Monday, June 12, 2006

Karan Thapar takes rhetoric lessons from Kamal Nath

Two extracts.

The first is from this Devil's Advocate interview of Kamal Nath, Minister of Industry and Commerce, on 14 May 2006. This part of the interview discusses whether there really is a need to 'impose' reservation (or, affirmative action) on industry through legislation:

Karan Thapar: You have clearly established the government's position. How do you know that corporate India isn't doing what you are asking for? Companies like Hindustan Lever, Ashok Leyland and Bajaj Auto say that even today more than 50 per cent of their staff comes from SCs/STs and OBCs. If that is the case then they are doing what you want.

Kamal Nath: Then why are they not coming up with that.

Karan Thapar: Well they have come up with that.

Kamal Nath: So if they are doing it then they should say please enforce it because they are already doing it. Then why should anybody resist it?

The second is from yesterday's interview of P. Chidambaram, Minister of Finance. This part of the interview is about the then striking medico's demand for a review of the efficacy of quotas as implemented so far.

Karan Thapar: [...] Another issue that the students have raised with you is their demand for a non-political expert committee to review the way reservations have functioned for the last 50 odd years. The Government, in its reply has said that it will examine this demand. Does that mean 'yes', does that mean 'no' or does it mean that you are simply playing for time?

P Chidambaram: As I understand the Government's reply, there is no ground to review whether there should be reservation or not - there is no ground at all.

Karan Thapar: What about reviewing the way they function?

P Chidambaram: If you want to review how the reservation is implemented, it is fairly simple.

Karan Thapar: Not how they are implemented, whether they are functioning effectively.

P Chidambaram: Oh, they are.

Karan Thapar: We all know how they are implemented, what I am questioning is the efficacy.

P Chidambaram: The effect is, as I said at the beginning of the interview, can be seen in the Southern states. Members belonging to the OBCs have risen in the society and in the economy. There is an aspiration among those classes, which cannot be suppressed for too long.

Karan Thapar: If you are so confident that reservations have worked in the Southern states, which many people are strongly and strenuously disputing, then agree to the review, cause the review will presumably prove your point. Why aren't you agreeing to the review?

Needless to add, the bold emphasis in the last bits of the quoted texts is by me.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Mom: Have you brushed your teeth?
    Kid: Yes.
    Mom: Then show me your teeth.
    Kid: No.

    Contrast with:

    Cop: Have you stolen money?
    Perp: No.
    Cop: Then show me your pocket.
    Perp: No.

    Kamal Nath has to be extremely naive in pretending not to know what enforcements and regulations can do to an industry.

  2. Anonymous said...

    My Reservations Blog

    "No! Let’s join the self-proclaimed snobs protesting with slogans “Remember your place”, polishing shoes and cleaning premises? Let’s pretend not to see it at all! Damn Reservations"

  3. Anonymous said...


  4. Abi said...

    Niket: Exactly!

    Memoryking: Thanks for the alert!

  5. Anonymous said...

    I didn't get how you link the two bolded statements.

    In one, someone makes a claim... and he is then asked to enforce it.

    In the other, someone makes a claim... and he is asked to provide data by reviewing the effectiveness.

    I don't quite see how the two are linked.

  6. Abi said...

    Niket: In both, the argument goes like "if you know you are on the right side, what are you afraid of?"

    I personally think it's not a bad argument. However, something tells me that Karan Thapar, who uses it in the second case, would vehemently oppose it in the first case.

  7. Anonymous said...

    Why Abi, I myself will support the use of the argument in the second case and oppose it in the first.

    Advisor: You can't do a good job in PhD by working 8 hours a day
    Student: I work at least 12 hours a day.
    Advisor: I suggested you work more and you tell me you work 12+ hours a day. You are on the right side, what are you afraid of?

    But here is where it differs:
    Advisor: You have to enforce 12 hour rule. Working 11 hours will mean breaking a rule.
    Advisor: Show me data to prove that you work 12 hours a day.

    How can you now see the difference? I see the two being completely different. In the second case, the advisor is running a "slave house".

    Or am I missing something here, or misreading the entire turn of events?

  8. Abi said...

    Niket: Sorry, even in the first case, the argument holds.

    Mmany laws that are aimed at dissuading a tiny minority of wrongdoers derive popular legitimacy through such arguments. Examples: laws mandating environmentally friendly processes, fair labour practices, etc.

    However, I agree that it cannot be taken to the extreme (leading to a legislative, regulatory and bureaucratic over-reach). Mandating affirmative action -- even when industries claim that they would implement it voluntarily -- is not one such extreme, IMO. This is simply because, such a law would be aimed against a tiny minority of potential non-implementers of 'voluntary' AA. But I realize that you will want to disagree.