Sunday, April 13, 2008

Quota Quagmire - Part 1

With the Supreme court upholding the constitutional validity of the 27% OBC quota, reservations are back in the spotlight. The electronic media have again gone into a frenzy and brainless reporters are breathlessly "debating" the fallout. In the midst of all the din, The Hindu has been pretty good in its coverage of the case. Coverage of court proceedings/legal issues is one domain which has remained relatively unaffected by the otherwise all round decay in the paper's standards.Some would say even the sports coverage is good, but I find that Sania Mirza gets far too favorable coverage even when she gets steam rolled by her opponents. This blog has also carried posts on the paper's not so India friendly position when the Indian cricket team was recently hunted by a pack of wild dogs down under.

Coming to the reservation, I think the verdict is fair and balanced for the following reasons:

1. It keeps the creamy layer out. Hence, only the deserving(poor) OBC will get the help and not a mediocre, upper middle class OBC who is incompetent to perform.
2. Seats left unfilled can be filled by the General category students: This is a huge boost for the general category students. In IIMs, the admissions are a two stage process - the group discussion/Personal interview follows the CAT exam. The IIMs, given the brains behind them, can maintain their high standards exploiting this point to the hilt.
3. A review of the OBC list every five years.

Though the verdict looks fair, the sick minds in the political establishment will ensure that every trick in the book (and even those not in it)is used to dilute the core message of the SC. There is already talk of raising the income limit of Rs 2.5 lakhs (to define the creamy layer). Though this figure must be adjusted for inflation, you can expect geriatrics in the UPA to define an unreasonably high limit ( may be as high as 5 lakh) so that the maximum number of OBCs are brought under the reservation net. This income ceiling is fraught with practical difficulties. What if the candidate lies about the income? Are the IIMs going to ask the candidates to attach the family members' PAN card details? or income certificates? What if the candidates do a la Aamir khan or Amitabh Bachchan and claim that their family members are farmers? These are times when even passports are faked. How difficult is it going to be to fake an income certificate?

One suggestion that is guaranteed to remain on paper is the periodic review of the OBC list. I must be insane to expect any govt to have the gall the remove a community from the quota list. No government would want a repeat of an ugly flare up like the Meena- Gujjar flare up. This review will never happen.

There appears to be a confusion regarding the IIMs. The court says when a person is a graduate, he/she becomes educationally forward and hence cannot avail the quota. Some papers like the ET say this effectively rules out quotas in post graduate institutions like the IIMs. But Arjun Singh has put his foot down again saying that IIMs too would have quotas from this year. Perhaps the only silver lining for the general category this year is that the number of seats will go up so that their share of the pie remains intact. I feel this OBC reservation can prove to be a blessing in disguise for the general category as there is every likelihood that unfilled OBC seats will spillover expanding their pie.I propose to cover this issue in greater depth in my subsequent posts.


Dirt Digger said...

Well yes the blog and some of its writers can be accused of playing to the gallery. I would agree with you that the verdict is probably the best pragmatic result one could've hoped for.
But I would've hoped for the SC to question the Govt. about the validity of Reservations in general.
When B.R.Ambedkar initiated the policy of reservations, he strongly recommended that it be removed after 10 years.
It has been 60 years, are we to say that more people need reservations because,
1. The current system cannot provide adequate benefit?
2. No one did benefit in the past?
3. We have no other alternative?
4. This is the easiest way we have to solidify our vote bank?

A bold SC action on this would have created a National debate on this.
On one hand we state that India is shining, growing, egalitarian society. But on the other hand a caste certificate is needed to get education. When the SC acts, the Chindu targets it as judicial activism. But when politicians create insane rules, the Chindu transforms into the Sphinx.
The responsibility of the fourth estate, is to ensure that the Executive(politicians) and the Judiciary(courts) are performing their responsibilities towards the people to the best of their abilities. The Chindu has failed miserably to discharge those duties.

pilid said...

Good post. A couple of clarifications: A review of the backward class status would be done by the Central/State Backward Class Commission. As things stood, there was no provision a routine review of the status of any caste but the inclusion or otherwise of any caste could be challenged before the commission. Now presumably, a statutory provision for review would have to be made in line with this decision. Secondly, the confusion over whether graduates are eligible for quotas has now been resolved. See this post for an explanation.

pilid said...

I forgot to explain in the last comment that the decision of the backward class commission is binding on the concerned government. This fact has helped limit though not eliminate politicization of quota policy.

Praada said...

Hey guys, when did you change the theme of this blog to national interest ?

Andromeda said...

We do occasionally discuss such topics... and the topic is certainly relevant given the paper's extensive coverage of this issue.