I have been asked by a few of my blog readers about my opinion on extending reservation to OBCs in IIT/IIMs thus increasing the quota in these institutions to 49.5%. I had blogged about my general opinion on reservations albeit in a slightly different context (quotas in private sector), and much of what I said then (with respect to the futility of trying to correct historical wrongs by perpetrating similar injustice in the present day) holds for this topic too.
But there is more to talk about.
Let us start with a philosophical issue that is at the core of any pro-reservation argument. That being that certain individuals, namely the meritorious “non-quota” students, who will be deprived of their rightful chance at high quality education should have to make a sacrifice for the greater good of the country—-a good that will be manifested in the realization of the concept of social justice.
In other words, some people shall be asked to take a “hit for the team”.
The same pro-reservation intellectuals (and I am not referring to politicians here but to certain “liberal bloggers/commentators” ) however totally repudiate this ideal of “sacrifice of the individual for the greater good” in the case of say the Narmada Project. Over there, these people are all for the exact opposite principle–” the interests of the individual take precedence over everything else.
Which is why Medha Patkar will fast unto death for the Naramada displacees but not one supposed liberal activist will forgo a meal for the millions of meritorious students who are going to be deprived of their rightful opportunities.
In the Narmada project, at least the government recognizes the need for rehabilitation and compensation (whether what they have promised is sufficient or has been properly disbursed is another question) whereas no such intentions are even expressed for those students asked to make the sacrifice.
And please note: the injustice of displacing people for the sake of a dam is a one-time thing—its effect, as traumatic it is for the concerned people now, will gradually dissipate with time as the displacees get absorbed in other places over a generation or two.
However this is not the case with reservations. Ostensibly motivated by the intention to level the playing-field among different castes in India, it is nothing but a political construct, motivated by vote-bank politics, that seeks to impose educational apartheid for generations on end—–even after the social balancing has been accomplished. (How else do you explain why progenies of people who have already taken advantage of reservations be allowed to take it again?). Which is precisely why the deletrious effects of reservations will perpetuate through generations and cause far more misery than the Narmada dam.
However, this is just the beginning. Soon there will be a quota for Muslims (only a matter of time) and with only about 35% of “unrestricted” admission remaining on pure merit, we will have the makings of a caste war on our hands.
And to add insult to injury, even though the main motivation for reservations will be electoral expediency and sheer greed (the sheer ad-hocness with which the same caste is an OBC in one state and not in the other is ample evidence of the wheeling and dealing that has gone into the making of these lists), there will not be a dearth of intellectuals and let me add, some beneficiaries of the Mandal commission, who shall try to convince us of the need of positive discrimination over pure merit and of the sagacity of Mandal and his political backers.
However, this “positive discrimination” , that little euphemistic phrase, still contains discrimination in it —no matter which way you spin it.
Reservations based on economic criteria, up to a proper percentage (not half of the total seats) and a proper identification of the “creamy” layer ( a mildly amusing term) is the only kind that is fair and just—-everything else is plain rot.
And if that sounds blunt and simplistic and politically incorrect, well that’s just the way it is.