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15 May 2006

These Days of Much Ado...

Posted by Oblivion in General | 3:03pm

It's appaling to see the fuss against reservations. Protests by students in many cities, the anti-reservation mails online and in print, and all those blah-blah shows on the idiot box focus on one point - "favour merit; disfavour economic status". Obviously, this is all an upshot of zero understanding of the concept of merit and zero insight into the correlation between groups and economic status. The neurotic fixation with opinion polls on various channels is making it all into a sort of propaganda. Add to it the mobile and online media, the message spreads in no time. So, it wasn't quite a surprise when a friend sent me the following message:

"send 'NO' to 6388 to vote against reservation SC/ST on NDTV. Please forward it to all concerned"

If one justifies all this by referring ignorance as the reason behind the unrest among students, it still leaves one confounded as to why no attempt has been made by government to explain the logic (too high an expectation of government!) behind the decision. There were, however, a few economists who, in a couple of talkshows, dealt with it in good detail. A couple of good articles also made it to print. But this proved to be too little to persuade those (the 'educated', 'meritorious' students, most of them) against reservations to question their stand.

The societal model and its code encourages the advantaged groups to have negative perception and attitude toward the disadvantaged. People associate traits and emotions based on economic status. The attributions for the poor are generally those that are looked down upon by society. This directly reflects in the strength of prejudice that is prevalent. The protests are a result of, besides superficial understanding of merit and economic status, this psychological wall. It's not without reason, then, that while there's so much noise against quotas for certain groups, there was hardly a single voice against the NRI quota!

All the same, it's interesting to see how this ends.

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6 Comments | "These Days of Much Ado..." »

  1. By Vj

    25 May 2006, 7:46pm [ Reply ]


    1.There's absolutely no disagreeing with you about the 'more than equal' possibility. These are all the loopholes in implementation, and Indian government sucks at it. Reservation, as a concept, is a sensible approach for any healthy society to adopt. But then there ends it. As regards implementing it, the government isn't taking any sensible measures. It strethces the process too far and does the whole exercise only for gaining political advantage.

    There are innumerable cases where chaps with good scores have been denied admission (for accommodating quota seats) and chaps with horribly low scores have been offered admission just because they belonged to the quota groups. The cut-off for quota groups should be just lowered (and this should not be lower than the minimum aptitude needed for a course), not altogether ignored. So, there indeed are so many loopholes to the process when it comes to implementation, and, given the stupidity of government, even this time it'll, very likely, prove to be a farce.

    My stand is - reservation, as a policy, is sensible, but there's every danger that it'll be implemented in an irrational manner that might actually prove harmful rather than beneficial. But then, it is not right to stop good policies coming because of the apprehension that implementation would be wrong.

    2.As regards correlation between groups and aptitude/IQ - research by famous economists and sociologists supports that IQ is hereditary. A chap born into a working class family - even if it's economically sound - does not have the same aptitude as the chap born into an educated family - even if it's poor - has. So, unless the former chap is given the opportunity (with lower cut-off as the criterion), his lineage would likely continue with lower aptitude. So, the quota system opens up opportunities for this reason - more than for bridging the economic gap, it's for bridging the gap between aptitudes. Because if you bridge the aptitudes, the economic gap can automatically be bridged.

    There's no denying that offering the opportunity at school and college level (instead of at university level) would be great. But then, the 'free education' scheme is in fact in practice in some states, but the absurd conditions of those schools hasn't helped anything. It'd just be utopian to expect it to work successfully at school level. Besides, there's an interesting correlation between economic status and the choice of schools. So, again, the problems remain same even if we shift the focus to schools.

    There are a host of practical problems that go with this and government does nothing to address these issues. There are a whole lot of factors that go into the divisions between groups. Although we may yell ideals of equality and all the shit else, reality is very grim. The prejudices are very real and obvious. I don't pretend to know if reservation policy would indeed prove helpful, but you may like to read the wonderful book 'Freakonomics' to get more insights into the whole social structure that lies below.

  2. By Ramya

    25 May 2006, 12:55pm [ Reply ]

    Let's assume that you are right about the correlation between groups and the economic status with the exception of some. In which case, it would be worth considering if the 'exclusion of creamy layer' concept is being applied. But that is not so either. For example, the Vokkaligas and Lingayats, included in the Karnataka OBC list, are by no stretch of imagination, backward. And then, what about the poor from the 'forward castes'. aren't they being denied 'equal opportunities'?.I'm not against quotas per se but I am against quotas which provide 'more than equal' opportunities.

    As for your arguement about the correlation between groups and aptitiudes/IQ, don't you think that's being presumptous? Where did you get that from? I would say that a large number of people from these groups are disadvantaged in terms of opportunities at earlier levels (you could argue that these,in turn,would shape aptitudes and IQ). Now doesn't it make more sense to create these opportunities at the primary and secondary level than at the level of higher education?

  3. By Vj

    23 May 2006, 8:00pm [ Reply ]

    @Ramya and Midhun

    There's a direct correlation between groups and the respective economic status. Of course, there are exceptions, but, on an average, some groups are definitely better off and some groups are definitely worse, as regards the economic status. Also, there's a strong correlation between groups and the respective aptitudes/IQ. Hence, the basis on group rather than economic status. Besides, there's already the option of scholarships to address the needs of economically poor students.

    Quotas are to help students from those groups whose average aptitude is lower than the other 'advantaged' groups. Eventually, the objective is to bridge the aptitudes. Students from certain groups - even if their families are rich - do not have the aptitude to crack the entrance exams, so they cannot make it to the courses. So, if they cannot make it in the first place, how will it help whether you help them financially or not?

    Simply put - as there exists a strong correlation between groups and their respective economic status, the quota policy is based on groups rather than economic status. This basis is not irrational or insensible. However, the implementation can go wrong, given the low credibility of government and its silly procedures.

  4. By Midhun

    23 May 2006, 1:19pm [ Reply ]

    As ramya said, you talk about economic backwardness as a big focus point, in such a case why are not the reservations on economic status which would not cause a fuss like this ? Only when the caste is used the problem arises, also in case of incentives given for economically backward people, people from all religions get advantage isnt it ?

    I am against any quota system in the industry. I am for means to support students economically and through other education programs.

  5. By ramya

    23 May 2006, 11:53am [ Reply ]

    "People associate traits and emotions based on economic status. The attributions for the poor are generally those that are looked down upon by society. This directly reflects in the strength of prejudice that is prevalent."But the quota system is NOT based on economic status. that's the whole point. These 27% could also include people from upper middle class families, not disadvantaged, not looked down upon. If economics justify quotas, then shouldn't the quotas be based on economic status and not caste basis?

  6. By Akshay

    20 May 2006, 6:26am [ Reply ]

    Nice summary of our disoriented mass and media.

    In indian democracy most of the decisions are ruled and overruled by mass hysteria rather than analysis.

    As long as the media doesn't mature enough to conduct proper debates and discourses on issues of national importance the situation will remain the same.

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