Monday, May 29, 2006

The death of meritocracy

50% reservations are unheard-of anywhere on earth (except in South India, of course).

The effects of these policies will become swiftly obvious.

When South India pushed "higher castes" out by raising reservations to 80% over the last 30 years, they went to other parts of India.

Now India's meritorious students will go abroad. The best brains will be selectively moved out of the country.

The country will lose.

From Rediff:
The death of meritocracy

May 29, 2006

It was too good to last.

For a little over a decade, it looked really real. At long last, India was getting its act together and was beginning to compete successfully in the global marketplace. The long night of being led by Fabian socialists who were content with the Hindu rate of growth was over. The world was just getting used to the natural business acumen, the intellectual genius, and the creative talents of Indians. Newspapers and business magazines could not refer to China without mentioning India in the same sentence.

Stop the presses. Party's over. Bad news, folks. It's the same old, same old. Just as the world was turning flat, India has decided to retreat into its own spherical bubble of class warfare. The quota raj is over. Long live the quota raj. Plus ça change, at least in Bharatvarsha.

There's nothing in the streets looks any different to me
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play. Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray. We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again. No, no!

--The Who

We just got fooled again.

In all seriousness, the UPA-Left Coordination Committee's decision to introduce a 27 per cent quota in educational institutions from June 2007 should be viewed as a defining moment in the history of modern India. This is a battle for the very future of India. And the battle is far from over.

While the 'enabling' amendment was passed by Parliament, the actual act of imposing a quota has yet to be passed by Parliament. There is a nation full of young men and women of the Rang De Basanti generation who believe in har desh mahan nahi hota, use mahan banana padta hain (A country can achieve greatness only if its citizens strive to make it great). And there are a few constitutional issues to consider.

The 93rd Constitutional Amendment Bill was expressly passed to roll back the Inamdar ruling of the Supreme Court, which had prohibited state-imposed quotas on unaided educational institutions. Meanwhile, Article 46 of the Indian Constitution requires the promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections.

Arjun Singh and the UPA Government's claim is that Article 46 in conjunction with the 93rd Amendment Bill requires the government to set quotas on educational institutions for OBCs. Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Khare has suggested in his comments that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the validity of this amendment.

Another issue to consider is that the government has chosen to interpret the phrase 'weaker sections' and the term 'classes' to mean the same as 'caste'.

Constitutional experts may have an explanation for this, but Indian citizens should be asking the question as to why 'classes' become the same as 'castes', especially considering that the 2001 Census did not even enumerate any caste other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which are specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

Defenders of the OBC quota use a variety of arguments to justify them. A fellow IIT alumnus feels that the 'lower classes -- economic as well as thru caste system -- have been deprived for a long time. Society and Government owes them. This will not help better life for everybody as overall prosperity will reduce crimes and other distractions to economic growth.'

It is interesting to note the use of the word 'lower classes' and 'economic as well as thru caste system'. A caste-blind quota system based on economic backwardness would probably be far more in tune with the Constitution and would likely be supported by a much larger segment of the Indian population.

But the idea that society 'owes them' harks back to Ram Jethmalani's speech in Parliament about how 'the present generation, the people of so-called merit must learn that the present society will have to pay for the sins of our ancestors.' It is the reimposition of the quota raj that will slow India's economic growth and ultimately hurt the poor.

Yet another supporter of reservations states that 'if we think we can arrive at a solution to the core issue of denial of opportunity without resorting to reservation, then why have we not done so all these years?'

There is certainly something to be said about giving all applicants an equal opportunity to compete for admission to institutions such as the IITs, IIMs and AIIMS. But the solution for that is not to force quotas at the college level, but instead to improve educational facilities at the primary and secondary school levels.

Of course, that would require Indian politicians to work hard to actually propose and implement something tangible and meaningful. And the vote bank benefits would not come for years, if at all. It should not come as a surprise that the Arjun Singhs and V P Singhs end up choosing the quick fix of mandating quotas at the professional college level.

In the same vein, another IITian has argued that that merit is not solely determined by marks obtained, since many toppers do not do well later in life, and that so-called merit is gained via access to expensive coaching classes such as those in Kota.

On this issue, some IITians have proposed that the IITs, non-profit organisations or the government itself could provide study guides and material to prepare for entrance examinations on the Internet free of cost. If this material is on par with the kind of coaching that the Bansals and the Brilliants (private ecoaching classes that train students for the IIT and medical entrance exams) provide to those who can afford them, the playing field can be leveled for the underprivileged.

Another argument made is that 'quotas are an accepted practice the world over and many NRIs are getting the same benefits especially in the USA.' For one thing, to the extent US universities try to encourage diversity in their incoming classes, the quotas actually work against Indian-American children since they tend to be over-achievers who are rejected because there are too many Asian-Americans who all have to stay within the unspoken quota limits.

In any case, no other country in the world sets quotas for admissions that can reach up to the absurd level of 50 per cent being proposed in India. Even in the US, racial quotas are being challenged in the courts and through the electoral process.

Courts in the US have started outlawing preferences in college admissions and job promotions, and even the fairly benign quota raj in the US is being rolled back, slowly but surely.

One of the most plausible and enticing arguments made in support of quotas by well-meaning intellectuals goes as follows. 'The top 10 per cent aspirants (to the IITs) are on par in their capabilities and the JEE is like an ODI (One Day International cricket game)', therefore, 'there will be no compromise on the standard of students selected' if quotas are enforced.

Thus OBC candidates who are in the top 10 per cent, but not in the currently admitted top 5,444 ranks, would still get a seat in the IITs.

The 'almost as good' argument is probably the most dangerous one being made in support of quotas. This is social engineering at its worst and represents the death of meritocracy in India. Do we want the very best doctors or engineers in the world, or do we want professionals viewed as being the 'almost best'?

Instead of diluting the hard earned reputation of India's top educational institutions, why not set up other colleges and institutions of excellence to admit those ranked from 5,445 to 10,000? This is not a matter of elitism, but instead it is all about building upon the success already achieved.

India was beginning to win precisely because Indians were viewed to be amongst the most talented professionals that any country could produce. Now, while the Chinese are working to make their universities the best in the world, Indian educational institutions will change their mantra to chase the dream of being the 'almost best.'

And the quota proposal is class warfare at its ugliest. In a very insightful column on, Francois Gautier asked Are Brahmins the Dalits of today? The answer is an emphatic 'yes', but non-OBCs need not worry, since the sins of this age will surely visit upon the next one.

The reincarnation of Arjun Singh in a coming epoch will demand quotas for non-OBCs, and so the cycle will perpetuate itself. Sort of like the Steinhardt-Turok universe that goes through infinite cycles of expansion and destruction. The sins of the fathers will always visit upon the sons. And Mera Bharat will aspire to be almost, but not quite, Mahan.

Ram Kelkar is an alumnus of IIT Bombay. He is an investment professional at a financial firm in Chicago, IL. The views expressed herein are strictly his personal opinions and they do not represent the official positions of any institution.

... Read more !

Thursday, May 25, 2006

PM says he thinks quote issue is "settled"

Manmohan Singh has no back-bone. This is now clear.

Arjun Singh introduced OBC reservations to keep his job as HRD Minister; without this controversy he was getting shunted out of the corridors of power.

The rest of the morons in the UPA went along with Arjun Singh in this idiotic proposal. This is blatant Casteism. It will divide India. Another Partition is not unlikely.

The country that elected such idiots as the UPA to rule over them will regret this outrage.

Rediff reports:
I think quota issue is settled: PM

May 25, 2006 18:40 IST

Making it clear that there was no going back on the reservation issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday appealed to the students to call off their anti-reservation agitation saying the government will take care of the interests of all sections of the society.

"I am pained to see the agonising experience the youth of the country are undergoing. They should call off their strike and I assure that the government will find a viable and credible way to protect the interests of all sections of the society," Dr Singh said adding, "I think the matter is already settled."

Asked if he will meet the representative of the striking students, the prime minister said, "I am not averse to meeting any group of our citizens, if they want to talk to me."

He said it was time for the whole process to gather momentum.

"And we have lot of time to discuss any practical problem that may arise," he said.

