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Q: Should admissions to specialised courses be on
the basis of caste or merit?

This is the sixth instalment of readersí response

Poverty blocks access to meaningful education

WHEN it comes to grabbing free lunch, our worthy representatives are seldom far behind; and when an easy chance comes in the garb of social justice, the 140-strong OBC MPs of Lok Sabha, under the leadership of Mr Hanumant Rao, lose no time in pressing their claims when Mr Arjun Singh, Union Minister for HRD, gives them the offer on a platter.

Like Mr V.P. Singh, who opened up a pandoraís box with his Mandal-I proposal for a massive hike in reservation for the SC/ST categories and failed to cash in on the vote bank, Arjun Singhís attempt to become the messiah of the OBCs under his Mandal-II proposals may not get him any mileage either.

The peopleís representatives seldom look into the basic problems faced by a backward-caste family, viz the grinding poverty which seldom allows their children to gain access to any meaningful education beyond what the poorly staffed and inefficiently run village schools offer.

Private professional schools and colleges offer seats at a price which only the creamy layer from these backward castes can afford to pay. Their children have poor academic record not because they are socially marginalised and have no opportunity, but because they are simply disinclined to work hard.

Genes donít guarantee success for an upper-caste spoilt brat, nor can a bright and talented backward-caste child be kept down if he or she makes up her mind to compete and excel. As for "affirmative action", in the USA and South Africa, it starts at the school level. Create special schools funded by government, but run by private institutions, exclusively meant for the backward castes, on the lines of Mayo College, Ajmer; Scindia School, Gwalior; Princeís College, Indore, etc. The existing opportunities for the general category are to be retained; the battle for OBC reservation will hinge on whether the political class waits for capacity build-up or just grabs its piece of the economic pie here and now.

R. C. ACHARYA, On e-mail

Let them raise their own merit

Merit is the only criterion and a real and natural justice to the candidates seeking an admission or a job. Merit is the result of oneís labour and ability. A student scoring fewer marks cannot be better than the student who has more marks. Caste has nothing to do with merit.

Caste-based reservation is monopolised and enjoyed only by a select few. They who need it more would never be given such opportunity. The poor people, be it from any caste, should be given direct financial help so that they may be able to raise their merit themselves.


Is it justice?

IF the caste is made the criterion for admitting students to the specialised courses, India would produce only poor workers. Children born in the poor sections of the upper castes but getting good marks will have to endure watching their classmates who have barely pass marks get the jobs and promotions meant originally for the meritorious.

You can easily find out the standard of work of the person enjoying the benefit of the reservation. Just visit any government office. Students of the poorest sections of society need to be made financially independent. Selecting them on the basis of caste would do them more harm than good, as they would never be able to function with the pride of the one who has come up purely on merit.

The reservation of seats in favour of the SC/BC/OBC in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha is a clear denial of rights. The majority of the people in reserved constituencies are only entitled to vote and not contest. In many cases, members of the same family have been contesting all the elections and winning unopposed because of reservation. Mr Gangu Ram Musafir from Himachal Pradesh is just one example. In Pragpur, members from just one household have been entering the Vidhan Sabha again and again, depriving the better people of their chance to enter. This has been happening from generation to generation. Isnít this injustice?


Take quota no further than schools

The admissions to specialised courses must be on the basis of the pure merit, not on the caste basis. Caste-based society can never really prosper; caste divides society and the nation. The benefits of the reservation on the caste basis should end with schools and be taken no further. It should not be extended to the professional courses.

It is a blot on the nation that we face the problem of reservation even after 58 years of Independence. Merit has no place in the country and, for the sake of dirty politics, the evil of reservation will continue in the professional courses. Nobody dares to stop it, even though the time has come that it is stopped now. If it is not stopped, there will be unrest among the students.


The creamy layer gets everything

Clinging on to the archaic policy of reservation on the basis of caste makes no sense. Now the benefit of this reservation goes only to the wards of bureaucrats, doctors and engineers who have reached high positions only because of reservation.

If India has to compete in the world, it will have to stop this caste-based reservation. Politicians donít let this reservation ever stop because they gain a lot from it.

The poor, the backward and the SC should realise that they are being exploited for votes by they who advocate reservation. If the country really wants to uplift the poor and the downtrodden, there should be fee waiver for all economically backward students, irrespective of their caste. The government should organise free coaching classes for students trying to enter specialised courses, but the standards of the premier institutions should not be compromised.

Dr RAJIV DOSAJH, Chandigarh

Prestige is the issue

Admissions to specialised courses like engineering, medicine and management should be based on merit alone, if we have to stand as an advanced nation in the world. We have to get free from the evil of reservation based on caste.

If we have to achieve our goals set by our great leaders, we should force the government to get these higher education institutions free from any kind of reservation. All political parties have been playing a game for garnering votes, defeating the interests of meritorious students from the general category for 58 years. Govtís policy of extending the quota to nearly 50 per cent will adversely affect the quality and prestige of these institutions. Society may also get divided further.

To avoid discontent in students, academics, intellectuals, scientists and industrialists and to save the career of the meritorious, social uplift should be on economic basis and not caste.


