Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Education, reservations and reform

A few days ago, The Hindu reported that the TN Assembly had passed a bill approving 3.5% reservations for minorities (Christians and Muslims) within the 30% quota already existing for backward classes. This 3.5% for minorities is yet another attempt at affirmative action, although whether it really serves to uplift the downtrodden is questionable. The trend towards affirmative action through special quotas seems to be never-ending. Think about it; Tamil Nadu has the highest percentage of reserved seats totalling to a massive 69%, leading even the Apex Court to say that reservations must not exceed 50% if they are to retain their relevance. But no, our politicians have found a way out of the quagmire. They simply create extra seats in engineering and medical colleges to accommodate the reservations-less students and circumvent the Supreme Court ruling. Anyway, the point here is this: what does the rest of the world do if this reservation trend continues? How do good students belonging to unreserved categories get admission into good colleges or get government jobs if this quota goes on increasing?

More importantly, does this quota system really help those who need the help? I think the Times of India got it right this time. We need to start thinking beyond quotas. Far from working towards the abolition of the caste system, the quota system actually reinforces caste identities and helps in entrenching the caste system more firmly in Indian society. The creation of several caste-based political parties is clearly a pointer to this trend. Why can't we rise above petty considerations of caste, religion and community and look at the capacity of the person in question. How does the caste of the applicant to a college or a job matter if the person concerned is capable of carrying on his duties to perfection? Perhaps it is time to look at another way of providing affirmative action. Or perhaps we must now move on from our caste-conscious behaviour and learn to think beyond it.

PS: On an unrelated note, anyone noticed that all those people who left comments on my previous post (saying I was the one who was bullshitting) are men?


Balaji said...

Probably you already know, but the 3.5% each for backward Muslims and Christians is within the 69% thing.

how did Supreme court come with this 50% number? Freebie shudn't exceed 50% is the logic? Indian states aren't the same when it comes to reservation requirements. If other states comes up with their own solutions like TN and challenge the system up there, we might find a better way to handle reservation percentages at the national level.

It looks as though reservation percentages atleast in state/private institutes should be decided independently by the states themselves. If state level politicians mishandle the situation, then people will go challenge it in courts, like they have done against the 69% thing in TN.

Is the 69% reservation in TN really affecting un-reserved students? yes, a student who could have gone to Anna Univ might have ended up in a private engineering college. But I'm sure his/her financial background would eventually even out the sacrifice he/she has had to make.

I have faith in Tamils to recognize, when the caste based reservation starts to hurt the people. Some voices are already being heard on keeping the creamy layer out of reservation. More voices means smart collective decisions.

Vijay Krishna Narayanan said...

On the post-script.

I don't want to sound haughty. But I looked at the number of profile views you have had and the average number of comments per post, and it doesn't seem like you're getting a lot of visitors. So maybe we were / are the only people reading your blog.