He also assured that the government will set-up committees of vice-chancellors of Central universities and directors of IIMs and IITs on how to increase the facility in all these institutions in such a manner that the interest of all groups of students is protected.

Observing that Parliament has passed the Constitution Amendement Bill and the United Progressive Alliance-Left Coordination Committee has chalked out a roadmap on the quota issue, Dr Singh told a press conference after the round table in Srinagar that it was time for the process to gather momentum.

"We have lot of time to discuss any problem," he said making it clear that the government will work on all possible options to safeguard the interest of all groups.

Asked as to why he was silent on the reservation issue, the prime minister said it was not correct to say he was "silent or not visible".

"I have earlier appealed twice. I once again appeal to call-off their agitation and we will find a viable and credible way to protect the interest of all," he said.

Oh no, my dear Manmohan. You have thought wrong.

The quota issue is far from "settled".
... Read more !

"We may be a few, but we'll carry on our fight"

Kudos to the brave students who are fighting the Casteist policies of the dishonest, criminal, and corrupt UPA government.

Rediff reports:
"Let us have quota, but let not caste be the criteria"

May 25, 2006

Armaan is the son of well-to-do parents based in Kolkata. He is one of the leaders of the anti-reservation stir in New Delhi.

He is in the sixth semester and has been engaged in planning, executing and leading the agitation since the second week of April.

His senior, Vishal, is the son of a teacher in Chandigarh and is part of the core committee that is driving the stir.

Both young men poured their hearts to They spoke with the passion, confidence, determination and innocence that is the hallmark of youth.

Armaan: Around one-and-half months back, two or three students from each medical college sat to discuss the announcement made by Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh that 27 per cent seats will be reserved for Other Backward Classess.

I read the headline in The Times Of India. We thought that as responsible students and responsible citizens of the country, let us do something.

Then, we spoke to medical students of the Lady Hardinge College, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Maulana Azad Medical College and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College of New Delhi. Their response was optimistic.

In the beginning, we didn't think this anti-quota movement would become so big. We never thought it would travel beyond the capital.

This issue put enormous pressure on the UPA government.

Vishal: Many Indian states already have OBC quota so we didn't expect the rest of India would respond like this.

Medical colleges across the nation have joined us. The response from the IITs and IIMs has been a bit low. Because those who get their BTech from IIT, normally go to study abroad or go to IIM. They are not primarily affected by quota in post-graduation seats.

IIM seats are being increased so they care less. But I am a medical student studying in UCMS (University College of Medical Sciences) where in the past ten years, the total number of seats that have increased is ten! Where are the new seats going to come from? The government can't manage that.

Before our agitation, the government wanted to take those OBC seats out from the general seats. That would have been disastrous. But now, the government says correspondingly seats will be increased. Actually, this is the huge victory of students.

Armaan: We never planned this stir in a big way. Since Arjun Singh made the final announcement, he was our obvious target. We planned that we will work through the Internet and created this blog --

Our senior colleague Dr Vivek Nautyal coined the words -- 'Youth For Equality.' We debated a lot. Youth for Justice, Youth For Merit, Scientists For Merit, and Intellectual Deaths -- many names were discussed.

We have many girls in our team. Amitasha Sinha, Supriya, Neha and others are leading the stir. Many OBC, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students and doctors are supporting us.

We prefer reservation for people who deserve it. It's not that we don't have a conscience. We do care for the poor, those who really need help. We should have reservation on the basis of economy.

In our General Body meeting, OBC students also said this government is just trying to divide society by undermining the need for merit and giving crutches to people who don't need it.

We think even in the general category, there are people who are underprivileged. There are underprivileged people on both sides. Let us give reservation on the basis of economic criteria.

Vishal: Aru Panwar was the topper in my batch. He was a brilliant student and now his caste falls under the OBC bracket. He is very concerned about the new quota.

I have a junior, Harikishan Suthar from Rajasthan. He has cleared India's toughest exam -- the Pre Medical Entrance Exams and Tests where 200,000 to 500,000 students appear for 1,500 seats. He was amongst the top 100 students in the exam. He comes from a small village of India. When I spoke to him he said yes, quota might be needed and it is needed because no past or current government in India has provided them quality primary education.

Urban areas have good private education or public schools. He says the government provides primary education in villages which is of poor quality. Till the time primary education system is changed and better education is made available in the villages to people of the backward class, he says, there will be some demand for reservation.

But Harikishan also says that quota is not the final solution. The final solution lies in providing quality education in Indian villages. We feel some arguments like giving them 'honour' might be true in the case of tribals and Harijans but Jats and Yadavs, do they need special attention in society?

Lord Krishna was a Yadav! Now Yadavs are under the OBC category. Didn't Yadavs always have social honour? Why reward them?

Armaan: The first and foremost point that we repeat is that we stand for merit. Quota politics completely undermines merit. Just for the sake of vote-bank politics, politicians are dividing society on the basis of caste.

Vishal: Any quota which is ascertained on the basis of caste only accentuates casteism in society. Let us have quota, but let not caste be the criteria. Let us keep income as the criteria.

Even after 60 years of quota raj, we have not reviewed its advantages so that means it is a gimmick.

Armaan: What we are asking from the government is very feasible. We are asking not to implement the OBC quota until a non-political judicial committee looks into all aspects. The government and people should know what is the efficiency of the reservation policy and what are its lacunae.

The government says they will increase seats in medical colleges. It is not easy as increasing classrooms and desks. Here modifications are huge and you need faculty members, which can't be increased overnight.

We may be few but we will carry on our fight. The movement is not just under this tent; it has spread in the entire country.

When we talk about merit, don't bring in caste. We are fighting for quality. Give them some financial help, a better primary education. We are all for it.

Y4E's demand is not for the revocation of all reservation policies. We want experts to tell us if these quotas are useful? Can more people be brought under its ambit and why ?

Vishal: As part of the delegation I have met (Union ministers) Oscar Fernandes, P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee. My colleagues have met Arjun Singh in early April.
It was not a very good meeting. Arjun Singh was not ready to discuss the issue at all. He told us we should postpone the agitation because the assembly election was on. After the election he said publicly that the decision on reservation was not reversible.

That ten minute meeting was not a meeting at all. The media was present, we were there and he was sitting opposite us. He said something that meant nothing. When we meet deans, bureaucrats or seniors, they are open and talk about what all is possible. But politicians are tied up. They never open their hearts.

After meeting so many of them I agree with what people generally say that politicians are heartless people. It is not that they lack arguments but they are stubborn people. They call us anti-reservationists and say we are not ready to think about other people but unfortunately politicians are not ready to think about us.

Mr Chidambaram said personally he would agree with our 'Creamy Layerwala funda' (rich and powerful amongst the backward castes) but then he said MGR (the late chief minister M G Ramachandran) in Tamil Nadu thought about the creamy layer issue for one year but could not arrive at how to define the creamy layer!

Yes, we do think it is not easy to define the creamy layer, although we keep talking about it. Chidambaram said South India has prospered with 70 per cent reservation and this reservation have been there for more than 80 years.

So I asked him: 'Sir, if it has there for long, why are you continuing with it because by this time society must have been uplifted?' He just said let the Tamil parties and assembly decide how to go on.

Pranab Mukherjee didn't talk much when we met him.

Armaan: All the politicians we met turn out to be pro-reservation. When we met Oscar Fernandes I found that he was completely against us.

Don't try to put the tag of anti-quotawallahs on us. If I, as a poor student, need money, books, clothes and infrastructure to study further why is the government not coming forward? Why have quota on basis of caste? Why?

As told to Sheela Bhatt. Photograph: Sheela Bhatt

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A Question for the Prime Minister of India

T V R Shenoy raises uncomfortable questions on Rediff about the (in)feasibility of the Government of India's unthinking and unrealistic plan to increase seats in academic institutes all over India by 54% by 2007, in less than a year.

When will the Government of India start using its brains, assuming it has any ?

From Rediff:
Prime Minister, I have a question

May 25, 2006

Is the practice of debate dead in India? There is no dearth of persons able and willing to put forward a point of view, but how many are equally capable of listening to someone with a different perspective?