Donít deny the OBC

The Article 15 (5) of the Constitution exempts only the minority institutions of education from carrying on with reservation. The OBCs in India own small patches of land in the country and are still economically and educationally backward. The finest brains among them should get admission to these institutions of excellence.

It is necessary that even the OBC students are expected to score marks as high as the scores that general-category candidates get in the entrance test. The performance level of both categories ought to be closely monitored and in case of near about equal score (say a difference of only 5 per cent), the OBCs should get preference.

There is no need for the upper-caste candidates to panic as they have enjoyed reservation up to 77.5 per cent in premier institutions all these years.

Our big nation has a vast populace of the OBCs and it would be preposterous to argue that they donít have brains. The sons and daughters of blacksmiths, carpenters and small peasants should have the opportunity to study at IITs and IIMs, as they can better technocrats and scientists than their counterparts in big cities.


Canít give reins to just anyone

Institutes of specialised courses are centres of higher intellect. Democracy is a pyramidal society where a person sitting at higher echelon affects millions at the base. Imagine the chaos that shall ensue when the reins are in the hands of those with low intellect.

Reservation never changes the intellect of a person, but it breeds complacency and insufficiency. Indian experience of reservation in the government sector is self-speaking. Merit is the only mantra for success in this era of globalisation. Our politicians should shun casteism and adopt nationalism. Any doles can be given to the underprivileged for level playing, but compromising merit for admission to specialised courses will be suicidal.

Dr KULDIP SINGH, Hoshiarpur

Politics is the root cause

Whatever bickering we see in the society today, it is all because of our mindless politicians. We have never had such bitterness in the past. Caste-based reservations have been hampering the progress from the village level to the national level.

If the politicians really want to contribute to the progress of society, they should leave the politics of chair and provide the poor with good education from the school level itself. There is a huge population of even higher-caste persons who are poor, but no politician is ready to help them in a proper way. The sole aim of the politicians is just to divide and rule. Such behaviour will only create a mess in our society and one day, it would lead to bloodshed.

J. C. MISHRA, Shimla

Mix merit and caste delicately

When we think of prestigious institutions, we naturally think that merit is the basis of admission there. However, when we think of the underprivileged people of India, we think that merit alone would make them more backward. We have to find a method which reasonably combines merit and caste. Of course, some percentage of seats should be left for the lower-caste people, though merit should not be totally ignored.

Prof P. K. GUPTA, Bathinda

Standards have fallen

Reservation in government jobs and educational institutions was introduced to uplift the poor. At that time, it seemed justified, but after 58 years of Independence, the politicians use reservation as a mere tool for fetching votes. The creamy layer among the backward classes has been misusing the reservation policy, while the real have-nots are where they were.

Parliament has ignored the verdicts given by the Supreme Court in favour of the general category and refused to discuss the subject. When all the citizens of the country are bound to accept the judgments given by the apex court, why is the government an exception?

Reservation has done us more harm than good. It has divided society and lowered the standards of civil, medical, engineering and technical services. It is against the law of equality. It is time to curtail and not expand its scope.


Beat the competition, not the doctor

To enhance the further quota to SC/ST/OBC in top medical and engineering institutions is purely vote-bank politics. It is a matter of extreme pity that doctors have been brutally beaten up by the police.

In this world of globalisation and competition, there is an immediate need to produce brilliant and outstanding workers from these institutions. When someone has a weak academic base, how can he or she produce the countryís best work in higher education.

Merit should be respected. There is a need to adopt international policies to push forward in every field. The government should try to decease the population, which is root cause of all evils.

India is second in population, but in all other fields, she lags behind even small countries, as reservation and population have been eating up our brilliant minds.

JAI GOPAL, Ludhiana

Tell Paswan that merit matters

Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, favouring quota in top professional institutions, said this in a TV debate: "Name a single person from these IITs who has invented anything new in the past so many years?" He may be reminded that it takes only a super genius to invent and thousands of that calibre to improve upon the original design and toggle with the invention to make it more user-friendly. This is what these institutions do. Had it not been so or had there been a quota, for example, in the prestigious ISRO, it would never have dreamt of its expedition to the Moon in the immediate next years.


Poverty is not a passport

Nobody will deny the need to bring the backward in the mainstream, but the affirmative action in the form of reservations creates reverse discrimination. Once reservation is extended to the OBC, it will not be easy to withdraw it. This is borne out by the past experience of reservations for ST and SC.

Backwardness cannot be made the passport to specialised courses. We need quality professionals coming through the merit and not second-rate candidates entering through the backdoor.

Giving entry to a few hundred backward students in elite institutions does not uplift the truly downtrodden; it just plays on the cruel joke and props the creamy layer.

How do we justify denying the seat to a poor student belonging to the upper caste who is equally disadvantaged to stand in competition due to economic reasons? In competitive examinations, where coaching plays a crucial role, it is not the social divide but the economic divide that tilts the balance.

There is no short cut to emancipate the backward. If the government is serious about uplift, it should bring the underprivileged into the mainstream by improving education at the primary and secondary levels.

RAMA KASHYAP, Chandigarh


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