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Rohit Singh
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Sun, 28 May 2006

Reservation Stuff

XYZ sent a mail on a Stanford mailing list saying might the Indian middle class be selfish in arguing against reservations. He cites, in particular, this article by Vinod Mehta. Here was my response:

"> Are the anti-reservations protest are a product of selfish middle class? Few
> views.

A nice bag of ripe red herrings you bring, XYZ. People like Vinod Mehta can be willfully stupid, so they are best ignored as occasionally-useful idiots. But surely, you should know better before you cite him...

Vinod Mehta's argument is:

  1. Middle class doesn't like reservation. So,
  2. Middle class is hostile to empowerment of poor.

I'll try to keep my criticism of this argument short: even if we ignore the breathtaking sweep of generalization in Mr. Mehta's argument, are reservation and "empowerment of the poor" the same thing ? If the argument for reservation is about poverty (rural or urban), why not have affirmative action based on economic factors rather than caste? Even if some kind of caste-based affirmative action really were desirable, are quotas the way to go or is it better to have a points-based system (as was mentioned in an article pointed to on SIA earlier)? After all, the latter might better handle complaints about "creamy layer" etc.

Vinod Mehta, as usual, masks his propaganda as journalism; that doesn't mean his propaganda should be believed. One might argue vehemently against caste-based reservation while passionately believing in the need to improve the access of India's poor to quality education.

PS: And please don't cop out by saying "well, reservation by caste might not be the best solution, but it certainly is one." Any changes made to the system will impact the future of hundreds of millions of Indians-- if you can't come up with better ideas, let others speak. "

This article from Shekhar Gupta is good. He makes the point that educational system in India, especially the central universities and the IIT/IIM setup, is a vestige-- and a pernicious one at that-- of the license raj. We should privatize education more, allowing people to create new schools and, in particular, new high-quality colleges.

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