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A fresh look at reservations and quotas – Part 2

By: B Shantanu
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A few weeks ago, I wrote a detailed post examining the various issues with the current system of reservations and quotas. In that analysis, I identified the following serious problems:

1. The present system does not address the fundamental issue of lack of good quality primary education

2. That there continue to be unfilled seats suggest it may not be working as it should

3. It appears to be mis-targeted and imbalanced

4. It is in danger of becoming self-perpetuating

5. It may fail to create a longer term positive impact and finally,

6. It may be based on faulty, missing, un-validated and inconsistent inputs.

In this post, I will try and look at some ideas and proposals that might help overcome at least some of the issues identified above.

What is the solution?

Let me say at the outset that I am not sure if there is/are any perfect solution(s) to this issue. In fact, I am not even sure whether any/all the ideas I am proposing (below) are practical and/or can be implemented. And yet, it is not possible to avoid the topic and I believe it is essential to have a serious debate on this. Please treat the thoughts below as catalysts to that discussion.

Here are a few ideas worth considering:

Privatise and heavily encourage provision of elementary education by the private sector. Done well, this could also boost entrepreneurship in rural and semi-urban areas and possibly generate some employment too. This addresses issues #1 and #2.

Heavily subsidise (through scholarships, grants and other means) education at primary and secondary level based on economic criteria. This addresses issues #1 and #2.

• Offer needy and bright students continuing/long-term scholarships to help them progress to higher education. This addresses issues #1 and #2.

Offer extra incentives to set up educational institutions which will cater only to SCs and STs – or in areas dominated by SCs and STs. This addresses issue #3.

• Put in a filter(s) to reduce the dominance of the current quotas by those from the “creamy layer”. This addresses issue #3.

Extend current quotas by a maximum of another 5 years and gradually phase them out(say by reducing 10% every 5 years) until they reach 20% (Assuming 50% reservations of seats/places at the moment, it will take about two decades to get to 20%). Then fill the seats and places that make up the 20% based on income and socio-economic backwardness indicators. This addresses issue #4
Limit reservation for OBCs to 20% while re-examining the inputs based on current, validate and empirically verifiable data; Once better data is available, re-assess. This addresses issue #6.

Make a serious effort to gather data and better quality inputs; None of these measures will be very effective unless they are based on sound evidence (Evidence needed not only to justify the measure but to ensure that is well-directed and can make a difference). This addresses issue #6.

I believe a combination of these measures can create long-term positive impact and, over time, eliminate need for caste-based reservations.

The quota system can then morph into an affirmative action programme that is better able to address the needs of a developing society in the years to come.

Very Important:

I am putting forward these ideas to initiate a discussion. Although most of these views reflect my thinking, this is not etched in stone. The purpose of this piece is to start a dialogue and come up with a broad consensus on what might actually work.

Better ideas are very likely to emerge from this discussion. For that to happen, we must all be open-minded and ready to hear/think about opposing points of views.

The discussion will be enhanced by the breadth of participation and a spectrum of diverse views.. So please ask everyone/anyone who you think is concerned about this issue to write in.
If someone could get YFE (Youth For Equality) and others to respond, that would be even better.

Additional Ideas:
1. Polite Indian’s Deprivation Certificate (also suggested in slightly different form by Dr Vinaya Singh)
2. Purushottam Agrawal’s MIRAA Index
3. Arvind Subramanian’s Graduated Vouchers Scheme

Related Posts:
A fresh look at Reservations and Quotas
This, not reservations is the answer

Additional Reading (Highly recommended)
Are Brahmins the Dalits of today? - by Francois Gautier
The middle class deserves what it is getting- by Sushant Sareen which has the conclusion:

Frankly, the Indian middle class deserves what it is getting. The basic lesson which they need to learn is that if they don’t shed their supercilious attitude towards politics and don’t vote, and don’t express their outrage with everything that is wrong in this country, they will get by-passed.

Well said.

B Shantanu

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