In Beyond Caste (Tehelka, May 13) by Purushottam Agrawal,
two paragraphs were omitted due to space constraints. The paragraphs
are as follows:
‘Some of the votaries of caste-based reservation
in our country liken it to the American model of affirmative action
(AA). Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact,
the spirit of aa is contrary to the stagnant quota system in place in
our country. The American system does not have any pre-fixed quota for
those belonging to historically disadvantaged ethnicities. Marquita
Sykes defines the American model as follows: “Affirmative action,
the set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate
past and present discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex,
or national origin.” This model is all about the provision of
opportunities to those belonging to the historically disadvantaged communities
so that they can be integrated into the mainstream. This has helped
both the corporate sector and public institutions in America to reflect
the diversity of that society to a significant extent. The American
model does not focus exclusively on ethnicity; gender and economic factors
are taken into account as well.
comprehensive model of aa was in place in the Jawaharlal Nehru University
admissions policy till 1983, and undoubtedly helped JNU to reflect the
diversity of Indian society along with maintaining the highest academic
standards in the country. Due to administrative expediency, this system
was revoked in favour of the easier and politically more suitable system
of flat caste-based reservation.’
with reference to Lalit Kumar Das’s Merit, Quotas… Do We
Wait For Some More? (tehelka Debate, July1 1). I disagree with the analysis
on the statistics regarding iit admissions. The conclusions which appear
in the article take away from much of what Das purports to convey through
his wide-ranging discussion. I completely disagree with those conclusions.
analysis also takes a somewhat erroneous view of education in the West.
He has conveniently omitted the fact that the West has veered off its
chosen path, such as implementation of reservations in education. The
article appears to present a tortured and somewhat biased analysis to
support conclusions already reached, rather than the other way around.
While I admire Das’s suggestion for alternate paths for the underprivileged,
I cannot condone a gospel approach that presents conclusions unsupported
by the data presented. However, I would encourage Das’s search
for alternate developmental paths.
with reference to Merit, Quotas… Do We Wait For Some More?. It
is one of the rare articles that ask primary questions and shake up
established societal values.
debate on reservation is being stunted by the government’s obduracy,
the strategy of supporting a ‘preparatory’ school for obcs
may get undermined as the obc students who come out may be tempted to
benefit through this incentive and then go on to take advantage of the
reservation quota too.
if we should not take the debate to the grassroots level where the electoral
battles are fought. Someone who is sufficiently articulate intellectually
and fired with passion should listen, talk to and convince obcs at the
with reference to Merit, Quotas… Do We Wait For Some More?. I
enjoyed reading the article which presents several well-thought-out
opinions on the reservation issue.
has many educational needs but there are limited resources to provide
these needs. As a result, tough choices have to be made. All the underprivileged
sections that the article talks about deserve help, but not at the expense
of others. Is it fair to an upper caste youth with limited resources
if his chance of selection in an institution is taken away by a reserved
caste minister’s nephew?
to have some basis for an objective evaluation that students can see
and strive for on an equal footing. We should have community colleges
and trade schools similar to the US to provide vocational training and
hands on training in technology set up in the smaller towns and in rural
with regard to Survival Of The Fittest In A Biased World by Kanimozhi
Karunanidhi (Tehelka, June 24). The article was very interesting. However,
coming from a scion of one of the richest families in Asia, her concern
for the dalits and backward classes seem unconvincing and akin to shedding
family parted with even half their wealth, whether it was earned through
the media, shipping, real estate or film empires, the lot of dalits
and backwards, at least in Tamil Nadu, would improve drastically. It
is a moot point of the reservation debate that many such ‘backward’
families in Tamil Nadu, who have enjoyed being in control of the levers
of power for the last 50 years, would now get the benefits of the proposed
with reference to Survival Of The Fittest In A Biased World. Although
in north India, the debate over reservation still goes on, reservation
has already brought great benefits in the South.
It is incorrect
to argue that quota kills merit. In fact, it will give a chance to real
merit, for currently, the students dubbed ‘meritorious’
are actually the ones who have had access to the best coaching and opportunities.
For instance, Vellore’s Christian Medical College, which follows
a quota system, has maintained its position as one of the leading medical
colleges of the country.
should take steps to ensure that quality education reaches every child.
There should be special schemes for providing rural children spoken
English courses to overcome their disadvantage. Special coaching should
be available for poor students for facing competitive exams. Campus
selections should be transparent and based on marks.
A. JACOB SAHAYAM
with regard to the motives behind the recent anti-reservation protests.
