Sunday, June 11, 2006

The results are out: People favour the reservation policy

That's the bottomline of the survey commissioned by CNN-IBN and the Indian Express. [Hat tip: Albert].

The OBC reservation policy was favoured by a margin of 57 to 37 percent. In the TV debate-cum-panel discussion yesterday on CNN-IBN, Yogendra Yadav said that quotas have been supported by the people by a 70:30 margin for well over two decades; the lower margin in this poll is probably due to urban areas being over-represented in it. The IE report too echoes this view.

The castewise break-up too is interesting: quotas were supported by some 38% of upper-castes, and by 60 to 70 % of OBCs, SC/STs and minorities. A majority of all sections (including the upper castes) agreed with the view that quotas promote 'equal opportunity'.

The other interesting finding of this survey is that 67% of the people prefer quotas for the 'poor of any caste'.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Not every popular policy is in the nation's best interest. Most people like short term benefits and that is precisely why the government should do a proper cost-benefit analysis of any policy of national importance rather than adopting pupulist measures.

    Government of India did not do a proper strategic analysis of the OBC reservation issue. The decision has been taken based on "intuitive" thought of the Group of Ministers and the members of the parliament - which is something that any rational Indian should doubt considering the average educational qualifications of our parliamentarians.Psychology 101 - Human brain is incapable of handling large amounts of data and hence there are heuristic shortcuts for efficiency - lead to cognitive biases - Hence "intuitive" thinking may sometimes lead to errors. That is precisely why scientific methods of strategic analysis based on hard data and evidence are used for policy making all over the world.

    Have all the aspects related to this issue been considered? I only hear about social justice, merit and equality arguments. Do ALL institutes of higher learning in the country need reservations or perhaps some can implement a different form of affirmative action based on their needs? What is the time frame of the policy? What monitoring mechanisms are put in place? How to determine the quota %?

    Lets consider the issue of academic freedom - Talking about IITs and IIMs and all the institutes of higher education - Who are the other stake holders in any decision involving these institutes besides the Government - faculty and alumni. Obviously the national interest is supreme but it is also indirectly affected by other stake holders - faculty and alumni. Has government considered any potential impact on these?? Obviously the government has spent money on these institutes - but institutions of repute are not established overnight .. hard work of many dedicated teachers and alumni has gone in to creating a brand value for these institutions.

    Some of the aspects are being looked in to by the review committe but some other (perhaps more important ones) will never be considered by the Government in its hurry to push the quota down the throat of "elitist upper caste" dominated institutions.

    We should ask ourselves where are all the famous and highly prestigious unviersities of 50 years ago today??
    The draconian manner in which these quotas are being imposed on some of the most corruption free and fair institutions will only lead to erosion of value systems these institutions have been able to maintain.

    It is possible that even after taking in to account all the factors and giving them proper weightage, the decision of OBC reservation is in the overall interest of the country. Currently, it is just the "intuitive" thinking of the Government. If instead they come up with a vigourous analysis, that would go a long way in preserving the social fabric of the country.

  2. Anonymous said...

    BGO - blinding glimpse of the obvious.

    Here is what else majority would agree on if surveys were conducted:

    1) Free color TV for everyone
    2) iPOD for every Dalit
    3) OBCs get first night with every upper-caste women getting married ala Braveheart style

    When you loot the wealth of the minority 12% and distribute among the rest, no wonder they will like it.

  3. Abi said...

    Anon: Thanks for asking a lot of good questions about reservation, and individual institutions' freedom to choose their own approaches to affirmative action. I have commented in the past about some of these issues. This post is just to highlight the fact that the reservation policy has a broad popular support; if you had been watching English channels the last couple of months, this result would surely come as a surprise to you. Thus, this post is more about media bias than about another data point in support of the theory of quotas.

  4. Anonymous said...

    //We should ask ourselves where are all the famous and highly prestigious unviersities of 50 years ago today??
    The draconian manner in which these quotas are being imposed on some of the most corruption free and fair institutions will only lead to erosion of value systems these institutions have been able to maintain.//

    I do not know much about IIT or IIM, but can safely say that AIIMS (supposed to be the premier Institute) conducts an Post Graduate Exam in a way that is highly deplorable.

    For example see here

    And then, I fail to understand that argument that IIT is something in heaven and not in earth.

    Can some one say as to how IIT has benefitted India, in a way other engineering colleges have not done or why AIIMS is superior than other medical colleges

  5. Anonymous said...

    >>And then, I fail to understand that >>argument that IIT is something in >>heaven and not in earth.