The vexed question of reservations is just another of those issues where it is impossible to say anything without being misunderstood. (Occasionally by both sides!)

I do, however, have a question to ask of the Prime Minister. Whatever the value of your HRD minister's proposal, Dr Singh, can you honestly claim that your government's suggested solution will not make things worse?

The United Progressive Alliance government has proposed increasing the number of seats by 50 per cent across the board, thus ensuring that the actual number of seats in the general quota does not fall. Speaking as an academic rather than a politician, Mr Prime Minister, are the logistics feasible?

For a start, it means putting an immense strain on everything from libraries to laboratories. These are not luxuries, they are essential tools in modern education. (Even the School of Languages at the famous Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi has a language laboratory, where students learn to pick up nuances by listening to tapes of themselves.)

It is fine to say that you shall add 50 per cent more seats, but have you calculated the additional financial burden. Back of the envelope calculations say this will cost a minimum of Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion) over five years. Yet your government, in its hurry to douse the fires, has vowed to implement everything by 2007. How is this feasible?

To be honest, finding the money for physical resources is the lesser problem. (It is possible that Finance Minister Chidambaram could earmark the money raised by privatisation exclusively for investing in higher education -- though I confess that this is unlikely.) The greater problem by far is finding the teachers.

The essence of good education is the personal attention paid by a teacher to his or her students. This was already faltering given the numbers involved in modern universities. It is simply impossible to respond to needs of individual students in a lecture theatre where up to a hundred students are crammed together. (In my time we spoke of lecture 'rooms', today they are lecture 'theatres'!) This, of course, is a worldwide problem, scarcely one isolated to India, and it is not a new dilemma either.

The ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge offered tutorials as a solution, where a teacher could meet small groups -- rarely more than half a dozen -- in slightly more informal settings. These are not to be mistaken for private tuition, but are part of the formal academic process. This healthy system is still used in some Indian colleges, albeit in a fast dwindling number. It will probably fall apart altogether under the pressure of greater numbers, forcing students to fall back on lecture notes and library books.

No matter what happens, the interaction between teacher and student is bound to diminish.

The answer, one would say, is to increase the number of teachers forthwith. That is easy to say but almost impossible to implement. Ask the directors of the Indian Institutes of Technology, and they will testify to the crunch in professors. Simply put, teaching is not a profession that pays as well as others. This stark economic fact gives Indian professors only two alternatives, either to work for the private sector or to go abroad.

Dr Amartya Sen and Professor Jagdish Bhagwati are world-renowned economists but when was the last time they actually taught in an Indian college? They, like the Nobel laureate Dr Hargobind Khurana before them, looked outside India to make a living.

Indian college professors have, historically, been underpaid. I know of teachers who are forced to offer private tuition to school students to eke out their salaries even though they are working for the University of Delhi. (This, of course, leaves them even less time for research, which is the very lifeblood of academics.) How many professors in, say, MIT would find themselves tutoring Class XII or Class XI pupils in maths or physics -- as I have known at least one IIT teacher doing?

Economics apart, Indian teachers lack the resources and even the respect granted to their peers abroad. John Kenneth Galbraith's death on April 29, 2006 made the headlines in print and on television because of his stature as an advisor to presidents. Can you imagine an analogous situation in India, where a prime minister looks beyond the bureaucracy to appoint a professor as an ambassador?

Yet Professor Galbraith was far from unique; American administrations routinely tap the great universities as sources of talent. (Dr Henry Kissinger was teaching in Harvard immediately before he became President Nixon's National Security Advisor.)

Coming back to the point, if the financial and professional rewards (in the form of research facilities and so on) are poor in Indian universities, how do you attract qualified persons to the academic profession? That question was already plaguing vice-chancellors and the deans even in the most renowned institutions -- and that was before the Manmohan Singh ministry saddled them with the task of getting 50 per cent more.

The Union HRD ministry should, of course, have been the nodal agency in finding a solution to this logistics nightmare. But, as noted earlier, Arjun Singh, seemingly more concerned with the caste of the student rather than the quality of the teacher, has become so polarising a figure that any reasoned debate is impossible.

The arguments over reservations have, up to now, revolved around the issue of the quality and the quantity of the students. Dr Manmohan Singh's preferred solution has raised another question -- on the quantity and the quality of the teachers. Are you sure, Mr Prime Minister, that your solution may not be worse than the perceived problem? Confronted by an increasing workload, how many teachers will continue in their jobs, ill-paid and overworked as they are? And as the better teachers look to greener pastures -- or simply retire -- every student, whatever his caste or creed, shall suffer.

I can appreciate, at some level, the call for reservations. But there is no justification at all for diluting the quality of education by a thoughtless increase in seats.

... Read more !

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Next Partition of India

Divide and Rule politics weakens the social fabric of unity in diversity, and if unchecked, will surely lead to Partition.

From Rediff:
The Next Partition of India

May 24, 2006

The die is cast. Manmohan Singh's government has announced that the legislation to reserve additional 27 per cent seats in higher educational institutions will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. This is the beginning of India's second partition, which follows the one that took place 59 years ago. That one was geographical; this one will go right through every town and city.

Some are surprised at this decision that appears to create problems for the government needlessly. But there is a logic to this that goes back to the 93rd Constitutional Amendment, which was passed last December. At that time the Opposition, with cynical calculation, chose not to oppose a law that effectively limits autonomy and free association in colleges and universities, even those that do not receive public funding.

Although citizens' taxes underwrite public colleges and universities, in the current dispensation the Indian government sits on top of the management like a colonial overlord. Teachers, students or the community are not consulted about the administration or future plans. The minister says, do this, have so many more students -- no matter what their preparation --- and the serfs, that is the professors, must deliver. It doesn't matter that the IITs are already short by 20 to 30 per cent in their teaching staff.

Indian liberals claim that such curtailment of freedom is necessary for social good. But liberal values contain elements that can endanger liberty and progress. Morality gets sacrificed at the altar of electoral politics.

Ironically, liberalism was originally a moral project that required the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Imperialist and high-priest of liberalism, John Stuart Mill, recognised that a free society required moral restraint. Indian liberalism, however, is literally and figuratively the rule by license, which recognises no obligation to others.

Fifteen years ago near financial bankruptcy compelled the Indian State to loosen License Raj in the economic field. Strangely, as the world transitions into a knowledge economy in which learning and training will have the highest value, the Indian State has come back with vengeance to expand License Raj in the field of education.

Nothing is forever. The great centres of learning in India before independence -- like the universities in Allahabad, Calcutta, Madras, Delhi and Bombay that produced some of the world's leading scholars of the first half of the 20th century -- are pale shadows of their old selves. One would expect that the IITs, IIMs, and AIIMS would also soon slide into mediocrity.

Perhaps the Indian elite are not particularly worried about all this. They don't need excellent institutions in India as much as they did twenty years ago. The world has become a village, and the rich will adjust by sending their children to colleges overseas in Europe, America, Australia, or Singapore.

The idea of partition is like the word 'divorce' in a marriage. Once it is out of the mouth, it can set forces in motion that make it unstoppable. One would expect that since the UPA government has now made an official statement about the quota legislation, it will come to pass sooner or later. Let Us remember that a year before the first partition, Gandhi announced that the 'partition will have to be over his dead body.' The government assumes that the opponents of the new partition will, like Gandhi, eventually learn to live with it.

It is obvious that since the principle has been conceded, there will be an attempt to expand reservations in private companies and then to expand them further based on religion.

Meanwhile, students who are agitating against the reservations and call themselves Youth for Equality have announced that their strike will continue. But the powers of the government are so vast that it is hard to see how the students who seek equality and autonomy will win.

It seems such an unequal struggle: the cold apparatus of the government on the one hand, and the passion of the students on the other. The students appear to echo the words of the Hindi poet, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar:

Man ki bandhi umange asahaaya jal rahi hain
Armaan aarazoo ki laashen nikal rahi hain
inake liye kahin se nirbheek tej laa de
pighale hue anala kaa inako amrit pilaa de

(Our mental aspirations are burning
desires and wishes have become dead
let the light of fearlessness be brought
let us drink the nectar of molten fire)

The students are already in; they are obviously fighting for principles and for morality.

