reservation in graduate colleges hasn't worked?

The Soliloquist said...

1. 4 yrs wont work a miracle on 12 yrs of lapse.
2. IIMs and IITs arent the University of Nalanda, which produce students of high scholarly calibre alone. They also provide high paying jobs.
3. Having the advantage of the kind of schooling that aids the -ATs of the world, we wouldnt be playing on a fair ground in getting ourselves into "instituites of repute" over the "reserved dim-wits", would we?

The Soliloquist said...

@abi: missed you out on my previous reply. Thanks for being an appreciative audience.

Nero said...

My point exactly. Why do it when it won't work a miracle on years of lapse? In case you were suggesting we start at the LKG level, someone had better assassinate you before you infect the others ;)

rc said...

Although the so called top 10 colleges are run by community backed persons, the admission is not based on community and the students who make it to the campus placement drives are those who have had a "favorable" background.

Care to elaborate ? Are you saying somehow the OBC run colleges *prefer* some other community ?

I pointed out that your prime contention - that OBCs are somehow disadvantaged or denied opportunities is plain wrong and can be easily proven to be so.

I think we are talking on two different planes, I want to have a deeper discussion of OBC components (ie, individual castes that form the 500Million strong OBC group). You want to talk about the noble intentions behind the concept of reservation itself at a very high level.

Talking about the intention behind reservation is like talking about eliminating world hunger. Everyone agrees that equality is a must - so dont expect anyone to disagree over intentions.

It is the implementation that matters.

rc said...

@ashish: Anything can be changed to suit our requirements and we can then go "FOR" it. I am not sure about other states, but in TN, thats not the way reservation works. And perhaps the scenario you present is a skewed implementation of a policy and needs to be re-looked.

Wow! You are totally wrong and Ashish is right. Amazing that you did not even care to read up on how the system works.

Let me make it clear how it works in TN - so you can correct your understanding :

Let us say there are 100 seats, 30 seats are reserved for OBCs and 30 seats are open competition.

The 30 open competition seats can be accessed by all including the OBCs/MBCs/DNCs and SC/STs. Any OBC who makes it to the open competition will not deplete the OBC quota. In other words the system guarantees that at a minimum 1/3rd of all graduates will be OBCs and at a maximum 2/3rd of all graduates can be OBCs.

MadHat said...

Excellent post!
Even amongst the posts that do support reservations, this was perhaps quite the best I have read.

R.Subramanian said...

eppadi solilo eppadi, writing such a lengthy post is not at all tough, oru mood iruntha eluthidalam, but u also taking pains to read lengthy essays by ppl commenting on ur site :) probably the english teacher in ur genes :)

i would like to give documentation reviewer title to you henceforth :-)

sari serious discussion la vanthuttu comedy ah pesa koodathu la

my stand is Reservation kodunga...aana oru limit oda kodunga :)

The Soliloquist said...

@nero: your argument appears to suggest that reservation for OBCs must be totally banished, at all levels. How much ever you may disprove the backwardness of the OBCs.. one cant be entirely sure of how homogeneoues one's argument is. As long as the creamy layer extends to the very bottom, reservation must exist. And your suggestion is an antithesis to that objective.

@rc: no one can be entirely wrong, nor can one be completely right. please dont take an absolute stance on anything.. it doesnt work that way in TN, if you would refer to my earlier reply to ashish, the OBCs depleting the unreserved quota is more of a rarity than the norm. Though the provision might be there, it is never the rule. Most OBCs apply in OBC quota, unless they are harbor malicious intentions towards the "upper classes".. All this is paranoia even if hypothetical.
@madhat : Thanks.. The comments and discussions seem to exceed the post in terms of word count !!

The Soliloquist said...

@rsu: Simply put!

rc said...

Most OBCs apply in OBC quota, unless they are harbor malicious intentions towards the "upper classes"..

Soliloquist -

You have good intentions in your post, we all support the concept of uplifting the needy. So to that extent I support you. Unfortunately, the way the scheme is implemented today is totally faulty.

Let me correct you on one key concept you got wrong. You seem to be under the impression that there is a separate OBC quota and a separate unreserved quota. You also seem to think that if a person applied under the OBC quota he/she will not have access to the "unreserved" quota. This is wrong. You are right, almost all OBCs apply as OBCs - it would be foolish to not do so. However, if they score enough marks - they will automatically get admission under the "unreserved" category. This is how the system works, not only in TN but in all states.

