Sunday, August 05, 2007

How did the OBC students do in this year's JEE?

In the previous news stories (which we looked at here and here), this piece of information was missing. We now have some data in two related stories by ET's Hemali Chhapia.

Before we proceed with the numbers, let me recall here that there was no reservation for OBC students this year because the Supreme Court has ordered a stay on this scheme.

Here are the key numbers. OBC students constituted 18.75% of the exam takers and 14% of the JEE-qualified, indicating that they do suffer a disadvantage in terms of JEE-preparedness. Of the 990 students who qualified, 876 showed up for seat allotment, and only 590 enrolled. Without comparable numbers for the other categories, it is impossible to make any comment on why 286 students chose not to go to the IITs. But we can guess: the JEE list this year included some 1600 extra students -- 7209 candidates made it to the list, but IITs had only 5537 seats! Thus, it's possible that a large fraction of OBC students weren't willing to 'settle for' institutions and fields of study that didn't attract them.

Another interesting number is that out of the 990 OBC students who got through JEE-2007, fully a third of them -- 329 -- were from the Chennai region, which includes the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Pondycherry and Tamil Nadu. This indicates clearly the higher level of preparedness among the OBC students from this region (though a stronger inference will have to wait for detailed data on the numbers of candidates from different regions). The Mumbai region had the the second largest number of OBC students among the JEE-qualified.

Hemali Chhapia's story has only one quote from an IIT student, who also happens to belong to an OBC:

‘‘When there are so many OBC students who are doing well naturally, why set aside seats for them and demoralise them?’’ asked an OBC student who joined IIT Bombay.

The bit about 'demoralization' shows -- sadly -- that this student has bought into the rhetoric of the anti-reservation lobby. Leaving that aside, is it really true that "OBCs ... are doing well naturally"? Consider: the data show that the OBC share among the exam-takers is low, and it's even lower among the JEE-qualified. Given this fact, I would bet that their representation keeps dropping as one moves up the rank-list (say, the top 1000 or the top 200). If this is true, then the top branches -- say, Electronics Engineering or Computer Science -- would have a far smaller representation of OBCs. It's this disparity -- particularly at the top -- that a reservation policy is meant to address: OBCs and other disadvantaged sections must have opportunities in top colleges and most sought after fields of study -- not just some College X or in some Field Y.

A final comment about the IITs' penchant for hoarding information: instead of releasing data in selective trickles, it would have been great if the IITs made detailed statistics -- on all aspects they deem important enough to ask for in the application form -- available on their website. For example, I am interested in gender-wise and category-wise (i.e., OBC, SC, ST and General) details on the percentage of first and second timers among the JEE-takers, JEE-qualified, admission offers and acceptances. I am also interested in data on the economic status and background (urban or rural) of the students. I don't see any reason why the IITs should wait until someone files an application under RTI to reveal this kind of basic statistical information to the public.


  1. Doctor Bruno said...

    //OBC students constituted 18.75% of the exam takers and 14% of the JEE-qualified//

    They are NOT doing well....

    If they are doing well, then OBC students constituted 18.75% of the exam takers should have been 24 % of the JEE-qualified

    Then only we can tell that they are "doing well"

    //why set aside seats for them//

    To make them actually do well...

    By the way, I am not sure as to how a quota for some one Not doing well can demoralise some one doing well....

  2. Anonymous said...

    DR. Bruno,

    In TamilNadu Govt. service, a staff nurse, senior driver, steno, senior nursing asst. etc. get Rs. 5000+ while a junior doctor gets Rs. 8000+. Why should this demoralise you?


  3. Anonymous said...

    Seems to make a case for creamy layer exclusion IMO.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Why wait for IITs to release data? File an RTI yourself if you are so "interested"

  5. Anonymous said...

    Take note of yet another basic point: 18.75% of the exam takers were OBCs and not 27% (the lowest estimate I have seen so far of the %age of OBCs in India).

    If you cant get people to come to exam halls, you cant expect them to clear the exams. By introducing reservations how does this problem get solved?

    regarding your statement - that this student has bought into the rhetoric of the anti-reservation lobby - well, this also shows how little you are able to look at the other side of the coin.

  6. Niket said...

    "The bit about 'demoralization' shows -- sadly -- that this student has bought into the rhetoric of the anti-reservation lobby."
    Come on, that statement was both needless and condescending towards the student.

    I agree with you about data hoarding part. I cannot understand why we are so averse to releasing important statistics. With the rich data available with us, why aren't there more people in humanities working on extracting "information" out of this "data"?

    I absolutely disagree with your assessment of need to have reservations based on the data you provided. 18% --> 14% is a number to worry about (and so would 18% --> 24%; if you are talking about equitable distribution, you cannot favor any caste/class/group). But I am more worried about 18% itself.

    I think one item that can lead me to accept your arguments about reservations is the higher OBC percentages from Chennai and Mumbai regions. We can correlate higher OBC numbers in Chennai with empowerment of OBCs; what would be the role of reservations in this? Mumbai does provide an interesting foil, since the "empowerment" there could be more due to the cosmopolitan nature than due to reservations or other policies.

    I don't know the answers. But these are interesting and important questions. How much do reservations empower? How do we better integrate the disadvantaged and the "lower castes" into the higher-caste-dominated society? How can we first push the 18% towards 27%, and then the 14% towards 27%? Demographically, what kind of differences exist between the said 14% and the rest who could not make it?

  7. Anonymous said...

    //In TamilNadu Govt. service, a staff nurse, senior driver, steno, senior nursing asst. etc. get Rs. 5000+ while a junior doctor gets Rs. 8000+. Why should this demoralise you?//

    This demoralises me because of the education involved...

    That is so simple

    Does that answer your question

    //18.75% of the exam takers were OBCs and not 27%//

    That means that OBCs are lagging behind and needs some push......

    This CANNOT BE SOLVED by giving OBC Reservation at IIM, but by giving OBC reservation at the UG Level....

    That is the concept of Reservation

  8. Anonymous said...

    The very fact that only 14 % of aspirants of IIM are from OBC means that the reservations should be given at the level of UG....

    Since Southern states have reservation at UG level, the OBC from these areas are able to perform better than the OBC from north India

  9. Anonymous said...

    The above Anony comments are by me


  10. Anonymous said...


    Those who are not as educated getting the same salary as you demoralises you. Because, you think they don't deserve as much (or you deserve more!), so simple.

    So what is wrong if the former OBC student (who worked very hard and well prepared) thinks that the latter OBC student (who took the easy quota route) doesn't deserve as much as him? Especially, in the end both graduate from the same institute and presumably get the same benefits.

    - kumar

  11. Anonymous said...

    You have made some incredulous conclusions from the data.

    1. If the proportion among exam takers is 18.75% and proportion among those who qualified is 14%, by no stretch of any statistical analysis can one conclude that there is a distinct disadvantage. As a professor, you should have known better sir!

    2. You failed to mention that although the largest number of OBC applicants were from Kanpur region, more OBC applicants succeeded in both Chennai and Mumbai regions. Why? I contend that the reason is relative prosperity of southern and western regions of the country, which ultimately leads to better chances for all sections of the society. Another case for making general progress in the society rather than dole out reservations to just a couple hundred people every year.

    3. The final and most bizarre argument you make is that the reservation policy should aim to address what you call "disparity" in each field, not just the broad field of engineering but also in individual branches of computer science and electronics. How about also making sure that 3 out of ten people who are assigned signal processing are from OBC category ?