On the Mandal Redux -II
A questionable assumption lies with the generalization of SC/ST/OBC as low merit. There are rare, but upcoming examples of these people refusing to use reservations and competing in the general category because of the social stigma attached to those who have entered via reservations... and their own self-respect. This brings us to point where as the upper caste society, we've stigmatized the backward classes who have entered via reservations and still discriminated against them and treated them as lesser among equals, because they had it easy, via reservations. We have to accept that if they (I mean the genuine backwards here) had the upbringing and the atmosphere that we did, things might have been altogether different! They werent' born duffers as many people like to happily assume. Situations didn't let them learn at the pace at which you learnt, else the same people could've given you a run for your money!
And yes, then I too am charged with the responsibility of having to suggest an alternative model.. which I do not think I'm sufficiently well read to propose. However, I'd stil like to put in some thoughts about it.
1. First and foremost, the basis for reservations. I'd definitely be for reservation on economic, rather than on caste basis. Scrutinizing the Income Tax Statments appear to be the most sensible way to go about it. It has it's own problems in terms of implementation and penetration, but surely is much more justified than the caste!
2. One freind suggested a dimension to it, (possibly given by some UP minister) that one person should be allowed to use the reservation card only once throughout his life. This would prevent him from becoming complacent and easygoing (which also goes against the performance of the reserved category people). As in, if someone has entered a medical college on reservation basis, now at every other stage in his education or work, he has to compete on a merit basis with everyone else. The playing field has been levelled once and that should be all.
3. Alternatively, or along with the previous point, in one family, there should be a provision of only one generation using reservations. If there's an IAS officer, who has gotten in because of reservations, his children aren't deprived anymore, in order to need reservations. In fact, even if it's a normal level government servant, the reservations have to target the absolutely deprived, and not the relatively well to do but complacent people who want to have it easy, via the reservation route.
3. Someone spoke about reservations in primary/secondary education... which I believe is somewhat absurd if you come to think of it. The government resolves to provide regular primary education to everyone across caste/class and reservations are meant for privileged positions not accessible to everyone. So reservations only make sense when we have limited seats... that is, the graduate courses. What I would probably agree is that let the reservations be in the second rung colleges and not the premier institutes, coz as of now, the premiers predominantly thrive on brand value, which shouldn't be tampered with.
4. Reservations in higher education, still have to ensure a minimal benchmark level of merit. You can't have anyone and everyone becoming a doctor because you have vacant reserved seats in a college. That firstly defeats the purpose as the society will never respect a doctor who lacks merit in his skill/trade. The society is not going to compromise on its health, to promote a sloppy doctor, only because he's come from a reserved category. But yes, to make a difference, what is important is, to have the information about reservations reach out to the ones who really need it, and the certification process must become simpler. ( Guess IT returns should serve well, instead of caste certificates)
5. Now, as an alternative to quotas in college and university seats, the people qualifying for reservations could be taken through training mechanisms to bring them at par with their general category counterparts, and then let them compete in an open exam on a levelled out field.
In a way, the existing system in IIT is doing something similar, a prep course, to improve their level, and then let them also compete for their grades with everyone else, they still have to fight for at least a DD, which in IIT definitions is the minimum requirement to pass a course, and given the relative grading system, this also means that they have to be with the best brains and survive amongst them.. and this grind is good enough to prepare them to handle the challenges of the world.. which is reflected in their placements... ( Yes, QUITE a few of them have made it in life)
(Talking lightly, It's like having a special batch in Bansal Classes for the backward class students who are there on government scholarship to study.. and then them having to write the JEE with general category students)
Putting it simply, Give them scholarships or take them through consistent and well designed training programmes which grind them and groom them, so they're better placed to compete with their otherwise advantaged counterparts. Don't let anything come to them for free, coz then they'll not value it anyway and that would subsequently reflect in the poor performance.
As a more simplistic thought, everyone signing petitions agaisnt reservations should come forth with how he's willing to contribute to the main streaming of the backward masses, which is ideally his responsibility too as an element of the same society.
Would we be okay with a higher education cess which would be used to set up these training institutes?
Would we set up voluntary organizations large enough to cover the training of a significant chunk of the backward students?
Would we set up private trusts to give extensive scholarships to these students?
Would we be inclined to spend a couple of hours a week, training and grooming a bright but backward student so he can write JEE and actually get through in the General Category?
Coz if not, then we only want to take the easier way out. Arjun Singh wanted the easier way out as well.. and this served only too well as a populist measure.. so now he can have the world nursing the illusion that he's doing a lot for the backward classes, while nothing might happen in reality.
I hate to get into this 'us' and 'them' but somehow, this seems unavoidable. They're as much a part of 'us' and 'us' of 'them'. Let's realize that!