Reservation in Higher Education and Jobs- Divide and Rule Strategy

Introduction:

“Reservation in Higher Education and Jobs in Private Sector”…Yes or No? There has been lot of debate on this subject across the country. People are agitating…people are on hunger strike; Students have different views…professionals have different views. As per the interview with Cabinet Minister, (Human Resourse Development) Mr. Arjun Singh…on CNN-IBN, he is not willing to accept any facts and fingers. In short, after the interview he looks like a confused person…might be an effect of his age. Lets start from the very beginning, on the 27th of June 1961 Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru (First Prime Minister of India) wrote to the Chief Ministers: 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.

Lets have a look at some other figures…”Learning from Past Experiences”…

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? 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. Parliamentary Committee on the welfare for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes 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.”

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. 40 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.

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.

In short, 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 penalized for being upper caste.

Why Quota? Why Reservations? Will this help “underprivileged” communities to come at par with others? I don’t think so. If the foundation is not strong…one cannot make strong building on it. If you really want to bring everyone on same platform…strengthen the Primary Education; Improve the course material; provide teachers at that level and make people strong enough to compete with each other…provide the platform for institutes and corporates to choose the best.

Mandal Commission…A regretful step…First Major Step towards reservation and quota system…beginning of caste based politics…

1) The Mandal Commission was officially called Second backward Classes Commission.

2) It derives its name from parliamentarian BP Mandal, who chaired the Commission.

3) The Mandal Commission was constituted by the Morarji Desai government in 1978 to consider action politics for backward classes, aimed at redressing caste discrimination.

4) The Commission Report was submitted in Dec 1980. It sought reservation for 27 per cent of all services and public sector undertakings under the central government and 27 per cent of all admissions to institutions of higher education for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

5) The percentage was over and above the existing 22.5 per cent reservation for SCs/STs.

6) In Aug 1990, the then Prime Minister VP Singh assured its implementation in government jobs.

7) It led to widespread protests, which finally led to his resignation.

8) There were many self-immolations attempts, including that of Rajeev Goswami, a DU student.

9) In 1993, the Supreme Court upheld 27 per cent reservation for OBCs.

10) But it was subject to the exclusion of socially advanced persons/sections from amongst the OBCs.

11) Children of Class I officers with income of Re one lakh were also excluded.

12) The exclusion-income limit was revised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004.

13) The reservation came into effect in Sept 1993 after the recommendations were accepted.

14) In Aug 2005, the SC abolished all caste-based reservations in unaided private colleges.

15) On Dec 2005, the Lok Sabha passed the 104th Constitution Amendment Act 2005, rolling back the SC judgement.

16) The new clause allowed reservations for SC/ST and OBCs in private unaided educational institutions.

17) The latest controversy erupted over the government’s proposal to introduce 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in central government-funded higher educational institutes like IITs and IIMs.

Earlier Mandal Commission identified 11 indicators for providing reservation and quota is higher education. They were:

Social

Castes/classes considered as socially backward by others.

Castes/classes which mainly depend on manual labour for their livelihood.

Castes/classes where the percentage of married women below 17 is 25% above the state average in rural areas and 10% in urban areas; and that of married men is 10% and 5% above the state average in rural and urban areas respectively.

Castes/classes where participation of females in work is at least 25% above the state average.

Educational

Castes/classes where the number of children in the age group of 5 to 15 years who never attended school is at least 25% above the state average.

Castes/classes where the rate of student drop-out in the age group of 5-15 years is at least 25% above the state average.

Castes/classes amongst whom the proportion of matriculates is at least 25% below the state average

Economic

Castes/classes where the average value of family assets is at least 25% below the state average.

Castes/classes where the number of families living in kachcha houses is at least 25 % above the state average.

Castes/classes where the source of drinking water is beyond half a kilometer for more than 50% of the households.

Castes/classes where the number of the house-holds having taken a consumption loan is at least 25% above the state average.

We have seen even during those years that “Reservation” is just not acceptable. Even if after Close to 60 yrs of Independence (we will be celebrating our Diamond jubilee year of Independence between 15th August 2006-15th August 2007), we are saying that we have not done anything to bring up the social status of people then we are just nullifying all the achievements. Had this been done 5 yrs or 10 yrs after the independence…it would have been acceptable but not after 55 yrs of independence.

Conclusion

Need is to improve the standard of education at “Primary Level”, make people competent enough to fight in “Open Competition” and not to reserve the seats or provide any type of quota. The vociferous protest against reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the growing unease about reservations for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes reflects the sharp conflicts which are erupting in Indian society over the distribution of a limited number of Government jobs and educational resources. It should be noted that the vocal opposition to the reservations for OBCs goes hand in hand with a more disguised resentment against reservation for the scheduled castes and tribes. One has only to recall to the Gujarat anti-reservation movement of 1981 and the recent December, 1989 U.P. agitation against the Parliament extending the reservation of seats in legislatures for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes for another ten years.

The movement against reservations in the present Indian context is definitely retrograde and objectively serves the interests of those who seek to preserve the dominance of the upper castes. The plea against reservations is advanced on the basis of equality of opportunity and merit. In an unequal society like India, where scheduled castes, tribes and shudras (the bulk of whom are the OBCs) have been discriminated against in choice of occupation, social mobility and control over the means of production, all talk of equality, without taking into account this reality, reduces equality to the concept of formal equality.

As for merit, it is perfectly possible in India to discriminate in recruitment and promotions, on the basis of caste prejudices or preferences, militating against merit. Further, merit, as the Mandal Commission and a host of other commissions and Supreme Court judgments have pointed out, must be seen in the context of achieving real equality of opportunities, social environment and compensatory discrimination to ensure social justice.

I sum up my feeling through the lines of following poem by Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) about accumulation of State power by the targeting of specific groups one at a time captures the slippery slope of the law very well:

First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Before I conclude, here are views of Mr. Sam Pitroda (Chairman, National Knowledge Commission), on reservation in Higher Education and Jobs:

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 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.

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.

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 stigmatize 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. 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.

Looking forward to your comments and opinion

Reference:

Newspapers: The Times of India;Hindustan Times

News Channels: Star News; CNN-IBN

Sanjeev Himachali India E-mail: ss_himachali@yahoo.com; Mobile No. +91-9876328841

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