Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Quota, quota everywhere, not a job in sight!

I remember 1991 for a lot of reasons, my parents marriage was disintegrating and because of the Mandal agitation. I might have only been in Class VI, but the implementation of the Mandal Commission report and the start of caste-based politics by the VP Singh government changed India forever (to be fair to the Nehru-Gandhi family of yore, they never indulged in this game). I remember that there was rioting near Chirag Delhi and AIIMS and shots were fired - well, school was shut. But mostly, I remember the Mandal agitation because the rioters busted all the windows on DTC buses and trust me travelling on a bus with no windows during the Delhi winter is not a very smart idea.
At the end of the day, Mandal never affected me on the job front, I never joined the government. Sure, thanks to Mandal, the number of seats for general category students at St Stephen's reduced even further, but I would have made the cut-off anyway. And until my second-year of college, I was hesitantly supportive of caste-based affirmative action. However, an incident with a fresher that year changed all that. 'Bogs' (which is the guy's real nickname) was a fresher who had joined SSC. He was the son of an IAS Officer, a rather senior one and had studied in one of Cal's best schools, heck, Bogs was a cheap version of Delhi's 'Baba Log'. Now, back in college we used to ask people how much they got in their boards - heck everybody had a distinction. But Bogs was very iffy answering, at which point of time, another friend threatened him and out popped the answer. Bogs had a respectable grade, but nowhere near SSC standards, and because we knew that the only sport he knew was pool, Bogs was either Christian (which he wasn't) or actually used the 'Chamar' certificate to gain admission.
I was horrified. Here was a guy who had the best of everything in life, he hadn't done particularly well in his exams because he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer (as we would later discover). It wasn't exactly fair that people like him were using the 'SC' certificate to get to places in life. I couldn't understand what had gone wrong with the system. As I dug deeper, it seemed that most SC/ST seats in SSC were also given on 'Papa' quota. And it wasn't just Stephen's which suffered from this ('Papa' quota got me into SSC as well, I'll admit that much) it was all sorts of organisations. The meritocratic system which symbolised India was being eaten from within by a not-so underprivileged section of society. The sons and daughters of Laloo and Mulayam were taking up the seats and no-body could stop it.
I might hold Nehru responsible for the Kashmir debacle and the 1962 drubbing by China, but Nehru wanted India to be a meritocratic society where caste and religion didn't matter. His daughter played the religion card and now his grand-daughter-in-law wants to kill the system once and for all by getting one of her acolytes to push through private-sector reservation.
Yes, you can argue that the private sector should not be protected from the upliftment of the downtrodden. But because this government has proven time and again that it is the worst government that India has had since 1977 and it has a collective IQ of 20 and because the greater Indian media is tripping over one another to garner the title of 'official government mouthpiece', (and Rajdeep is not doing a bad job towards making CNN-IBN just that) this is a hair-brained idea. An idea which is worse than the National Employment Guarantee Scheme (which is equally hair-brained). You see, what will a company like mine do to meet its quotas - they'll probably sack the peons and the clerks and hire quota people in those positions. Does the government really think that this scheme will create jobs? All that it will do is that it will drive a lot of people out of jobs, and will that really help anyone? Maybe Meira Kumar ought to take a Virar Fast sometime and ask people if they support this idea.
Just as India had begun to see some of its best and brightest starting to return, something like this can take the wind out of the economy and start another brain drain. Just like Nehru's mad socialist economic policies started the first.
PS : Read Arnab's post on the issue. But I disagree on the Paswan rocks front!



Paswan wins by world record margins in his constituency---he is the MAN !

K, I was being sarcastic with respect to Paswan.

Nice post.

Red said...

The "Chamar" certificate sort of gives it away does'nt it. Caste does make a difference.

I agree with your analysis on how this is going to backfire. One can't really force the private sector to do something it does'nt want to do. Its sad that this rather foolish scheme will just end in corporations devising strategies to defeat it. Also, I don't really buy the OBC reservations business. Some OBC groups (like Jats) have done fairly well out of land reforms.

