Sunday, June 04, 2006

Yogendra Yadav's FAQ on reservation

Let us get back. That the OBCs are disadvantaged does not mean that they should get reservations. Does it?

You are right. This only means that something needs to be done. Whether that something should be reservations is not self-evident. We need to ask two basic questions here: what kind of instrument of affirmative action is most suited in this situation? And what should be the criterion for identifying the beneficiaries?

Yes, that is the whole point. Why should caste be used as the only criterion of ‘backwardness’?

Caste is a very useful criterion for several reasons. One, the original discrimination in access to education took place on the basis of caste; the same criterion needs to used for reversing that discrimination. Two, caste is still a very good proxy for various kinds of social and educational disadvantages and the single best predictor of educational opportunities. Three, caste and economic hierarchy tend to fuse at the upper and the lower end: the poor are likely to be ‘lower’ caste and the upper caste likely to be well-to-do. And finally, caste certificates tend to be more reliable than other proofs of disadvantage, especially the notoriously unreliable certificates of income.

Yet all these are not good reasons to treat caste as the only criterion. Sociological evidence shows that we have multi-dimensional inequalities that cannot be reduced to a single factor. Any good scheme to create level playing field in higher education must take into count gender, regional backwardness, urban-rural divide and economic resources, besides caste.

Just two of the questions posed and answered by Yogendra Yadav. Excellent stuff; go grab it now!

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Thanks to Aswin for the pointer. Aswin has been following up on the reservation issue with a bunch of thoughtful posts. From this post, for example, we get the link to a paper analyzing the history and effects of reservation for Dalits [pdf].


  1. Anonymous said...

    Just one question posed and answered by Barbarindian:

    Q. Are reservations justified?
    A. Reservations are immoral.

  2. Anonymous said...

    For the first time, I read something on the reservation issue that had a balanced tone. Thanks

  3. Anonymous said...

    As Raj suggests, this was a balanced view in favor of reservations and I agree on the social justice aspect but I continue to disagree on its implementation and intended benefits.

    As Dr. Yadav himself suggests: "The principal problem of the OBCs and other disadvantaged groups is that of lack of access to quality school education. Reservation in jobs or higher education tackled the problem at the higher end. It needs to be supplemented by measures to improve the quality of teaching in government schools. This is where the real focus of government policy should be."

    I too believe that opportunity should be accorded to the lower castes through primary education because if the foundation is laid right, we need not implement reservations at the higher end. Make enough seats available for primary education by allowing in private players. Quality can be maintained through accreditation. You may also agree that increasing seats at a primary school level might be more feasible, economically and otherwise. We are just having a misplaced argument. The proponents of reservation consider reservation at the higher education as a given and arguing from that point whereas I wish to step back and take a look at the intended benefits of those reservations which no one seems to be talking about. Dr. Yadav's answer to the final question actually is the crux of the whole issue.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Yogendra Yadav's article contains many factual inaccuracies. Among other things, he claims that some OBCs are Shudras. Dr. Ambedkar must be turning in his grave.

    I think this comes from the subliminal desire of OBCs to steal the great Indian oppression script from the Dalits. So far they have had great success. In your blog, over 90% of recent posts on reservations are actually about Dalits. Same story with the Other India/Dcubed/Shivam Vij blogs. Th truth is, OBCs can not justify their claim to free seats without this manufactured victimhood.

    The victimcrat of Dalits is also quite misplaced and misdirected but that's another story.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Patrix, you say: The proponents of reservation consider reservation at the higher education as a given...

    I don't believe this is true. Meaning, the reasonable arguments I've seen from the proponents seem to have considered options seriously and concluded that reservation in higher education is something worth doing. I don't think they have assumed it as a given.

    Speaking for myself, here's part of the thought I put into it: to me it seems there is no fundamental difference between having reservations at the primary education level and at the higher education level. If it's permissible in primary education, the same logic makes it permissible in higher education. If it's wrong in higher education, the same logic should make it wrong in primary education.

  6. Anonymous said...

    If it's wrong in higher education, the same logic should make it wrong in primary education.

    Exactly. However, for the same cost the reach of primary education can be increased so much that quotas will no longer be needed.

    Quotas in higher education keeps other priorities of the Government out of the radar. Arguably the biggest cheerleaders of the quotas are powerful folks who are politically well connected and corner all the benefits. You must have heard, Meira Kumar's kids are now eligible for all sorts of reservations.

  7. Abi said...

    Raj: You have been missing out on a lot of discussion about a couple of earlier articles by Yogendra Yadav. I am glad you woke up in time to catch his views for the "first time".

    Patrix: Dilip has responded to some of your points. Here's my take:

    Please don't pose 'better primary education' as an alternative to 'reservation'. To me, both are meant for achieving the same goal: better integration of disadvantaged groups into the mainstream. It's not one or the other; we need both (and in fact, we also need better social security for the poor and disadvantaged).

    As Yadav says, reservation may not be the best way, but it is still better than no reservation at all.

    Dilip: Thanks for reiterating your view about the logic being the same for reservation in primary and higher education.

    I am going to ignore Barbarindian's comments from now on. I will keep some of them here because they illustrate the kind of mindset that we all have to work against; so, it's good for people to see for themselves the strident and often insulting rhetoric in his comments. However, I will delete those that I think are inappropriate in my blog.

  8. Anonymous said...

    ..As Yadav says, reservation may not be the best way, but it is still better than no reservation at all..

    I think we can narrow our differences to this one point.

    Some say: A broken and unmonitored system (what we have today) is better than no system at all.

    I say: Either we have a working and monitored system or we have no system.

    A naive analogy. "A black and white TV is better than no TV at all".

    Can you spot the error in the above analogy ?

    The quota system is not a victimless system. So a broken system is not as innocent, it might unjustly victimize some people and unfairly benefit the wrong ones.

    Both the so called forward castes and the sidelined OBCs (not the dominant castes) are victims. So a broken system is NO GO.

  9. Anonymous said...

    Hi all,
    I actually dont quite understand what reservations could mean in the context of primary education. I govt schools reject applications just because a student has less marks?? As far as I know, most govt schools dont do this. Infact, in will be wierd if they do that considering that access to primary education is a fundamental right. Also, Teacher/Principal posts @govt schools do have i guess the risk of admissions being rejected by some spurious, behind the scenes, caste based criteria is lesser. The issue is thus, do we have enough govt schools in the non-urban areas , are they spread out and is the quality good enough?

    The case of higher education is diff. First, we dont have enough good colleges. Even if you count the upper caste economically well off, there are not enough quality eng/med seats(crudely, all faculty should have no lesser that a quality masters degree and the all depts should have atleast 2/3 PhDs and a decent library) to absorb all the good students. This is not case for schools..there are enough good schools for this bunch of the population. So, the practical issues involved in having reservation in higher education are diff from primary education.

    Also, looking higher up the academic ladder, I wonder if reservation(i am talking specifically abt the quota way of affirmative action) at the level of PhD serves any great purpose. (I dont buy the 'right' argument of Prof.Sanil for the upper section of the OBC).

  10. Anonymous said...

    I am going to ignore Barbarindian's comments from now on. I will keep some of them here...

    Herr Doktor Professor,

    We are sooooooo grateful.

  11. Anurag Banerjee said...

    Well, I cannot see the logic of excluding PhD study from quotas if we follow the argument or quota.

    Infact international academic Journals should have quota as well, looking at Dr (?) Yadav's academic publications on the web he could do well with some.