Youth for Equality, the students’ movement which claims to be
fighting for the equality of caste, class, religion and race, were really
concerned about equality, they would protest against the over 50 million
children who work over 14 hours a day in dingy and abusive environments,
they would fight for minimum wages for the tens of thousands of street-cleaners
and sweepers across India’s cities. They would protest against
the thousands of atrocities committed against people of lower castes
that are willfully overlooked by the media and the sickening matrimonial
pages and websites that reek of casteism.
like to know how many of these protestors, after a couple of years,
will actually step outside the boundaries of caste while choosing their
life-partners. If one is fighting for equality, the focus of one’s
energies should not be just writing fancy placards.
with reference to Jitendra Kumar’s Merit Is The Luxury of the
Privileged (Tehelka, June 10). It is really naïve of Kumar to think
that reservations are going to benefit deserving people. Reservations
will be used by the ‘creamy layer’, a topic which Kumar
didn’t touch, knowing it was a valid point. How can an OBC/SC/ST
student in a remote village compete with the children of well-off OBC/SC/ST
current and future generations pay for the mistakes made by people ages
ago? Is there any plan on how long reservations should exist? It seems
as though quotas are going to stay forever.
with reference to Merit Is The Luxury of the Privileged. It presents
astounding figures regarding the condition of SCs, STs, OBCs and Muslims
in urban and rural India. The figures that represent the economically
and educationally weaker sections of society call for an immediate change
in the present constitutional scenario. These weaker sections definitely
need to be elevated so that they can contribute equally to nation-building.
to the problem would be counting the people below the poverty line as
a whole, instead of dividing the reserved sections into individual categories.
A solution on these lines would keep our politicians from filling up
their vote banks and the general public away from the tension and confusion
regarding their rights.
with reference to Dhiraj Nayyar’s Time Someone Thought Up A Better
Policy (Tehelka, June 17). In application forms for all government and
private jobs and educational institutions, the column asking for one’s
caste must be removed.
make for a weaker nation as inefficient candidates get selected in organisations
and institutions. Naturally, the result is deterioration of services
and poor output.
a lot for your interesting discussion on the reservation issue (Tehelka
Debate, which began in the May 13 issue). The problem with upper caste
journalists, intellectuals and protestors is that they are totally out
of context when discussing the issue. The only thing they have
in mind is that dalits and backward classes possess no merit and therefore
have no right to come up. This ‘merit disease’ has been
the most atrocious form of upper caste antipathy towards dalits and
other marginalised sections of society.
being asked is that if dalits and OBCs have come up, why do they need
reservation. It is important that we do not raise the issue of the ‘creamy
layer’ at this point of time for it is another upper caste ploy
to thwart reservation. If one does not recruit the educated class of
people who have come up, whom does one recruit? It has been seen that
dalits have been running institutions like banks in Maharashtra and
Madhya Pradesh, that too very successfully.
is not a favour, it is a right. To understand it properly, I think people
should look at the historic movements for social justice in states like
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
VIDYA BHUSHAN RAWAT
only a few rich people using reservations, while genuinely backward
SCs/OBCs are not even aware of such reservations? I myself belong to
an SC but could not get a seat in a professional college through reservation.
One of my neighbours, whose father was a Class I officer and who was
educated in an English medium convent school, got admission through
reservation. Since my father was a government peon, was I not a more
deserving SC candidate? Why should a family earning Rs 10 lakh a year
need reservation? Should it be just because they have an SC/OBC certificate?
Why do we say only SCs/STs/OBCs are backward? Are not all Indians living
in villages backward?
Tehelka’s opinion on the quota issue (Tehelka Debate), but it
is highly unfortunate that some of the writers should have chosen to
use flawed arguments to forward the opinion that the media and institutions
of higher education have been the privilege of upper castes.
has been to any of these institutions, one will realise that once you
are in, all that matters is how hard you are willing to work and what
potential you carry. Your caste is completely irrelevant. I never bothered
to know what caste my friends at iit came from, neither did they. And
I am sure that journalists too have a similar disposition towards their
colleagues. Do you ask your co-worker which caste he belongs to? I think
not. No one is prevented from giving competitive exams and joining institutions.
with regard to Throw off Old Identity Traps by Bibek Debroy (Tehelka,
June 3). Indian politicians have never framed positive policies to empower
the people. They have been eager to use shortcut methods for political
backward classes through education, the right step would have been to
develop primary and secondary schools exclusively for OBC students in
all the states and union territories. Had this been done, OBCs would
have been at par with the rest of society today. However, our politicians
employed shortcut methods to secure political mileage to win elections.
