Sunday, May 28, 2006

The debate continues ...

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."


  1. Anonymous said...

    Akhila Sivadas is absolutely right, there was no debate. Yes, rhetorics were exchanged, articles written, but did the Government consider any mid-way compromise? NO! Even the GoM had no one present from various commissions.

    A good compromise could have been:
    1. Use the unused seats of SC/ST for General
    2. Increase capacity by 10% for next year
    3. A max of 10% quota for OBC with strict creamy layer limit

    But what we have is:
    1. Possibly no (or little)increase in seats
    2. 27% quota at one go
    3. NO creamy layer

    Debate indeed!

    Using shifts etc. is wishful thinking. Most institutes can absorb 5-7% by adjusting operations, but to absorb 53% in a year is just not possible.

    Aiyar's article is not worth rebuttal. Perhaps it would do him good if someone informs him about the farmer's kid and rickshaw puller's kid who went to IIT last year. Wishful thinking about primary education, not gonna happen. Because the Government does not care, no votes.

  2. Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  3. Anonymous said...

    //1. Use the unused seats of SC/ST for General//

    Can you give the details of such seat. We can arrange for fully qualified students (not like the half baked idiots of AIIMS who score just 15 % in entrance and take prestigious PG Seats) for that within 3 days...

    a) Name of the college
    b) Name of the course

    I assure that, if properly announced, and if the Directors of the institute have the heart to admit students (instead of allowing procession against govt inside the campus), this problem can be solved in 72 hours

    If it is a medical seat, I can arrange for a candidate in 24 hours. It is a open challange. Tell the details of the seat

    //3. NO creamy layer//
    Please see OBC Certificate is given ONLY AFTER EXCLUDING the creamy layer.

    When some one cares to express his lack of knowledge, by not even caring to know what is OBC(when the details are clearly given in website and in each UPSC application and notification), I wonder .... !!!!

  4. Anonymous said...

    Dr. Bruno,

    Sorry I called you just Bruno in the other post. Didn't realize that you were a fully qualified doctor. I am not being sarcastic.

    Well, it is very well known that only about 15% of seats of IITs are filled each year out of the 22.5% seats allocated for SC/STs. I would be very happy if you can propose a solution to fill these seats. At least they won't go waste. Part of it is due to the stubbornness of the IIT administration that they refuse to let go of the minimal cutoff for SC/STs. There are unconfirmed reports that this cut off is in single digits.

    I know about the creamy layer provision, everyone does. The point is, as we all know it is not enforced in TN. Rumor has it that they do not plan to enforce the creamy layer for this round of reservations.

    No Creamy layer

  5. Anonymous said...

    Hi Abi
    Prof.N.S. Ramaswamy does not seem to have done his homework properly. His idea of more working hours to make better use of facilities was already in vogue in RECs (eg., RECW now NITW) where Diploma holders would join laterally for B.Tech course in second year and do their courses in the evening. But the Govt. dumped the teaching load on the same faculty who work during the regular hours. With already less than optimal faculty around, this load in the evenings was unbearable and now the lateral entry is scapped. ie., NITW went back on this extended working hours policy. I am sure, it would be the same story in IITs if such a policy change does not accompany increase of faculty and staff numbers. We all know the cap on technical staff recruitment as well as the difficulties in attracting new faculty. So this idea from Prof. NS Ramaswamy is bad.


  6. Anonymous said...

    Dear Indian,

    At present we are talking about the OBC reservation by Centre, WHICH EXCLUDES Creamy layer...

    But there are few self centred neptots with vested interests who ask for Creamy Layer JUST BECAUSE They do not have any other valid point.

    Probably you were cheated by one of those racists and was of the correct opinion about creamy layer exclusion in OBC reservation

    I am sure that you now know the facts.. Please see the official Press Release...

    Just like few self centred idiots -who do not care about Institute Quoa, private colleges, NRI quota, payment seats and sponsored seats where merit is a casualty) who try to protect their vested interestes giving a silly excuse in the name of merit - who demand NO Caste Based reservations, PMK has their right to ask for exclusion of creamy layer

    But that is not what has been proposed BY the government. Please note that OBC reservation is applicable to few UPSC recruitments and that they follow the income criteria very strictly. Hence no need to worry for a demand

    IS that clear
    Well, it is very well known that only about 15% of seats of IITs are filled each year out of the 22.5% seats allocated for SC/STs

    SCs are given only 15 %.... STs are given 7.5 %

    It is the ST seats that are usually vacant and NOT THE SC Seats

    This confusion is again a result of (deliberate) misinformation

    I am sure that you know understand the truth and change from your delusionary views... I don't say that your demand is totally wrong (from your point of view) - But you should understand that many of your points you use to argue against reservation (compromise of merit, seats empty etc) are factual mistakes and are very foolish arguments)

  7. Anonymous said...

    I don't see how my comment was a deliberate misinformation. I said that it is a pity that about 10% of SC/ST seats in IITs go waste. It could be that majority of those are from the ST quota. The fact remains that these wasted seats could be given to general category students through a waiting list. I guess they wanted to make sure there is no moral hazard, i.e. if the waiting list concept was in place, the institutes might be tempted to deliberately reduce the SC/ST intake.

    We oppose quotas in any form, shape or size. Even NRI and paid for seats quotas. In an ideal market driven situation, this does not become a major issue since the institute will be penalized if it tried to give preferential treatment. As to our private institutes giving seats for money, they do pay a steep penalty. The paid colleges in India rank nowhere close to IITs/IIMs/AIIMS etc. On the other hand, truly private institutes like ISB will have admissions based solely on merit and a steep tuition fee. No wonder ISB surpassed IIMs in terms of placement this year.

    If PC Chidambaram, Ramadoss etc. had there ways, there would be no creamy layer exclusion, just like the TN situation.

    So, let me ask you this, do you support a creamy layer exclusion?

  8. Anonymous said...

    Swaminathan aiyar? That's the same guy who thinks the theory of climate change because of global warming is a hoax? Abi?