The thought of something higher than personal gain brings to mind the writings of the British essayist-doctor Theodore Dalrymple, who has chronicled the contemporary sense of hopelessness in British youth in spite of material comforts at home. He claims that drugs, gratuitous sex, and breakdown of family are a consequence of the liberal State's focus on just the material and the internalisation of this value by the citizens. Dalrymple insists that one needs the transcendent also for meaning, and morality is part of the sphere of the transcendent.

Like their doctor-colleague in England, perhaps the agitating doctors in India are crying out for something much more than just the reservation of seats in colleges. They are fighting against the impending partitioning of India's soul.

... Read more !

"We can't build the nation with 19th century mindset" -- Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda, you are making a fundamental error in assuming that Arjun Singh cares about building the Nation at all.

Arjun Singh is not interested in building the Nation. He is simply interested in being Member of Parliament, being HRD Minister, enjoying political power, and stealing the people's money and stuffing them in Swiss Bank accounts.

In fact, almost all "leaders" of India are in this category. None of them care about what will happen to the people in the future, as long as they can win the next election.

Rediff interviews Sam Pitroda, Chairman, Knowledge Commission:
"We can't build the nation with 19th century mindset"

May 24, 2006

Sam Pitroda who is known for speaking his mind has done it once again.

Unlike the government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who appointed him chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, Pitroda believes that expansion of educational opportunities and facilities is the solution and not reservation.

In an exclusive e-mail interview to Managing Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt, he said though it was imperative that we right the wrongs done to a vast section of our society, reservation cannot become a blanket solution for all time to come.

Do you identify with the comments made by two of your colleagues who resigned from the National Knowledge Commission on Monday?

Let me first say that the resignation of two of my colleagues, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Andre Beteille, is a great loss to the Knowledge Commission. Their presence was of great value not just to me and the Commission but in our overall endeavour to turn India into a knowledge society.

My views on the question of reservations are quite well known. To the extent that Mehta and Beteille have spoken along those lines, I am in agreement with them on the need to focus on reservations in schools and not the universities.

The Commission's majority position has been quite clear in this regard. We are not in favour of reservations in the institutions of higher learning and for maintaining a status quo on other questions till such time as there is a national consensus on it.

I have spoken in favour of reservations at the primary level and in some ways even at the university level. However, we must give our institutions of higher education autonomy, freedom and flexibility to promote the best talent available to build the knowledge society of tomorrow.

We must recognise that there are separate issues related to access and excellence. We need both simultaneously.

Do you think the granting of quotas to OBCs in centrally managed/funded institutions of higher studies match the mandate given to you by the prime minister when he nominated you chairman of the Commission?

You must understand that the Commission's mandate is much larger than one or two specific issues. We have been entrusted with the task of looking at and advising on knowledge from five key standpoints of: Access to Knowledge; Knowledge Concepts; Knowledge Creation; Knowledge Application and Knowledge Services.

We are looking at generational changes and not changes related to the next term of a university. Reservations are just one part of a much larger puzzle related to access.

In access we are focusing on library networks, portals, translations, literacy, reservations and affirmative action programmes.

Don't you think that large section of OBCs in India have not been privy to advantages of reservation in the last five decades only because the government didn't improve the standards of primary education simultaneously? Why blame the poor and backward for acts of omission of the governments?

Proper primary education is the key to building a sound foundation for higher education in the university. I wish we focus on this first.

I also believe that every child must have opportunity for good education without worrying about caste or income levels. If the student is qualified we must find funding to support them in colleges.

It is time to go beyond labels that stigmatise an entire group of people. I believe now in the early part of the 21st century we should make fundamental changes in the way we approach the concept of education, employment, equality and empowerment.

How can one avoid the numerous instances where reservation has been an effective tool to empower the backward or 'dishonored' of Indian society?

I am not quite sure about the drift of your question. But if you mean how we can disregard so many examples of people having been helped by reservations, my answer would be we cannot.

But the point is it is time for a whole new approach in the 21st century. We cannot build the nation in the 21st century with the 19th century mindset.

Do you have any other roadmap to uplift the OBCs and other deserving classes than the current system of 'reservation?'

Among the five key areas that we at the Commission are looking at is access to knowledge. In that we have spoken about the need to significantly increase access to institutions of learning both at the primary as well at the higher levels of education.

Once we make access uniform I am sure you would begin to see all sections of society make gains. To improve access we must improve quantity and quality of higher education.

What is fundamentally wrong with the quota system? How do you offset the injustice meted to OBC and others since many centuries?

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the quota system as long as it is applied judiciously and at the right levels. It cannot become a blanket solution for all time to come.

It is absolutely imperative that we right wrongs done to a vast section of our society. The question is whether keeping them frozen in those labels forever is the right approach. I do not think so.

What we need is to create opportunities for everyone of equal merit to have proper access. On this subject there are many views and many sentiments. At times people look at this in terms of black and white while there are many shades of gray.

Would you like to share your own struggle to come up in life although you had a caste disadvantage? Did you face social speed-breakers or not?

It is my considered position to reject labels on the basis of anyone's birth. It is an outdated, antiquated thinking to keep talking about caste based disadvantages. The first step for me is to reject all such labels in the 21st century and focus on equality for youth.

In my case ;hard work, good education and focus on technology helped me a great deal to overcome any disadvantages that I had because of what people still obsessively describe as caste.

Technology gave me an equal footing for everything I have done in my life and career. I have said this before. Technology is a great leveler, second only to death. I have always negotiated challenges on the basis of my whatever little intrinsic merit quality and perseverance. I have never taken the route of quota or reservations. I hope this shows that it is possible.

... Read more !

Arjun Singh shows complete ignorance on Human Resources Development policy and Reservations issue

Arjun Singh claims to have proposed the Caste-based Reservations for "Other Backward Classes" for "social development". However, it is obvious that soclail development is very far from his mind -- and Casteist vote bank politics much closer -- when he fails to answer any questions at all on how his Reservations will help when 58 years of Caste-based Reservations for SC/STs has not improved their lot at all. He exhibits complete ignorance of history, sociology, past effects of Reservations, and the expected effects of his actions. He does not even know what percentage of India's population are OBC's, and cannot justify why he chose to allocate 27% of Reserved seats to them -- why not 10% or 40%, say. He just arbitrarily pulled the numbed out of thin air.

Just read the interview, and I am sure some interesting questions will pop into your mind. Such as...

How did this idiot ever get elected as Human Resources Development Minister ?

A better question: How did this idiot ever graduate from primary school ? From this conversation he seems to have an IQ of about 10 !

May God save the People of India from being ruled by complete idiots of this kind !
CNN-IBN reports:
Decision on quota is final: Arjun

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to the Devil's Advocate. As the debate over the reservations for the OBCs divides the country, we ask: What are the government's real intentions? That is the critical questions that I shall put today in an exclusive interview to the Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh.

Karan Thapar:Most of the people would accept that steps are necessary to help the OBCs gain greater access to higher education. The real question is: Why do you believe that reservations is the best way of doing this?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to say much more on this because these are decisions that are taken not by individuals alone. And in this case, the entire Parliament of this country - almost with rare unanimity - has decided to take this decision.

Karan Thapar: Except that Parliament is not infallible. In the Emergency, when it amended the Constitution, it was clearly wrong, it had to reverse its own amendments. So, the question arises: Why does Parliament believe that the reservation is the right way of helping the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Nobody is infallible. But Parliament is Supreme and at least I, as a Member of Parliament, cannot but accept the supremacy of Parliament.

Karan Thapar: No doubt Parliament is supreme, but the Constitutional amendment that gives you your authorities actually enabling amendment, it is not a compulsory requirement. Secondly, the language of the amendment does not talk about reservations, the language talks about any provision by law for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes. So, you could have chosen anything other than reservations, why reservations?

Arjun Singh: Because as I said, that was the 'will and desire of the Parliament'.

Karan Thapar: Do you personally also, as Minister of Human Resource Development, believe that reservations is the right and proper way to help the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Certainly, that is one of the most important ways to do it.