This is with reference to Bibek Debroy’s article
Throw Off Old Identity Traps (Tehelka Debate, June 3). I fully agree
that there is a big difference between doing “something for the
poor” and doing “something in the name of poor”.
The problem is that in post-Independence India, no government
has seriously taken a holistic view when dealing with the basic problems
facing the country. They have always been guided by cheap vote bank-centric
politics. Therefore, it is not surprising if the Congress-led UPA government
toes the same hackneyed policies. Its pseudo-socialist populist overtures
will take the country nowhere. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh knows it
well, but the Left will never allow him to have his way. In a country
like ours, the utopian ideas proposed by Debroy will continue to be
ignored by the selfish political parties.
This is with regard to the Tehelka Debate (which began
in the May 13 issue). While the proposed reservation model, suggesting
27 percent reservation in institutes of higher education without lowering
unreserved seats from the present level, may benefit OBCs, it would
create hatred between reserved and general classes, instead of removing
class barriers. It would also bring down the standard of education.
An alternative method could be to open institutes of
higher education exclusively for OBCs, who could also seek merit-based
admissions in other institutes. Under this model, there would be no
bad blood between OBCs and general classes and merit would not be compromised.
Although it would cost time and money to provide new
institutes for OBCs, this cost would be small compared to the cost of
downgrading merit. However, only a merit-based system can answer one
question — after graduation, what?
I appreciate Tehelka’s views on the quota issue,
which are quite different from the rest. I am not sure what exactly
the term “merit” means. Let us consider it as ‘the
ability to do a job, which is intended to be done, properly’.
So I don’t see how the means through which a person has acquired
this so-called merit — whether it is attending expensive coaching
or anything else — is immaterial.
I am working in a public sector undertaking and I see
another side of this debate. There are several reserved category candidates
working with us who are getting good salaries, so they are able to give
their children expensive coaching. These children also avail of reserved
category seats. So, under the current reservation system, we are creating
a creamy layer of SCs/STs/OBCs who are and will be getting all the benefits
of the reserved category, while the poor section becomes poorer.
This is with regard to ‘Shining India’ Forgets
Real India by Amit Sen Gupta (Tehelka, May 27). It’s a pity that
after 59 years of Independence the world’s biggest democracy is
still biased in favour of upper castes, who constitute 17 percent of
the population, but have a monopoly over nearly 77 percent of jobs in
No sensible Indian would disagree with the view that
a lot needs to be done to improve the condition of SCs and STs, although
22.5 percent of seats are reserved for them. OBCs remain at a disadvantage;
hence, some form of reservation is indeed necessary. But that does not
mean that there are no poor Brahmins and rich dalits. Let all economically
backward meritorious aspirants, not just OBCs, SCs or STs, get help
BIDYUT KUMAR CHATTERJEE
Beyond Caste (Tehelka, May 13) by Purushottam Agrawal
makes conceptually interesting points. But the points would be significantly
enhanced if the article could present the so-called miraa scores and
admission outcomes as applied to a few actual incoming classes of real
institutes to demonstrate what actually might happen.
with regard to Beyond Caste (Tehelka Debate, May 13). While I commend
Purushottam Agrawal for his alternative to the current quota system,
I feel that this system is extremely vulnerable to corruption.
In a system where general category students can get
points on the basis of region or school, it would be very simple for
them to get the required fake certificates made, a practice quite common
in India. I also feel that five points is too high to be awarded for
being a girl. I would feel dishonest accepting those points, for I haven’t
faced any disadvantage as, I think, many other girls also haven’t.
I feel the answer lies in a reworking of the creamy
layer policy. Also, I feel that descendants of those who have availed
of reservations should be included in the general category.
This is with regard to ‘Shining India’ Forgets
Real India by Amit Sen Gupta (Tehelka Debate, May 27). Social injustice
can only be resolved through redistribution of resources, which takes
time. There is no shortcut. The government should provide monetary assistance
to OBC students to help them get extra coaching, which can help them
prepare for competitive exams. OBCs should first stop calling themselves
‘OBC’. I think that’s the first step towards integration
with the rest of society.
contradicts his own argument by suggesting reservation for OBC candidates
in institutions, which he says creates students who are absorbed by
foreign countries and mncs. The iits/iims were able to nourish talent
even within a failed system and the primary reason was competition based
on merit. It is an injustice to a candidate who has 97 percent marks
but can’t get admission, while an OBC candidate gets admission
based on his/her caste.
with regard to About Empowerment, Not Employment by VP Singh (Tehelka,
May 20) defending reservation. I don’t think anyone disputes that
some affirmative action in this regard is necessary, especially for
the weakest sections of our society. But how much is enough? Today it
is 50 percent. What if, in the name of populist politics or misplaced
idealism, the next government wants 80 percent, 90 percent?
that the people who go to IITs/IIMs/AIIMs are from fairly rich families.