Also, India Today was disgustingly obesquious under the NDA government as well and now they kow tow to the UPA.

Stephen's was never much of a meritocracy to begin with, between the Christian quota, a sports quota, the old boys quota and the constitutionally mandated reservations.

BangaloreGuy said...

good post,


Meira Kumar will still not believe whatever the people say on a local, because she herself is in because she's a "dalit". And for nothing else.

NDTV used to patronise her a lot - even when she was out of "power".

K said...

Red, Stephen's is a meritocracy - you get admission only if you Daddy (and now Mommy) has done decently well enough in their career (and you also score some obnoxiously high mark)! Playing 'My Daddy Strongest' is a rather futile game in Stephen's.
Arnab - Paswan is the Man! Totally. I wonder if the GW will let him into Yamarika given that he pandered to the M's in Bihar by using a Osama lokalike. India Today blows where the wind blows - the Natwar bust was done on 10 Janpath's behest.
Bangalore Guy - Undie TV loves Soniaji (as Barkha proved the other night) and now Rajdeep is given them competition. So now we are seeing a 'We love Soniagee more' contes

anthony said...

Couldn't agree more.
Remember that racism post where I ranted. When educated people want to believe caste system is slowly, dying the Govt wants to see to it that it is still there by reserving places for the lower people. Reservations have done much more harm than good even for the reserved categories. That only the rich and previledged SCs or SCs get the cream is a diff matter, but the reservation system kills merit and competitiveness and breeds a certain kind of lethargy. WHich is exactly why, even though of the same lock,stock and barrel, there are much more Manipuri people in the mainstream and private sector than other people from north east(other than Assam). FOr we nver had any reservations and I am glad we didn't. And I hate the reservation system because it is exactly why people think the NE people are inferior. people assumes conviniently that all people with chinkish features have joined somewhere or the other via the quota, and are looked down or hated just because they have taken away their jobs or admits. Which is bad but what is worse is that they are being fed fish instead of teaching them how to fish.

K said...

What I'm worried about is that such a move will make even more companies move from the wage board to highly restrictive contracts (who does that help), and what may be interesting might actually lead to companies indulging in more robotisation on manufacturing lines.
What the government should do is help create more jobs by easing labour laws instead of making them more restrictive.

thalassa_mikra said...

I think I've seen enough students from poor, underprivileged families benefitting from the reservation system to be a little more sanguine about it than you are. To say that a system is susceptible to misuse does not mean that it doesn't have its merits.

However, I do feel that the reservation system tries to take an easy way out and not address the root of the problem, which would require more and better primary schools, investment and entrepreneurship opportunities, developing skill sets, etc.

We all have examples of persons from relatively affluent backgrounds taking advantage of the reservation system, but it cannot be denied that the affluent classes of India are still overwhelmingly upper caste.

An aside, if you remember, Stephens notoriously tried to get rid of the SC/ST reservation system by claiming to be a minority institution.

Anonymous said...

I wish all u guys would get agitated when people become head of companies because their daddy is a ceo of a company, become film stars because daddy is a film star, join Stephens because daddy is an IAS officer. become a politician because daddy is a politician...
As you can see India a far from a meritocratic country. Has not been for around 1500 years (give or take a 100 years. Where you are born still determines your life for a large part of the populations. To use GreatBong’s analogy, India is not an efficient market when people are concerned..it is more like the BSE of 1990, with Harshad Mehta running the show. In such a scenario what is the alternative to reservations…Reservations have succeeded to some extent in creating a dalit middle class and given aspirations to large number of dalit youth. When they try to join the public sector, they find the old boy, old caste networks stopping them…and hence the talk of reservations in the private sector…I am proably the only Dalit who is reading the blog .I work in the Private sector and have never felt the need to rely on reservations.
One would have thought that the "liberated' people from the media would be more in touch with what is happenning in the real India.But more things change , more remain the same..."chamar' card indeed

MoodsAndColors said...