    Dr. Bruno,

    I will speak only about IITs because i dont have first hand experience with other institutes. If what you claim is true for AIIMS then it provides all the more reasons to not have "one shoe fits all" approach.

    If you mean the general atmosphere of IITs (relatively less corrupt and more fair as compared to other institutions in India) is heaven as compared to the many places of the country - the answer is YES !! They have one of the most apolitical and secular academic atmosphere in any educational institute in India. One of the reasons is - relative autonomy of IITs in their decision making and less interference from the politicians in the past and a single minded dedication of its faculty and students in pursuit of excellence.

    This does sound like an elitist argument even though there is no such intention, and if you dont agree then we can have evidence speak for itself. I am willing to change my viewpoint if a scientific study shows otherwise. And this is precisely what i have been advocating - lets use scientific evidence based approach rather than you blaming me "upper caste elitist who is trying to protect his stranglehold" or me blaming you of "pursuing identity politics" against the national interest.

    >>Can some one say as to how IIT has >>benefitted India, in a way other >>engineering colleges have not done >>or why AIIMS is superior than other >>medical colleges

    Dr. Bruno, again i will stick to your question about IITs.

    The answer depends on what you mean by "benefit". This is eeirily similar to the "merit" argument - only the sides have changed. Is working in rural areas to help with health clinic the only benefit or construction of a rural road or rural building the only benefit accrued to a nation through its best engineers or doctors. I would argue there are more ways in which the benefit accrues.

    Back in the 70's and 80's the world did not have too much faith in the technical capabilities of our people. That has slowly changed and the credit goes to many Indians who proved their talent. No one is saying only IITians did that - but they played a major role.

    IITs have earned a brand name - you will need to conduct a survey in the world to judge if the world thinks of all engineering schools in India the same as IITs - i request you to please not judge it without giving it a fair chance. Ask the Googles, Microsofts, the MITs, Stanfords, Berkeleys - where do they go to recruit top talent as students, faculty and researchers?

    You could argue that it is benefitting the U.S. In my opinion that is a very myopic view. Many IITians have chosen to stay back in India and many are returning back. Many have started technology startups with offices in India - bringing employment opportunities to the country. In the last decade research on use of technology to uplift the rural population has gathered momentum. Check out the website of the various institutes. The world is changing my friend and you just need to have a little patience and see for yourself how it has the potential to transform India forever.

    Still IITs are far from perfect. So far their graduate program has not been able to garner as much acclaim as their undergraduate program. As per Jayati Ghosh of the knowledge commission - IITs are anyway ranked around 400s in the world and not good - so reservation is not going to affect their quality.

    Such incoherent argument by some of the most educated people makes you wonder about the efficacy of our education system and sows the seeds of doubt in my mind about their ability to design policies of strategic national interest.

    The ranking system is based on many factors and puts a lot of weightage on research output. IITs being primarily focussed on undergraduate programs dont perform very well in this area. However many of its alumni are prolific researchers at many research institutes in the US. To improve the situation, the IITs are taking many steps in the right direction. Instead of taking a stock of how any reservation policy would effect their efforts (if at all - i am not claiming that we know the answer yet), Jayati Ghosh is trying to make a case that it does not matter if the quality will go down (as if it will actually go down).

    Besides, why are you thinking us vs them ?? IITs are your own institutes, every Indian's pride .. If some of us feel that access to IITs has been limited to only a certain section of the society due to many factors most of which are not intentional, then lets work together and figure out a solution instead of trying to bring down the institutions themselves.

    The bottom line is still the same - use evidence based approach. All the above are my opinions and not facts as much as your arguments are your opinions.

    Government has NOT thought about all this - atleast that is the impression one gets from Mr. Arjun Singh's and Mr. Chidambaram's interviews on the Devil's advocate by Mr. Karan Thapar. They are trying to concoct the 27% quota number to respond to the Supreme Court right now at this very moment. Unfortunately, the few sane voices on either side of the debate cannot do anything except to see the poison of caste based prejudice spread to the few corners of the country which had escaped it before.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Dr Bruno: Can some one say as to how IIT has benefitted India...

    Actually, I think it's wrong to look at this as a measure of evaluating the IITs. Have the IITs turned out first-rate engineers and scientists (and even human beings), wherever they work in the world? My feeling is, the answer is an overwhelming yes. That's the measure of how good the IITs are.

  7. Abi said...

    Dr. Bruno, Anon, Dilip: Thanks for your comments.

    I think Dr. Bruno's question is more about why the other colleges are not getting the kind of 'bhav' that the IITs get. My answer is fairly simple: people don't remember those who are at the top. When it comes to reputations, it's -- unfortunately -- a 'winner takes all' world.