But that is also true for students from reserved categories who end
up in these institutions. Meaning that the people who end up availing
the reserved seats are from fairly well to do SC/ST/OBC families. Show
me an example where the truly downtrodden have been benefited.
don’t provide a solution that is worse than the problem. Don’t
make us look at our friends through the lens of reservation.
Agrawal’s article Beyond Caste (Tehelka, May 13) is a rational
analysis of how genuine social justice can be brought about in Indian
society. He has initiated a debate which can be taken further.
accept any kind of reservation where quality of education is compromised
and suffers. Whether it was VP Singh and now Arjun Singh, neither of
them ever bothered to think that such announcements would play havoc
with the psyche of the Indian youth. I am not against reservations,
but not in favour of the manner in which it is being suggested by the
government. There should be some balancing formula and Agrawal’s
suggestion seems to be a step in that direction.
appropriate authority ever taken the trouble to find out as to how the
existing reservation system is working? Someone sitting in the hrd ministry
should take some pains to find out.
DR MANASVINI M. YOGI
with regard to Beyond Caste. Thank you very much for initiating a much-needed
debate on the 50-odd-year-old caste-based reservations. Purushottam
Agrawal deserves whole-hearted support for taking the initiative to
bell the cat. I agree with his views. Preparing a scale for measuring
the true backwardness of the disadvantaged classes may be a worthwhile
idea to debate. Congratulations for tackling the problem from a different
DR D. SRINIVASA RAO
Agrawal’s ideas on caste in Beyond Caste call for an honest debate.
On the one hand, Agrawal accepts the disparities in Indian society and
on the other hand he provides a logical solution to the reservation
issue. There has certainly been a big gap between the haves and have-nots,
likewise a big rift between the so-called upper castes and lower castes.
The question is, how should it be solved?
to the OBC category, I am for reservation; at the same time, I admit
the misuse of reservation by certain sections. Agrawal’s debate
indirectly points to this misuse and provides a good solution. But miraa
needs a slight change regarding its points.
KEDAR KUMAR MANDAL
present era of the reservation debate, to accept miraa as mooted and
proposed by Purushottam Agrawal in Beyond Caste would be a befitting
and innovative measure to eliminate the prevalent structures of social
marginalisation and denial of access to education. It will create a
harmonious, competitive and constructive environment for the all-round
development of the nation. More importantly, our lawmakers should keep
in mind that reservation should be utilised for the welfare of needy
sections irrespective of caste in order to augment the nations’
growth, competence for personality development. However, nowadays reservation
is being utilised only to gain vote-banks for grabbing power without
taking into account its far-reaching consequences with regard to society.
This is with reference to About Empowerment, Not Employment by VP Singh
(Tehelka, May 20). The Congress has always tried to present itself as
a messiah of the poor, backward and destitute. It has always projected
itself as a saviour of the neglected classes of the society and any
voice raised in opposition, like the BJP’s, is automatically taken
as fundamentalist and coloured non-secularist, or saffron.
It is a
shame that there seems to be not even a single party opposing reservation.
Today in our democracy, the need of the hour is not the ruler but an
Opposition. But here, it seems that everyone in the Lok Sabha is happy
with the decision on reservation, hence there is no opposition. The
only ones opposing it are the masses. Is this a new trend? Single party
initiation, coalition support across party lines and unhappy, violent
and anguished masses.
with reference to your debate on reservation (which began in the May
13 issue). The government would have us believe that caste is the only
barrier to equity in the education sector, which is most definitely
definitely important, and is quite often linked to the other factors
that are responsible for inequity, like poverty, living in backward
regions, and having parents who are illiterate.
nature of parliamentary democracy demands that decisions be made for
the narrow considerations of the vote bank and for the support of a
large uneducated mass that is trying to come out of the morass that
they are in.
unlikely that any party will talk against caste-based reservation in
India because it would inevitably mean a defeat in the next elections,
as the caste bloc would work against the party en masse.
ARAVIND R. MENON