Thursday, August 03, 2006

Reservation - Overview & Possible Solution

The recent announcement of increase in 27% reservation to Other backward classes (OBCs) by the Government of India has raised the debate of "To be or not to be" the query that occurred to the mind of a character in William Shakespare's play.

Last few weeks have seen a lot of anti quota protests engulf the mind and spirit of Indian’s living in the country and those living outside. There have been certain violence which should have not taken place, call it police brutality overreaction or agitators going over board to go against the law and order; but to me it is typically a case of Newton’s third law “For every action there is a equal and opposite reaction”…this prompts us to think that there is something fundamentally wrong and this puts the blame on the government and its judgment. Saying thus, I agree there are merits and de-merits on both perceptions on the issue.

The case as of now:

Anti Quota Protests:
1. Roll back reservation
If given reservation there would be shortage of seats for those who are meritorious and there is no opportunity to showcase their talents even if they have the requisite skills; in short Right to Equality
2. Reservation would dilute Quality
If reservations are to be introduced as proposed then there would be below average students getting access to higher education and there they would fumble and even if pass would be with great difficulty.

Pro Quota Protests:
1. Need Reservation
As this would help to bridge the social balance, and as reservations would help have access to education in government institutes as private institutes are based on capitation and more so how is it fair if students who have access to education and facilities either by paying extra ( private tuitions) get better access or by the shear wealth in terms of capitations they get to have access, where as the socially backward have no such facilities firstly as most of them are from the rural or small towns where education infrastructure set up by government is in dire states.
2. Excellence can be showcased only if opportunity is give.
Reservation would not dilute quality, as if we wanted to compete with those students who have access to education and infrastructure from the day one then there needs to be the same access to infrastructure…as there is not through reservations seats can be availed in the prestigious institutes…But once there, like every one, one has to strive hard and get through else then there is no point is making so much of efforts to gain reservation, more so education is no one’s sole property.

Let us analyse both points of view:
The core to this issue is the growing market need for highly educated and qualified individuals, as this is the need of the hour and also a market need implies this would help an individual in terms of achievement and prosperity.

Are there merits and de-merits in both the cases? Again the opinion is individual. As for me there is an element of truth in both the cases.
I agree there would be shortage of seats if reservations are introduced, which in my opinion would really not help those either the pro quota or anti quota students.

As for anti quota students they would need to compete for smaller number of seats even if they have the caliber they might not get an opportunity to showcase the same.
Equality, Merit and Quality have been used by the Anti-Quota protestors, is there a real sense of Equality and quality?
Whenever there is a comparison this has to be with relative terms, how can it be Equality when one gets to have access to education from the day one and special coaching to boost the current knowledge level, these coaching has not come without a cost and this cost could be tuitions are getting buying access to education through capitation fees from private educators, the majority percentage of those who claim reservation don’t get access to such facilities for most they simply cant and for few even if they can there are no opportunities, saying this there are those minority percentage of students who claim reservation get access to education either by capitation or by private educators and such people are the grouse of the matter and normally these minority have created an impression based on which the anti-quota protestors have modelled their opinions against reservation for socially balance. So the point is Equality, Merit and Quality are relative and one can’t generalise them.

For pro quota students, how many would get to have benefits from this, as only those few who can have access to quality education and infrastructure amongst them would tend to make the most as the rest even on claiming quota and seat, would it be possible to compete in the same class and league as those of your classmates once you join these institutes, answer is very difficult as since there is no much of quality education access this implies and can be assumed there would be some short comings in the basic understanding or shortcomings in know-how, so this makes it difficult to compete.

Now the question is how many of this population percentage does OBCs constitute?