Karan Thapar: The right way?

Arjun Singh: Also the right way.

Karan Thapar: In which case, lets ask a few basic questions. We are talking about the reservations for the OBCs in particular. Do you know what percentage of the Indian population is OBC? Mandal puts it at 52 per cent, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) at 32 per cent, the National Family and Health Survey at 29.8 per cent, which is the correct figure?

Arjun Singh: I think that should be decided by people who are more knowledgeable. But the point is that the OBCs form a fairly sizeable percentage of our population.

Karan Thapar: No doubt, but the reason why it is important to know 'what percentage' they form is that if you are going to have reservations for them, then you must know what percentage of the population they are, otherwise you don't know whether they are already adequately catered to in higher educational institutions or not.

Arjun Singh: That is obvious - they are not.

Karan Thapar: Why is it obvious?

Arjun Singh: Obvious because it is something which we all see.

Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that the NSSO, which is a government appointed body, has actually in its research in 1999 - which is the most latest research shown - that 23.5 per cent of all university seats are already with the OBCs. And that is just 8.5 per cent less than what the NSSO believes is the OBC share of the population. So, for a difference of 8 per cent, would reservations be the right way of making up the difference?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to go behind all this because, as I said, Parliament has taken a view and it has taken a decision, I am a servant of Parliament and I will only implement.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely, Parliament has taken a view, I grant it. But what people question is the simple fact - Is there a need for reservations? If you don't know what percentage of the country is OBC and if, furthermore, the NSSO is correct in pointing out that already 23.5 per cent of the college seats are with the OBC, then you don't have a case in terms of need.

Arjun Singh: College seats, I don't know.

Karan Thapar: According to the NSSO - which is a government appointed body - 23.5 per cent of the college seats are already with the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: What do you mean by college seats?

Karan Thapar: University seats, seats of higher education.

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know I have not come across that so far.

Karan Thapar: So, when critics say to you that you don't have a case for reservation in terms of need, what do you say to them?

Arjun Singh: I have said what I had to say and the point is that that is not an issue for us to now debate.

Karan Thapar: You mean the chapter is now closed?

Arjun Singh: The decision has been taken.

Karan Thapar: Regardless of whether there is a need or not, the decision is taken and it is a closed chapter.

Arjun Singh: So far as I can see, it is a closed chapter and that is why I have to implement what all Parliament has said.

Karan Thapar: Minister, it is not just in terms of 'need' that your critics question the decision to have reservation for OBCs in higher education. More importantly, they question whether reservations themselves are efficacious and can work.

For example, a study done by the IITs themselves shows that 50 per cent of the IIT seats for the SCs and STs remain vacant, and for the remaining 50 per cent, 25 per cent are the candidates who even after six years fail to get their degrees. So, clearly, in their case, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: I would only say that on this issue, it would not be correct to go by all these figures that have been paraded.

Karan Thapar: You mean the IIT figures themselves could be dubious?

Arjun Singh: Not dubious, but I think that is not the last word.

Karan Thapar: All right, maybe the IIT may not be the last word, let me then quote to you the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the welfare for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes - that is a Parliamentary body.

It says, that looking at the Delhi University, between 1995 and 2000, just half the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Castes level and just one-third of the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Tribes level were filled. All the others went empty, unfilled. So, again, even in Delhi University, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: If they are not working, it does not mean that for that reason we don't need them. There must be some other reason why they are not working and that can be certainly probed and examined. But to say that for this reason, 'no reservations need to be done' is not correct.

Karan Thapar: Fifty years after the reservations were made, statistics show, according to The Hindustan Times, that overall in India, only 16 per cent of the places in higher education are occupied by SCs and STs. The quota is 22.5 per cent, which means that only two-thirds of the quota is occupied. One-third is going waste, it is being denied to other people.

Arjun Singh: As I said, the kind of figures that have been brought out, in my perception, do not reflect the realities. Realities are something much more and, of course, there is an element of prejudice also.

Karan Thapar: But these are figures that come from a Parliamentary Committee. It can't be prejudiced; they are your own colleagues.

Arjun Singh: Parliamentary Committee has given the figures, but as to why this has not happened, that is a different matter.

Karan Thapar: I put it to you that you don't have a case for reservations in terms of need, you don't have a case for reservations in terms of their efficacy, why then, are you insisting on extending them to the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: I don't want to use that word, but I think that your argument is basically fallacious.

Karan Thapar: But it is based on all the facts available in the public domain.

Arjun Singh: Those are facts that need to be gone into with more care. What lies behind those facts, why this has not happened, that is also a fact.

Karan Thapar: Let’s approach the issue of reservations differently in that case. Reservations mean that a lesser-qualified candidate gets preference over a more qualified candidate, solely because in this case, he or she happens to be an OBC. In other words, the upper castes are being penalised for being upper caste.

Arjun Singh: Nobody is being penalised and that is a factor that we are trying to address. I think that the Prime Minister will be talking to all the political parties and will be putting forward a formula, which will see that nobody is being penalised.

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about that formula, but before we come to talk about how you are going to address concerns, let me point one other corollary: Reservations also gives preference and favour to caste over merit. Is that acceptable in a modern society?

Arjun Singh: I don't think the perceptions of modern society fit India entirely.

Karan Thapar: You mean India is not a modern society and therefore can't claim to be treated as one?

Arjun Singh: It is emerging as a modern society, but the parameters of a modern society do not apply to large sections of the people in this country.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you Jawaharlal Nehru, a man whom you personally admire enormously. On the 27th of June 1961 wrote to the Chief Ministers of the day as follows: I dislike any kind of reservations. If we go in for any kind of reservations on communal and caste basis, we will swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate. The moment we encourage the second-rate, we are lost. And then he adds pointedly: This way lies not only folly, but also disaster. What do you say to Jawaharlal Nehru today?

Arjun Singh: Jawaharlal Nehru was a great man in his own right and not only me, but everyone in India accept his view.

Karan Thapar: But you are just about to ignore his advice.

Arjun Singh: No. Are you aware that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who introduced the first amendment regarding OBCs?

Karan Thapar: Yes, and I am talking about Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, when clearly he had changed his position, he said, “I dislike any kind of reservations”.

Arjun Singh: I don't think one could take Panditji's position at any point of time and then overlook what he had himself initiated.

Karan Thapar: Am I then to understand that regardless of the case that is made against reservations in terms of need, regardless of the case that has been made against reservations in terms of efficacy, regardless of the case that has been made against reservations in terms of Jawaharlal Nehru, you remain committed to extending reservations to the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: I said because that is the will of Parliament. And I think that common decisions that are taken by Parliament have to be honoured.

Karan Thapar: Let me ask you a few basic questions. If reservations are going to happen for the OBCs in higher education, what percentage of reservations are we talking about?

Arjun Singh: No, that I can't say because that has yet to be decided.

Karan Thapar: Could it be less than 27 per cent?

Arjun Singh: I can't say anything on that, I have told you in the very beginning that at this point of time it is not possible for me to.

Karan Thapar: Quite right. If you can't say, then that also means that the figure has not been decided.

Arjun Singh: The figure will be decided, it has not been decided yet.

Karan Thapar: The figure has not been decided. So, therefore the figure could be 27, but it could be less than 27, too?

Arjun Singh: I don't want to speculate on that because as I said, that is a decision which will be taken by Parliament.

Karan Thapar: Whatever the figure, one thing is certain that when the reservations for OBCs happen, the total quantum of reservations will go up in percentage terms. Will you compensate by increasing the total number of seats in colleges, universities, IITs and IIMs so that the other students don't feel deprived.

Arjun Singh: That is one of the suggestions that has been made and is being seriously considered.

Karan Thapar: Does it find favour with you as a Minister for Human Resource Development?

Arjun Singh: Whatever suggestion comes, we are committed to examine it.

Karan Thapar: You may be committed to examine it, but do you as minister believe that that is the right way forward?

Arjun Singh: That could be one of the ways, but not the only way.

Karan Thapar: What are the other ways?

Arjun Singh: I don't know. That is for the Prime Minister and the other ministers to decide.

Karan Thapar: One way forward would be to increase the total number of seats.

