A minister in the Indian government has proposed a bill that would more than double the reservation quota (number of seats reserved for students oppressed by caste) in elite higher educational institutions run by the central government. He wants to add a reservation for the Other Backward Castes (castes considered low but not untouchable) to the existing one for untouchables and tribals. What is the 49.5% quota all about? (rediff.com, April 12, 2006) explains the plan in some detail.
The anti-reservations slogan "Save Merit" really means "Save Caste Privilege." Praful Bidwai in In Defence of OBC Reservations (The Nahvind Times, April 20, 2006) punctures the hypocrisy of those who take it up:
"Those who oppose affirmative action radically, in principle, on the ground that it’s anti-merit, are comprehensively wrong in assuming that our society and government run on the basis of merit, as distinct from social status, clan loyalties, wealth, sifarish, political influence, overt bribery, etc. Even the best of our competition examinations don’t accurately assess merit. Take the case of the IITs, where admissions are dominated by candidates from privileged families who can afford to send them to the coaching centres of Kota in Rajasthan for long months at the expense of lakhs of rupees."
In What Mandal Really Wanted (Outlook India, April 14, 2006) S.S. Gill, the secretary of the Mandal Commission, defends that commission's 1980 report. When its recommendation that reservations be extended to Other Backward Castes was finally put into practice in 1989, it provoked a vicious casteist reaction nationwide. In response to what is now being proposed, Gill asks, "Why do we still require the crutch of reservations to enable students from the deprived sections to stand on their feet even 60 years after Independence? What has happened to the tall claims of affirmative action aimed at raising the educational and economic standards of the SCs, STs and OBCs, so that their children are able to compete on their own merit?"
But even the minimal reforms he says are necessary are utopian in a capitalist India dominated by imperialism. And, while it's important to defend any gains for the oppressed including reservations, why shouldn't everyone be able to get a decent education and a good job?
How Sharad Got A Life: "As did Amit, Risha, Parag and many like them. Quotas empowered them to take on challenges. Here's their side of the story." (Outlook India, April 24, 2006)
Say Yes to Affirmative Action by Praful Bidwai (August 9, 2004)
on the history of reservations policy in India:
Logical step by P.S. Krishnan (Frontline, April 22-May 5, 2006)
photo: young doctors protest the extension of reservations with signs "Youth for Equality" and "Arjun Singh Wants Another Rajeev Goswami" (a brahmin university student who tried to immolate himself as part of a similar campaign in 1990)—via creativepraveen's photostream