Around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes according to the National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 round, and not 52 per cent as defined by the Mandal Commission, a number that most politicians still use while asking for reservation.
If you exclude Muslim OBCs, the proportion falls to 32 per cent according to the NSS, 1999-2000. Indeed, Yogendra Yadav, professor at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Studies, who is in favour of reservation for OBCs, agrees that there is no empirical basis to the Mandal figure: "It is a mythical construct based on reducing the number of SC/ST, Muslims and others and then arriving at a number."
One of the reasons for the much higher Mandal number is that it defined OBCs in socio-economic terms, and so included, for instance, "castes/classes considered as socially backward by others". If, to cite another of the 11 criteria used, the percentage of married women below 17 years is a fourth above the state's average in rural areas (and 10 per cent in urban areas), the community is considered to be OBC.
Similarly, if castes/classes where the proportion of working women is 25 per cent higher than the state's average, the castes/classes are considered OBC - today's double-income families, if living in areas where women do not work, would then be considered OBCs using the Mandal definition.
In the NSS case, respondents were asked to indicate their caste, and this was then tallied with the list of castes that each state defines as OBC.
The NSS data is also corroborated by the National Family Health Statistics, a survey conducted in 1998 by the DHS, which has conducted 200 such surveys in 75 countries.
The NFHS data show that the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs is 29.8 per cent, a figure quite close to the NSS' 32.1 per cent. For SC/ST, while the NSS shows this is 28.3 per cent of the population, the NFHS estimates this at 27.9 per cent. The 2001 Census estimated the SC/ST population at 24.4 per cent, though the Census did not canvass any information on OBCs.
The share of the Muslims (including OBC Muslims) in all three data sets is quite similar, ranging from 11 to 13 per cent.
So far, the Supreme Court ceiling of 50 per cent on all reservations has been justified by arguing this covers only the non-creamy layer OBCs, since 22.5 per cent of all reservations are for SC/ST, leaving 27.5 per cent for the OBCs - that is, only around half the OBCs would be entitled to reservations.
If, you use the NSS/NFHS figures, a 50 per cent reservation ceiling will cover three fourths of all OBCs, and if Muslim OBCs are to be kept out of reservations, then 86 per cent of the remaining will get covered by reservations.

Now after assessing the facts as published by the Govt. of India, the question is does the new proposal piggy riding on the back on the recent constitution amendment which talks about provision could be made to extend reservation so that social balance can be achieved (I would not argue on the issue of social balance, I assume there is a social imbalance and take it for granted there needs to be a balance such that everyone can be brought into the main streams of the Indian Society).

Now the question to answer is who needs to be given reservation and can this be a blanket reservation as proposed by Govt., answer is No, as reservation as a tool has contributed over the years to make an impact and bring certain sections of the community to mainstream and these have settled in the urban centres as compared to the earlier perception of OBCs/SC/STs being in the rural centres. If the government does not agree that there has been an increase in the number of people from the socially backward community to have over the years improved and joined the mainstream then, common sense says there is something wrong with Reservation as a tool, but all of u sin unison agree reservation over the years has contributed towards betterment of the socially backward classes.

Government Millennium development report has laid out few goals which are now been worked upon to achieve of which tow which has significance to the issue are:
(i) To achieve the Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, India must reduce by 2015 the proportion of people below poverty line from nearly 37.5 percent in 1990 to about 18.75 percent. As on 1999-2000, the poverty headcount ratio is 26.1 percent with poverty gap ratio of 5.2 percent, share of poorest quintile in national consumption is 10.1 percent for rural sector and 7.9 percent for urban sector and prevalence of underweight children is of the order of 47 percent.
(ii) To achieve universal primary education under Goal-2, India should increase the primary school enrolment rate to 100 percent and wipe out the drop-outs by 2015 against 41.96 percent in 1991-92. The drop-out rate for primary education during 2002-03 is 34.89 percent. The gross enrolment ratio in primary education has tended to remain near 100 percent for boys and recorded an increase of nearly 20 percentage points in the ten years period from 1992-93 to 2002-03 for girls (93 percent). The literacy rate (7 years and above) has also increased from 52.2 percent in 1992-93 to 65.4 percent in 2000-01.