Arjun Singh: Yes, definitely.

Karan Thapar: But the problem is that, as the Times of India points out, we are talking of an increase of perhaps as much as 53 per cent. Given the constraints you have in terms of faculty and infrastructure, won't that order of increase dilute the quality of education?

Arjun Singh: I would only make one humble request, don't go by The Times of India and The Hindustan Times about faculty and infrastructure, because they are trying to focus on an argument which they have made.

Karan Thapar: All right, I will not go by The Times of India, let me instead go by Sukhdev Thorat, the Chairman of the UGC. He points out that today, at higher education levels - that is all universities, IITs and IIMs - there is already a 1.2 lakh vacancy number. Forty per cent of these are in teaching staff, which the IIT faculty themselves point out that they have shortages of up to 30 per cent. Given those two constraint, can you increase the number of seats?

Arjun Singh: That can be addressed and that shortage can be taken care of.

Karan Thapar: But it can't be taken care of in one swoop, it will take several years to do it.

Arjun Singh: I don't know whether it can be taken care of straightway or in stages, that is a subject to be decided.

Karan Thapar: Let me ask you bluntly, if you were to agree to compensate for reservations for OBCs by increasing the number of seats, would that increase happen at one go, or would it be staggered over a period of two-three or four year old process.

Arjun Singh: As I told you, it is an issue that I cannot comment upon at this moment because that is under examination.

Karan Thapar: So, it may happen in one go and it may happen in a series of several years.

Arjun Singh: I can't speculate on that because that is not something on which I am free to speak on today.

Karan Thapar: Will the reservation for OBCs, whatever figure your Committee decides on, will it happen in one go, or will it slowly be introduced in stages?

Arjun Singh: That also I cannot say because, as I told you, all these issues are under consideration.

Karan Thapar: Which means that everything that is of germane interest to the people concerned is at the moment 'under consideration' and the government is not able to give any satisfaction to the students who are deeply concerned.

Arjun Singh: That is not the point. The government knows what to do and it will do what is needed.

Karan Thapar: But if the government knows what to do, why won't you tell me what the government wants to do?

Arjun Singh: Because unless the decision is taken, I cannot tell you.

Karan Thapar: But you can share with me as the minister what you are thinking.

Arjun Singh: No.

Karan Thapar: So, in other words, we are manitaining a veil of secrecy and the very people who are concerned...

Arjun Singh: I am not maintaining a veil of secrecy. I am only telling you what propriety allows me to tell you.

Karan Thapar: Propriety does not allow you to share with the people who are protesting on the streets what you are thinking of?

Arjun Singh: I don't think that that can happen all the time.

Karan Thapar: But there are people who feel that their lives and their futures are at stake and they are undertaking fasts until death.

Arjun Singh: It is being hyped up, I don't want to go into that.

Karan Thapar: Do you have no sympathy for them?

Arjun Singh: I have every sympathy.

Karan Thapar: But you say it is being hyped up.

Arjun Singh: Yes, it is hyped up.

Karan Thapar: So, then, what sympathy are you showing?

Arjun Singh: I am showing sympathy to them and not to those who are hyping it up.

Karan Thapar: The CPM says that if the reservations for the OBCs are to happen, then what is called the ‘creamy layer’ should be excluded. How do you react to that?

Arjun Singh: The ‘creamy layer’ issue has already been taken care of by the Supreme Court.

Karan Thapar: That was vis-a-vis jobs in employment, what about at the university level, should they be excluded there as well because you are suggesting that the answer is yes?

Arjun Singh: That could be possible.

Karan Thapar: It could be possible that the ‘creamy layer’ is excluded from reservations for OBCs in higher education?

Arjun Singh: It could be, but I don't know whether it would happen actually.

Karan Thapar: Many people say that if reservations for OBCs in higher education happen, then the children of beneficiaries should not be entitled to claim the same benefit.

Arjun Singh: Why?

Karan Thapar: So that there is always a shrinking base and the rate doesn't proliferate.

Arjun Singh: I don't think that that is a very logical way of looking at it.

Karan Thapar: Is that not acceptable to you?

Arjun Singh: No, it is not the logical way of looking at it.

Karan Thapar: So, with the possible exception of the creamy layer exclusion, reservation for OBCs in higher education will be almost identical to the existing reservations for SC/STs?

Arjun Singh: Except for the percentage.

Karan Thapar: Except for the percentage.

Arjun Singh: Yes.

Karan Thapar: So, in every other way, they will be identical.

Arjun Singh: Yes, in every other way.

Karan Thapar: Mr Arjun Singh, on the 5th of April when you first indicated that the Government was considering reservation for OBCs in higher education, was the Prime Minister in agreement that this was the right thing to do?

Arjun Singh: I think, there is a very motivated propaganda on this issue. Providing reservation to OBCs was in the public domain right from December 2005, when Parliament passed the enabling resolution.

Karan Thapar: Quite true. But had the Prime Minister specifically agreed on or before 5th of April to the idea?

Arjun Singh: Well, I am telling you it was already there. A whole Act was made, the Constitution was amended and the Prime Minister was fully aware of what this is going to mean. Actually, he had a meeting in which OBC leaders were called to convince them that this would give them the desired advantage. And they should, therefore, support this resolution. And at that meeting, he himself talked to them. Now, how do you say that he was unaware?

Karan Thapar: But were you at all aware that the Prime Minister might be in agreement with what was about to happen but might not wish it disclosed publicly at that point of time? Were you aware of that?

Arjun Singh: It was already there in public domain, that's what I am trying to tell you.

Karan Thapar: Then answer this to me. Why are members of the PMO telling journalists that Prime Minister was not consulted and that you jumped the gun?

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know which member of the PMO you are talking about unless you name him.

Karan Thapar: Is there a conspiracy to make you the Fall Guy?

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know whether there is one or there is not. But Fall Guys are not made in this way. And I am only doing what was manifestly clear to every one, was cleared by the party and the Prime Minister. There is no question of any personal agenda.

Karan Thapar: They say that, in fact, you brought up this issue to embarrass the Prime Minister.

Arjun Singh: Why should I embarrass the Prime Minister? I am with him. I am part of his team.

Karan Thapar: They say that you have a lingering, forgive the word, jealousy because Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh and not you as Prime Minister.

Arjun Singh: Well, that is canard which is below contempt. Only that person can say this who doesn't know what kind of respect and regard I hold for Sonia Gandhi. She is the leader. Whatever she decides is acceptable to me.

Karan Thapar: They also say that you brought this issue up because you felt that the Prime Minister had been eating into your portfolio. Part of it had gone to Renuka Chaudhury and, in fact, your new deputy minister Purandar Sridevi had taken over certain parts. This was your way of getting back.

Arjun Singh: No one was taking over any part. This is a decision which the Prime Minister makes as to who has to have what portfolio. And he asked Mrs Renuka Devi to take it and he cleared it with me first.

Karan Thapar: So there is no animus on your part?

Arjun Singh: Absolutely not.

Karan Thapar: They say that you did this because you resented the Prime Minister's popular image in the country, that this was your way of embroiling him in a dispute that will make him look not like a modern reformer but like an old-fashioned, family-hold politician instead.

Arjun Singh: Well, the Tammany Hall political stage is over. He is our Prime Minister and every decision he has taken is in the full consent with his Cabinet and I don't think there can be any blame on him.

Karan Thapar: One, then, last quick question. Do you think this is an issue, which is a sensitive issue, where everyone knew there would have been passions and emotions that would have been aroused has been handled as effectively as it should have been?

Arjun Singh: Well, I have not done anything on it. I have not, sort of what you call, jumped the gun. If this is an issue, which is sensitive, everyone has to treat it that way.

Karan Thapar: But your conscience as HRD Minister is clear?

Arjun Singh: Absolutely clear.

Karan Thapar: There is nothing that you could have done to make it easier for the young students?

Arjun Singh: Well, I am prepared to do anything that can be done. And it is being attempted.

Karan Thapar: For seven weeks, they have been protesting in the hot sun. No minister has gone there to appease them, to allay their concerns, to express sympathy for them. Have politicians let the young people of India down?

