First, some news. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struck just the right note when he met the striking medicos two days ago:
Dr. Singh told a delegation of students that he foresaw a big expansion in the capacities of the higher education system, resulting in huge educational opportunities for all classes and categories. Hence, they need not worry about shrinking educational opportunities ...
The medicos have decided to continue with their strike. While I don't support their agitation, I am with them on one of their demands: "a judicial commission to review the reservation policy".
Clearly, the debate is not over; let me just link to some new and noteworthy views from the past day or two.
First, we have Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, with his weekly column Swaminomics in ToI.
The canteen boy who brings me tea may be more intelligent than me, and so too may be the man shining shoes on the roadside. But they were born in the wrong family, and never had access to good education or economic opportunities. So they remain on the fringes of society.
Meanwhile, lesser beings like me dominate society, on the spurious claim that we are the most meritorious. What gall! We got good marks because we had the most educated parents, the best books, and went to the best schools and colleges.
But others far more meritorious are rotting without education or opportunity in the slums and villages of India. In a fair and just society, the top two million or so positions would be occupied by people with an IQ of over 135. Lesser folk like me (and most striking doctors) would be just clerks or labourers.
He also goes on to the question of how to improve the reach and quality of our primary education.
We need to experiment with new, fairer systems. Let me suggest one. The government spends Rs 110,000 crore a year on education. Let Rs 10,000 crore of this be channelled through business federations like the CII and Ficci to run quality schools with 80% reservation for lower castes and tribals.
Technical assistance can come from Delhi Public School, which has already created a chain of quality schools in India and abroad.
Within five years, let us create two quality schools in every district headquarters. In the next five years, let us cover every tehsil headquarters, and give scholarships to needy students for school for college.
Next, we have Prof. N.S. Ramaswamy, former Director of IIM-B, who suggests that we make better use of our investment in education.
Without investing government funds, it is possible to double or even treble the capacity of universities, IITs, IIMs and similar institutions.
These institutions work only for 180 to 200 days a year. It is possible to stretch them up to 300 days or more. Classes in India start only after 9 a.m. or even later. Even in cold countries, classes start at 6 a.m. and go on till 10 p.m. It is possible to have two shifts in HES, thus expanding the capacity with the same physical infrastructure.
To compensate for these fine attempts to take things forward (with some new ideas towards solving problems), we have an utterly vacuous article in the Hindu's Sunday Magazine. After summarizing the pro-quota and anti-quota positions, the author, Akhila Sivadas, has the gall to say this:
The biggest casualty has been timely and effective debate and discourse. ... [A] valuable opportunity to revisit and engage in a wider debate ... has been lost.
Has Sivadas been sleeping through all the 'debate and discourse' going on all over the place? Is she not aware of well-argued articles by people like Purushottam Agrawal, and Yogendra Yadav and Satish Deshpande, and by Pratap Bhanu Mehta before his resignation? If they don't constitute 'a wider debate', what will?
Finally, a link from the blogosphere: Abhinav grapples with various questions about reservation in the IITs on his brand new blog All about IIT. He admits that he doesn't have all the answers yet, but he is asking some right questions. While on IITs, the Hindu reported today that 125 IIT-K professors have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him not to implement quotas: "in the eventuality, [they] have threatened to resign en masse."