From the above information one can infer that the issue of problem or concern is rural sector, rather than the urban sector. Urban sector to its added advantage has the highest quality of education available and infrastructure in place which would help students cutting across religion/castes have access to education infrastructure, on the contrary the real needy ones are those languishing in the rural sector where in which casteism is at its pinnacle and here is where social balance needs to be achieved in one hand and also in other hand there needs to be a target to eradicate poverty (sections which fall under poverty lines are from all catse/creeds/religion). With the sort of information which is now available to analyse we can see that the area of concern and reservation as a tool is needed for those in the rural sectors as compared to the proposed blanket reservation.

Thinking of solution, is the proposed raise in 27%reservation, thus taking the total reservation to 49% a solution, answer is NO.
Government needs to understand and answer these question to define a solution to the problem which is dividing India more than what the Indian Right Wing has done over the years.
1. When those students who have no access to education and infrastructure and cant even buy themselves extra education for them, would reservation make much sense, as even though they get a seat, how effective can they be….this is very much questionable?
2. Are you not curtailing the caliber and potential of the meritorious (we can take it for say they are genuine) to showcase their talents.

Proposed Solution:
1. Roll back of the proposed reservation policy and bring in a status quo and try to answer on how to fill the gaps and in-equalities that are identified through the above mentioned statistics and information presented, in summary the need of the hour is to bridge a gap between urban-rural divide interms of addressing the socio-economic imbalance.
2. Look at how the benefits of reservation can reach the real needy; especially those in the rural sector who don’t even get to have decent education, cutting across caste lines. Reservation over years has helped those few who have made use of it or the so called creamy layer in the urban sector as opposed to the rural sector.
3. It is high time, Govt. education needs to be reformed and revived in the rural and urban India so there can be a fair playing ground is set in the coming 10-15yrs…

How to go about doing this:
1. Maximise education infrastructure and create an environment to where there is a fair playing ground. This is possible by strengthening the education sector till12th standard such that everyone gets equal opportunity and equal quality of education. This can be brought about by government strengthening the sector and make education at the affordable price for everyone if not even free by increasing the government infrastructure or through planned public-private sector participation (care to be taken not to over do and play in the hands of the capitation mafia). In all the developed countries, most of the students come from public schools which are government controlled where the best of the education facility and infrastructure is available. In short there needs to be more funds allocated to create quality education access facilities. Based on the progress achieved in this phase we can easily phase out reservation as a tool, as there would be creation of fair playing ground. This does take a heavy toll on the budgetary allocation, but this needs to be done to achieve the desired results of trying to get the poverty line reduced and bring social balance. Until this takes place the present system can continue with a small amendments, those who have access to quality education from the urban centers should not be entitled to claim the benefits of reservation, as this would amount to misuse of the spirit in which reservation as a tool was proposed by the founding father of Indian constitution.
2. Financial Assistance in terms of scholarships as against fees, living expenses, books and bank loans with low interest rates where in repayment would start only after taking up their employment. This to be made available to those economically backward in both urban and rural centers along with the socially backward from the rural centers. Use effective public-private participation to fill in the needed overload on the government expenditure. Taxation schemes can be made use to the most effective way here by making tax-rebates for those who contribute towards such schemes of financial assistance towards a cause of upliftment of the society.
3. The time line for such a new system to be effectively to take shape would nearly take around 10yrs and until then, inevitably, the current reservation policy though flawed can continue, as without a viable option being created one cant suggest a change.
4. The other option to look to bring about a short term relief until the above is achieved is to maximize the number of seats currently available in the undergraduate and post graduate structure, this would invariably bring about expenditure to the exchequer, but here again this investment that the government brings in a longer term investment and can be en cashed at the later stage. Thus ensuring talented and meritorious are not made a scape goat in this issue of achieving social balance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Remove caste first. Make people marry low castes. As long as caste exist , no amount of monetary or other persuation will help. The caste virus needs to be removed from memory forever. Is the hindu society prepared to do that? If we were successful in removal of royal titles from names after independence, why we cant do it for casteist surnames? why government is afaid to do that? -aniruddh