Arjun Singh: Well, I myself called them. They all came in this very room.

Karan Thapar: But you are the only one.

Arjun Singh: You are accusing me only. No one else is being accused.

Karan Thapar: What about the Government of India? Has the Government of India failed to respond adequately?

Arjun Singh: From the Government of India also, the Defence Minister met them.

Karan Thapar: Only recently.

Arjun Singh: That is something because everyone was busy with the elections.

Karan Thapar: For seven weeks no one met them.

Arjun Singh: No, but we are very concerned. Certainly, all of us resent the kind of force that was used. I condemned it the very first day it happened.

Karan Thapar: All right, Mr Arjun Singh. We have reached the end of this interview. Thank you very much for speaking on the subject.

... Read more !

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Are Brahmins the Dalits of today ?" -- Francois Gautier

Anti-India Leftists paint a picture showing Brahmins to be clever, cunning, powerful, and exploitative people at the top of India's sociel hierarchy. This world view drives adoption of anti-"upper caste" policies such as the Reservations Raj of India.

However, the reality seems to be very different.

The Leftists have virtually succeeded in destroying Brahmins and other so-called "upper castes" with their Casteist policies.

Francois Gautier writes on Rediff:

Are Brahmins the Dalits of today?

May 23, 2006

At a time when the Congress government wants to raise the quota for Other Backward Classes to 49.5 per cent in private and public sectors, nobody talks about the plight of the upper castes. The public image of the Brahmins, for instance, is that of an affluent, pampered class. But is it so today?

There are 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi; all of them are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins (this very welcome public institution was started by a Brahmin). A far cry from the elitist image that Brahmins have!

There are five to six Brahmins manning each Shauchalaya. They came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of income, as they were a minority in most of their villages, where Dalits are in majority (60 per cent to 65 per cent). In most villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them secure jobs in villages.

Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmins working as coolies at Delhi's railway stations? One of them, Kripa Shankar Sharma, says while his daughter is doing her Bachelors in Science he is not sure if she will secure a job.

"Dalits often have five to six kids, but they are confident of placing them easily and well," he says. As a result, the Dalit population is increasing in villages. He adds: "Dalits are provided with housing, even their pigs have spaces; whereas there is no provision for gaushalas (cowsheds) for the cows of the Brahmins."

You also find Brahmin rickshaw pullers in Delhi. 50 per cent of Patel Nagar's rickshaw pullers are Brahmins who like their brethren have moved to the city looking for jobs for lack of employment opportunities and poor education in their villages.

Even after toiling the whole day, Vijay Pratap and Sidharth Tiwari, two Brahmin rickshaw pullers, say they are hardly able to make ends meet. These men make about Rs 100 to Rs 150 on an average every day from which they pay a daily rent of Rs 25 for their rickshaws and Rs 500 to Rs 600 towards the rent of their rooms which is shared by 3 to 4 people or their families.

Did you also know that most rickshaw pullers in Banaras are Brahmins?

This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and politics. Most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out of 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins -- the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs.

400,000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley, the once respected Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country, sometimes in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling conditions. But who gives a damn about them? Their vote bank is negligible.

And this is not limited to the North alone. 75 per cent of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins. A study of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh (Brahmins of India by J Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications) reveals that today all purohits live below the poverty line.

Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the 'backward classes' prevented them from providing secular education to their children.

In fact, according to this study there has been an overall decline in the number of Brahmin students. With the average income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level. In the 5 to 18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent at the pre-matriculation level.

The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line -- below a per capita income of Rs 650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India figure.

There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. In this connection it would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka finance minister in the state assembly: Christians Rs 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537.

Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their local influence and institutions. Brahmins initially turned to government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine. But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well.

According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants. The unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent. Seventy percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs 500 per month as priests in various temples (Department of Endowments statistics).

Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even forced to beg for alms for survival. There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected.

At Tamil Nadu's Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest's monthly salary is Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests' reputation as 'haves' and as 'exploiters.' The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy.

The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The Congress quickly cashed in on it after Independence, but probably no other government than Sonia Gandhi's has gone so far in shamelessly dividing Indian society for garnering votes.

The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) for salaries of imams in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are suffering in silence today, seeing the minorities slowly taking control of their majority.

Anti-Brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack Brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism.

So the question has to be asked: are the Brahmins (and other upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of today ?

... Read more !

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rang De Basanti: the brutal repression of Indian students

Rang De Basanti for real: brutal repression of Indian students protesting Casteist reservations by Indian Police.... young bodies mercilessly beaten up, bones broken, internal bleeding, not even girl students spared... the first Jallian Walla Bagh of Independent India

Police not protecting them... only reason.. they asked for a life with Equality...

They can remember those books which said "Right to Speech"...

They can remember those books which said "Right to Equality"...

Some of the most intelligent students in India...

On an HUNGER STRIKE for 96 hours.... 125 collapsed

Begging for the right to talk...

Class rooms sold for the votes..

Media prohibited from covering..

All other political Parties are silent as students who thought they had the right to peacefully protest in a Democracy are crushed...

Casteism is banned by the Constitution, and yet Casteist Reservation makes a mockery of the original Constitution of India

Secularism and Equality are dead... killed by V P Singh and Arjun Singh...

India is Divided and Ruled by Criminals

Lets give a hand to all the students, we can make a revolution

Pass this on to as many people as you know..

Its we who live here in the future.
... Read more !

At Ground Zero of the Quota Protests

Rediff covers the brave students who have single-handedly decided to fight the might of the Indian government. May Justice be done. May Truth win. May the Casteist vote-banker Arjun Singh be exposed for what he is: en enemy of the people of India. Satyameva Jayate.

Rediff reports:

Text and Photographs: Sheela Bhatt

Anger, energy and ideas fill the air at what can be called the Ground Zero of the anti-reservation stir -- New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

This is where the pulse of the anti-reservation protests lies, with members of the Youth for Equality group opposing the government's quota for Other Backward Classes in higher educational institutions.

On Monday, there were 88 students on hunger strike. Over the past week, more than 45 students have collapsed.

As soon as Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh spoke of implementing the 93rd Amendment passed by Parliament last year on April 7, 2006, resident doctors and medical students met informally to discuss the issue. Slowly, the number of meetings increased, more and more colleges and students joined what was to become in days a national agitation.

The protestors' commitment remains steadfast. It also appears that, gradually, the medical students have shifted their target from Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress party.

The students vent their anger against politicians and disgust against educational policies, sometimes with imaginative slogans such as these:

Even God doesn't know what is OBC.
Reserve versus Deserve
Reservation is a disease and not cure
Don't reserve me, give me what I deserve
My hunger strike will leave you crippled!
Don't play bias and dirty politics
Is it a hand of Congress or a slap on our face?
I didn't vote last time but this time I will -- Congress you will have to pay the price.
50% reservation 100% politics
Even God doesn't know what is OBC

Close to collapse, Sachin Maggo has just broken his hunger strike after eight days.

"I went on hunger strike because I want the government to help the backward classes by starting more primary schools," he told "By imposing these quotas, the government is working in a reverse direction."

"When you sit on a strike at AIIMS you know that how important it is to protest the political demand for quotas. We are the center of gravity. We know that movement is growing from here. The message is spread from here by the media," he added.

A core committee manages the agitation.

Of the committee's eleven members, five are students while six are resident doctors at New Delhi's four medical colleges.

Vishal Sharma, Amitasha Sinha, Sasmit Sarangi, Riten, Safal, Manav, Neha and other members of the core committee meet every morning to chalk out the day's programme.

The agitators have formed nine committees -- Mass mobilization, Coordination, Finance, Legal, Lawn coordination Committee (where the fasting students sit and sleep), Media committee, Communication, Security and Events planning.

The pandal where the fasting students and other protestors are based is located inside the AIIMS premises. It has coolers and fans; some students organise bottles of mineral water for the fasting doctors. Dr Vishal Sharma, a member of the core committee, told "We are short of funds, but not short of supporters."

The students seem happy with the media coverage they are getting. Now welded into a strong structure, most of them are from economically comfortable backgrounds and seem capable to continually innovate at the protests.