Please keep this in mind before you write up your next post. If you get this wrong, this unfortunately compromises your entire message.

The Soliloquist said...

That is not how the system works. And i know it for a fact. Cos i know of people who got "enough" marks!!!

Please, support your argument with evidence.
I know it through experience, but i m willin to accept the contrary if proven wrong.

And please dont bring in the same old "pseudo -standards" to accomodate other's opinions. This is highly unbecoming of any "educated" argument..

rc said...


From the BC Welfare Department Government of Tamilnadu website.

Meritorious candidates belonging to BC/MBC/DNCs are considered under OPEN COMPETITION along with other meritorious candidates belonging to SCs/STs/FCs. Therefore BCs/MBCs/DNCs who could not be considered first under Open Competition are subsequently considered under the above 50% exclusive reservation quota for BCs/MBCs/DNCs(BCs:30% +MBCs/DNCs: 20%).

See the URL at

Anyway Solilo - you have got me wrong. I have nothing against reservations - just against its implementation. A total lack of monitoring and absence of statistics make it a system that is out of control. Generation after generation of the same groups are benefiting from it.

Anonymous said...

Not only IIT, IIM but Indian Institute of Science, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, NCL, NRL and one hundred institutes of scientific learning are not reachable to any backward communities. As a science student, we need a recommendation to continue our career from our professors but they will never give you if you are not of their caste. some are giving vehement comment on this issue. I am afraid to post my name.
By the way your Blog is so creative and forceful.

The Soliloquist said...

@rc: Thanks for pointing that out. I relied on observation and personal experience. I knew of a person who got two marks less than the top most student and made it to med school thru BC quota.
@anon: there s nothing to be afraid of.Teaching profession is a noble occupation.Differential treatment amongst one's students is like discriminating between one's own children. But, i guess professors promulgating disparity is pretty rare.

Anonymous said...

I think u have got some of your facts wrong.The seats at the IIM's have reservations for students in the SC/ST category and students whose parents are from the armed forces. There are no reservations for OBC at the moment.
Secondly about the fees at the IIM's it is not a question of being able to afford the fees there.You do get loans from most nationalised banks for your education there.Also the institutes themselves guarantee loans for students who are economically backward.
So your argument about rich Indians in the open category might hold good in other government institutes but does not hold true at the IIM's

Your point on how the seats at the IIMs are split is well taken as is the question of fees in private engineering colleges

When you talk aout private colleges and their capitation fees you must also remember that these include students who technically belong to the OBC category.I have myself seen this in Bangalore where students who belong to the OBC as defined now have got seats in these private colleges.The question of challenging them as you point out is valid and there has been action on this front by governments in some states(Karnataka comes to mind).

justrohin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

In my college, there was a significant difference between the cutoff marks for a OC student and for a OBC student. The best part was that the socio economic background of the OC students were the same as that of the OBC students. So why did OBC students have to score lesser than their oc counterparts to get admission in the same college.
My take is that a kind of reverse state sanctioned discrimination exists in TN. And since the majority is o.k. with it, nobody is complaining. But discrimination it is.

The Soliloquist said...

anon : fully agreed... OBC and OC economic backgrounds are almost the same in the urban areas, but here too some communities still lag behind.. OBC covers a gamut of communities and not just the flourishing one or two..
Perhaps why TN introduced the "rural quota" amongst the OBCs...

Nero said...

Just noticed the 'english teacher in your genes' part... Explains a lot, particularly why I was forced to go to a couple of times :)

Anonymous said...

check this article out on rediff.sheds some light on the condition of the "forward castes" in india

justrohin said...

Hey dont put this comment on ur blog. this was a nice post and all the moer interesting was the debate u triggered. As they say "Way to go" lage raho.. I read ur post but didnt have both time and patience to read thru all the comments. Anyways Big fan following carry on..

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Probably I'm too late in posting my comment. Just catching up with some of the prev posts... I've been a big supporter of reservations. I do see lot of folks saying that 'I support reservation, but (insert condition here) '... I do see that the system is flawed; and I also do understand that any system *will be* flawed - there is no perfect system. So, I'd rather take one and run with it; if its going to do a greater good for the greater number of people in the country. If we are measuring reservation as "a point in time" measure, it would appear unjust; but taken over a few generations, I do strongly believe that it will drastically improve the overall (and average) meritocracy within the country. For the people below the reservation cut-line, its not about lack of opportunity; its about giving them the enough context to even identify an opportunity when it arrives and to be ack it and act on it...
My own take:

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