April 9, 2006

Once again the monster of reservation in education is rearing its ugly head. The rationale behind increasing the reservation to 49.5% and its possible benefits is still hazy. But one thing is crystal clear. The vote bank politics still rules the roost in modern India.

Coming to this magic figure of 49.5%, I am certain that it will turn out to be a deadly sin. For me, this move is like propagating a “culture of educational impotency”. In future, it will breed mediocrity and will seriously undermine our reputation as knowledge powerhouse in the global arena.

Will 49.5% reservation solve the miseries of underprivileged people?
Hardly. And excuse me; I am talking about casteless underprivileged people and not about the tagged individuals like SC, ST, OBC, and General. According to the government, it wants to help discriminated people and people who are socially and economically backward. But does the government know how many people from SC, ST, OBC are economically or socially backward and what is the corresponding number of such backwards in General category? I am sure the government doesn’t know or if it knows then is not very willing to disclose the numbers. This entire political gimmick is being played on some statistics that was generated in 1931, a good 75 years ago! Yes, the Mandal commission and all this reservation drama is based on the data of 1931 when the Indian population was last enumerated on the basis of caste and Mandal commission estimated from this data that OBC constitutes 52% of Indian population. So we are assuming that there was neither any demographic change nor any upliftment of OBCs during all these 75 years!

Another startling fact is that one Kaka Kalelkar Commission in 1953 identified that there were 2399 castes that could be designated as OBC and the entire women community was part of the OBC list. And then after 25 years or so the Mandal Commission identified 3743 castes belonging to OBC list. This is some statistics that I don’t understand. So while at the time of independence we were really underdeveloped and backward as a nation and 2399 castes were backward. And as we were slowly progressing as a country the number of castes in OBC list suddenly jumped by 56%! Is there some direct relationship between economic progress of India and number of castes in OBC list? Or does the government want to believe that as the nation progresses number of people in OBCs also increases? I am sure that is not the case. But even if that is the case then what was the government doing all these years after independence? Sleeping? Or playing number games?

As far as India is concerned a lot has changed since independence. There has been a quantum leap as far as overall economic progress is concerned. There has been economic and social upliftment of general population irrespective of caste and creed. But in the process many of the individuals, again irrespective of caste and creed, failed to rise economically and socially. These are the people who need help. The point is simple. Are we concerned with castes or underprivileged people? Do we want to give opportunity to community or individuals? Do we want to help economically and socially challenged individuals or the communities with the dramatized persona of exploited people who may in reality be the exploiters? It doesn’t take the knowledge of rocket science to accurately predict who will benefit from this 49.5% reservation as in its present form.

Known problems, rotten solution, and murder of meritocracy
Reservation, per se, is not going to uplift economically and socially backward people be it from SC, ST, OBC, or General category. In the name of reservation in education the government is just trying to save itself from getting blame for failure to follow the Constitution of India. Our Constitution promises free and compulsory education for all. But what is the scorecard of Indian government in ensuring primary education across the entire spectrum of society? Had it ensured good quality education for all till class 12 then the need for reservation would not have been there. And this holds true today also.

If the government is serious about welfare of socially and educationally backward people or community then it should do things that make the educational system till higher secondary level robust. If it has to use reservation as a tool use it till class 12 but spare the higher education. Higher education and professional courses require a certain level of expertise and mental development. An unprepared or under-prepared mind cannot cope with the rigours of higher education. Through the system of blind reservation we will simply open the doors for many unprepared minds to enter the system that could hamper the overall quality of education as well as kill meritocracy. It would be better if the government tries to prepare the underprivileged minds to ensure a level playing field for them in the battle of meritocracy.

A progressive approach is needed
Every problem has a solution. The key to solving is understanding the problem and structuring it. In this case, the problem is about ensuring equality of opportunities. The problem will perhaps become manageable if following steps could be taken:

  1. Admit that it is not a problem of caste but a problem of social and educational backwardness irrespective of caste.
  2. Rise above vote bank politics at least in matters related to higher education. Educate the people from all sections of society that seeking reservation is not dignified.
  3. Invest in a robust system of imparting primary education. Try to ensure that everyone has access to education till higher secondary level. It would be a better idea to accord special status to economically backward people in schools based on annual income. Make legislation for the schools, including private schools, to impart education to these economically backward people at a highly subsidized rate. And those who feel that this will not work because annual income can be fudged; please wake up to the reality that even caste certificate can be faked. I know of a high caste youth from a well to do family who got a certificate of SC and availed many benefits. And those who have seen small towns of India will not be surprised by this. Period.
  4. Remove all kind of reservations from the higher education scene.

To sum up, the solution perhaps lies in promotion of meritocracy while ensuring that underprivileged people get enough opportunities to prepare themselves for competing in the system of meritocracy. 49.5% is definitely not a solution. It will make our country "educationally impotent".


  1. Ajit Chouhan // April 10, 2006 at 6:07 PM  

    Yaar this topic has got no end ...I have stopped thinking about it now.It's a truth we have to live with now.