By Monday afternoon, apart from slogans and illustrations like the one in the photograph, the students began a mailing campaign to the prime minister.

The result? Some intelligent, some snide, some serious and all angry messages to Dr Singh.

In just an hour, nearly 1,000 postcards were written out by students, faculty from various colleges and other supporters of the anti-quota movement.

The heady of one department at AIIMS wrote: Would you wait so long if your own children were on hunger strike?

A housewife wrote: PM, I thought you are a wise man but you are proving to be the enemy of my children.

A student wrote: Jago Mohan pyare, Jago.

A lady teacher wrote: PM, you can't strengthen the weak by weakening the country.

Many students wrote just a line: We will not vote for you, Mr Prime Minister.

One man told Dr Singh: India is not for sale.

Most postcards carried the message: First keep the OBC quota in Parliament, then turn to us.

One professor wrote: PM please connect!

A medical student said: British divided us, we fought them. Whom do we fight now?

Some postcards to Dr Singh showed extreme bias.

A lady officer in the local education department wrote: Some Indians are backward because of two things. 1) lack of primary education facilities 2) Genetic defects amongst tribal, lower classes and OBCs.

The other voice, of the pro-quota protestors, is hardly heard at AIIMS.

When a security officer was asked at the entrance, he said, "Pro-quota medical students and teachers come every afternoon. They shout slogans for an hour and then run away. Woh bichaare sharmaate hain. Log dekhne aate hain to dar ke bhag jaate hain." (The poor chaps are shy. When people come to look at them, they get scared and run).

... Read more !

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The middle class deserves what it is getting

The Indian middle class needs to wake up. It is now politically completely marginalized.

The days of educated and intelligent leaders need to come back if the country wants to move forward.

Sushant Sareen argues convincingly on Rediff:
The middle class deserves what it is getting

May 17, 2006

Use of 'reservations' as a tool for increasing political support base suffers from a dual paradox. One, even though 'reservations' is a populist measure, it doesn't bring new votes; but it might lose you votes.
Second, the moment a person is empowered, he will no longer be beholden to the party or person who empowered him. After all, isn't empowerment all about being able to exercise choice?

Indeed, once empowered, an individual and a community will not be satisfied with the sops given in the past; their demands will increase and political players will find it increasingly difficult to live up to rising expectations of the newly empowered.

This is why Bijli-Sadak-Paani (BSP) and issues like law and order are taking centre-stage in areas where once Mandir and Mandal ruled the roost.

The politics of competitive reservations is useful only until the policy is implemented. Once reservations are implemented, they stop yielding any dividend to their advocates. Remember the Hindi saying; 'Bund mutthi lakh ki, khul gayi to khaak ki' (the closed fist is worth a lakh, but once it is open it is worth nothing).

Look at what happened to V P Singh. He is so rootless that he is reduced to trying to project himself as a messiah of the weak by protesting against eviction of slum-dwellers, and this, not in his local constituency -- which he doesn't have -- but in Delhi where he can't win a resident welfare association election.

The fate of 'leaders' like Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh, who have lost even the pretension of having any sort of a mass base among the electorate and yet continue to espouse anachronistic policies that they hope will make them relevant once again, will be no different.

Using reservations as a tool to carve a vote-bank has a number of other problems. The biggest problem is that any new reservation policy tends to polarise society along caste lines. The result of this social polarisation is that the beneficiaries of reservations tend to gravitate towards their caste-men, causing a political polarisation in which caste leaders emerge on top of the political process.

But since a single caste is not large enough to win elections, caste alliances are struck, which in turn leads to further social and political polarisation. The biggest casualty in all this is governance. With politics getting reduced to caste affinities, nothing that a supporting caste-man does is wrong -- rape, murder, dacoity, sedition, kidnapping, every crime of caste leaders is forgiven to retain the support of the caste.

The second big problem with reservations is that since no political party has the guts -- or vision and conviction -- to oppose quotas, they all support this policy. This is a damage limitation exercise by political parties.

Political parties know that opposing reservations will lose them votes of the sections of society being targeted by the reservations; but they also know that supporting the policy of reservations will not them bring new votes.

In the end, this becomes a zero-sum game in the face of a difficult political situation.

In this process, people like Arjun Singh, who hope to attract voters, turn out to be the biggest losers. Not only do they not get the votes of those whom they are targeting, they also lose votes of those sections of society who have lost out because of the new reservations.

Indeed, even though political opponents have been forced to support the reservations, they manage to attract the support of the sufferers, who in reaction to the policy, want to punish the proponents of the policy by voting for their opponents.

Interestingly, ever since the Congress government has announced its intentions of unleashing another round of reservations on this country, a strange phenomenon seems to be unraveling -- the OBC leaders aren't going ga-ga over the proposal.

A decade-and-a-half after Mandal, and the consequent crystallisation of caste vote banks, OBC leaders have realised that they now need to broad base their appeal. This can be done by attracting upper caste voters into their fold.

Mayawati is wooing Brahmins, Laloo and Mulayam are wooing the Rajputs, the trading community are hedging their bets and are no longer entirely in the BJP camp. The OBC leaders also know that while no one will be able to oppose these proposals, the wrath of the sufferers will fall on the proponents, while the benefits will accrue to them, after all they are the representatives of those who will benefit from Mandal-II.

So why make a song and dance about the whole thing and unnecessarily antagonise potential vote banks, something that will only benefit rival parties like the BJP.

Politics apart, reservations now being contemplated -- in all educational institutions (government and private) and probably also in the private sector -- will have devastating consequences not only on social harmony in the country but will also severely restrict opportunities for that section of society that seeks to get over its disabilities by advancing through education.

What is worse, if implemented, this reservation policy will lead to a reverse monopoly over avenues of advancement in favour of the OBCs. As things stand, the OBCs are today dominating politics in both the states as well as the Centre. They are also increasingly dominating the civil services. The only avenue left for the so-called upper castes was the very competitive private sector. But to get into the private sector required good education. This too will now be denied, or at least severely restricted, because of reservations in educational institutions.

Perhaps, if reservations were limited to only government or government-aided institutions, new opportunities would be available by the setting up of private educational institutions. But here too politicians have reserved seats for the so-called deprived sections. So, where do upper-caste students go?

It is not just the unfairness of the whole thing that is so galling. The whole reservation policy is really nothing more than taking a short-cut to address the deprivation of the weaker sections, a short-cut that in the long-run doesn't help anyone and leads to only an abyss.

This is because once a community gets used to walking on crutches, it can never find the moral, physical or even intellectual strength to walk on its own two feet. While there is not an iota of doubt that deprived and depressed communities require a degree of affirmative action, reservations is certainly not the answer to raise the self-esteem of marginalised people.

Rather than reservations, the government must provide excellent public education to all citizens. Let government schools compete and even beat private schools in education. But this means doing hard work to revamp the moribund public education system. In fact, the state schools are so bad that their products are educated worse than they would be as illiterates.

This was not always the case. Before independence, hardly anyone studied in private schools. The standard of even village schools was so good that their products went on to join top colleges and excelled in their chosen professions and careers.

But now, it is a curse to educate a child in these schools. The thousands of crores spent every year on public education is nothing but a huge waste. It is an open challenge to show one political leader in India, including VP Singh and Arjun Singh, who's children study in state schools.

Unless this happens, there isn't a hope in hell for public education. Incidentally, these messiahs of the poor prefer to get their own treatment done in the most expensive hospitals of the world where they know that no reserved category doctor will be treating them.

So before we start off on a new round of reservations let us pass a law that no one will be allowed to go abroad for medical treatment.

Finally, a word about the people who have most to lose from the new reservation policy. Frankly, the Indian middle class deserves what it is getting. The basic lesson which they need to learn is that if they don't shed their supercilious attitude towards politics and don't vote, and don't express their outrage with everything that is wrong in this country, they will get by-passed.

Today, not one MP depends on the middle class for winning his seat. As a result, not one MP espouses the cause and concerns of the middle class. Unless the middle class organises itself into a lobby and learns to leverage its votes for good governance, it will continue to be ignored and marginalised in their own country.

... Read more !

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