Hi K and The Anonymous
The quota system has benefited the underprivileged class of the yore. There is really no doubt that it has been able to create an aspiring middle class of dalits. But what is noteworthy is that once a dalit enters the mainstream through quota he becomes a part of the mainstream. Why should then further generations need the reservation? Is it not then defeating the very purpose for which it was created ?

K said...

Dear Anonymous - Fair Enough, it does give aspiration to underprivileged youth from certain sections of society. Yet, sadly, the people taking benefit of the caste-based reservation policy are not the ones it was supposed to benefit, which is my point. What my caste is should not be my calling card.
Let me tell you another story....
I had a close friend in college - lets call him P. Now P was an OBC, but he didn't make it to SSC on the OBC quota and when he did clear his Civils in his first attempt he didn't use his OBC quota (he came fourth). The guy's dad was in the State Civil Service and had used the quota to get in, the son didn't want to.
India is not an efficient economy at all, but there are oppurtunities in several sectors for those who are willing to take them because these are all sunshine industries.
Does your caste matter when you're in a BPO or for that matter in TV media? I should think not. I don't think caste would matter so much even in some more established industries - because with the economy growing at the rate it is, there are jobs to be had.
My problem isn't so much against reservation but the way the system is abused. However, until we put the ground level infrastructure in place to uplift such communities - they will continue to be abused. What pray did LPY do in 15 years to improve the educational system in Bihar? What is MY doing in UP to improve primary education? Warriors of the underprivileged? I think not. In fact, I believe the better off lower castes, especially those in politics and not idiotic fanatics like the Ranvir Sena are more interested in keeping their brethren underprivileged, so that they can continue to take advantage of their largesse.
However, I must clarify over that I think Religion based reservation - in non-religious institutions is WRONG! And for that reason alone, I feel this government should fall.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you entirely on the so called "backward" leaders-the LPY,Paswan and especially the unforgettable Mayawati-being totally useless once they come to power. The wider issue is that for a long time, the government has failed in creating an environment which creates enough jobs for people. And invested enough in education and training for everybody.In such a scenario the richer people-who are invariably upper caste-can resort to the private economy for education and get ahead in the jobs race while the Dalits go to the government schools and get left behind...
I think it is time that we ask our governments to be more accountable to its people..
As for the issue of prievilaged Dalits taking advatage of reservations....well i agree with u on that one...It is the old vexed "creamy layer" issue

Paresh said...

In fact, I believe the better off lower castes, especially those in politics and not idiotic fanatics like the Ranvir Sena are more interested in keeping their brethren underprivileged, so that they can continue to take advantage of their lagesse.

Dude dude dude....

Ranvir Sena is an upper caste sena man. MCC is the lower caste sena.

I oppose reservations too. But for me the main reason for continuation of casteism is typified by what has happened above. We privileged few just dont care enough about the caste problems. We start howling only when the government tries to screw us. But baaki hum kuch nahi kartein.

If a member of the press isnt aware that the RS is upper caste, it shows the level of ignorance about casteism in India.

K said...

Honest mistake, I remembered that the Ranvir Sena is a bunch of fuedal landlords who want to keep their lower caste peasant labourers under their yoke.
Sorry about that, I meant to say idiotic fanatics in the RJD and BSP.

Anonymous said...

First of all i think that all these politicians should be "s@*&" in the head....

Ideads like infrastructure development, Power deficiet, Water deficiet, Environment never come to these guys head.........

BUT they would cry their lungs out....to divide the commnity on caste......

On a realistic note........if we all think do we really know whether a fellow student in our school/collage is really a SC/ST/OBC???

Guys who do well are always respected.....and those who dont are always looked down upon.....irrespective of they being a general/SC/ST????

So, point being....if a SC/ST guy is doiong well and is from a decent family.......does he really need a reservation??????