Atanu Dey On India's Development

Indian Reservations

George Bernard Shaw with characteristic cynicism noted that a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. Regardless of their specific stripes, all Indian governments, because they are “democratically” elected, naturally solve the problem of identifying the Peters and the Pauls by a numbers game: Pauls must outnumber the Peters. So it should come as no surprise that yet another idiotic scheme is hatched by the party in power to gain the support of a large underclass by promising them something that will not in any substantial way be of any use to them but gives the appearance of providing relief.

Allocating quotas and reserving seats for economically backward classes (and for other historically discriminated and disadvantaged groups) in higher educational institutions is economically inefficient, morally wrong, strategically flawed, and tactically ineffective. The policy does not help the underclass and ends up victimizing both the underclass and the so-called privileged class. The policy epitomizes what is called a “lose-lose” solution, while foregoing a “win-win” situation.

A general observation is in order here. India is an extremely poor country of over one thousand million people. This state of poverty could not have come about without India following a consistent set of economically flawed policies over a substantially long time. Persistent and widespread poverty is a consequence of asinine policy choices, just as much as prosperity is a consequence of wise policy choices. Since the mindset which in the past consistently evolved and doggedly pursued illogical policies has not changed, it is reasonable to expect (after all, we are all Bayesians) that any proposed new policy is also going to be flawed. To move beyond the clichéd observation that a proposed policy is idiotic, one has to look inquire into the different ways in which it is so, and that is what I propose to do here. Later on in this series, after pointing out the specific ways in which the policy is flawed, I will outline the solution which will evolve naturally enough once we have understood the problem in detail.

Observing the Indian educational system brings to mind John Maynard Keynes’ skeptical definition of education as the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent. I would extend it by defining the Indian educational system as a structure created by the incompetent and uneducated to produce more of the same sort of people. It is a system which ensures its survival through self-replication.

The most visible of the problems plaguing the education system is that it is “supply-constrained.” In other words, the potential quantity demanded outstrips the capacity of the system to supply. Putting aside for the moment the question of why the supply does not increase to meet the demand, let’s look at the various ways in which the limited supply can be “rationed.” In a free market, price is a rationing mechanism: the price rises sufficiently to equate the quantity demanded and the quantity supplied. There are no shortages. Thus, for instance, there is no “shortage” of diamonds or of Microsoft shares: the price rises to equate supply and demand. (Diamonds are a special case because the supply is monopolistic and limited by the cartel to maintain a certain price level. Microsoft shares, on the other hand, will be bid up if the demand goes up and the price will rise in the stock market till all those who want to hold them have as much as they want.)

There are no shortages in free markets. Shortages arise only when the price is not allowed to rise to what is called the “equilibrium” or “free market” levels for whatever reasons. It is a valid generalization to note that prices are not allowed to rise for a number of reasons, ranging from ignorance of basic economic principles to plain old-fashioned “rent seeking behavior.” Ignorance leads policy makers to believe that by imposing a price-ceiling, a more equitable distribution of resources will be obtained. In fact the opposite occurs as can be seen from the classic case of rent control: the poor are hurt differentially more than the rich. Rent seeking behavior, on the other hand, is not motivated by ignorance; it is motivated by greed and is informed by knowledge of how the system works. Here is the strategy. First, limit the supply. Then impose a price ceiling so that at that price, demand outstrips the supply. Having thus done away with rationing through the price mechanism, rationing is done through non-price mechanisms such as licenses, quota, and permits. These are handed out as favors to particular constituencies as a quid pro quo. This, in short, is the situation in higher education in India.

Now on to the specifics of why quotas in higher education for disadvantaged groups is bad policy. First, the economic efficiency argument. All economic policies create gainers and losers. If the gainers gain more than the losers lose, then it is theoretically possible for the gainers to compensate the losers for their loss so that after the compensation, the losers are not any worse off than before and the gainers are better off than before. Such a policy effects what is a called a “Pareto improvement” and is therefore an economically efficient policy. Conversely, if the losers lose more than the gainers gain, then the policy is economically inefficient and there is an overall welfare loss.

Quotas, if they have any effect on the system, effectively replace qualified candidates with otherwise unqualified candidates. Unqualified candidates who enter the system are by definition unable to benefit from the opportunity to the extent that a qualified candidate would have done. The quota candidates are unable to compete within the system. Aside from the welfare loss in terms of wastage of real resources, the quota students suffer psychologically as they fall behind their colleagues who are better prepared for the academic rigors. They are looked down upon by those who “earned” their place in the school. (I say “earned” because it is strictly not so, as I will explain later.) This reinforces the perception—within both groups—that the group which enjoys the quota is intrinsically inferior. This is perhaps the most pernicious of all the unfortunate effects of a quota system in higher education.

This brings us to the point why quotas in higher education for disadvantaged groups is morally repugnant policy. It penalizes certain people based on their group membership. Discrimination based on caste, creed, origin, color, etc, is morally wrong. So is reverse discrimination. The right thing to do is to remove discrimination, not impose it from up on high. If, for instance, a person from a certain caste is not being allowed to enroll because of his caste, then the right policy is to remove that barrier. If students from economically backward classes were being denied admission despite being qualified, then the policy response should be to remove such discriminatory practices. Since it is not the case that qualified candidates of economically backward groups are being discriminated against, imposing quotas for them is not the solution.

So then, what is the solution? Pardon me for repeating my mantra (precisely why it is called a mantra—it is repeated) that before one can propose a solution, one should understand the problem. Here are two facets of the problem:

  1. Seats are limited. If they were unlimited, you would not need a quota for anyone. They are limited because the government does not allow free entry into the higher education business.
  2. Students from certain groups are unable to gain entry into the supply constrained system, and once inside they are ill prepared to compete within the system. If they were qualified, they would not need quota protection in the first place, and would be able to compete once there.

Both aspects of the problem need to be addressed by any proposed solution. The quota system addresses neither. The real solution has two main thrusts. First, get the government out of the business of controlling the supply of higher education. There are real opportunities for commercial establishments which will eagerly enter the business of education if allowed to do so. I use the phrase “business of education” advisedly since higher education should be a business like any other supplying a service which is essential for the larger economy and should yield a profit.

The second thrust is has to do with sequencing. It is undeniable that certain segments of the population are ill prepared to compete for seats in higher education. They are not intrinsically inferior in any sense; they are not naturally stupid. The fact is that they have not had the opportunity to prepare themselves for higher education. The solution therefore is that they have to be provided help in preparing for higher education, which basically means that they have to be given assistance at levels that precede higher education. They are handicapped at the level of higher education because they are handicapped at the earlier stages of education. If their handicap in the school level were addressed, you would not have to make special provisions for them in the post-school levels. This should be evident to the meanest intelligence, it would appear, but then perhaps our policy makers don’t make even the meanest intelligence grade. This is the most charitable explanation of why the minister in charge of education has not figured out this elementary point. The less charitable explanation is that the minister is a cynical opportunist out to ensure his re-election by giving out worthless gifts to unsuspecting victims of his own ambition.

This brings me to the point of whether those who compete on their merit have “earned” their place to enter these institutions of higher education. Sure, they have had to work hard at school and learn their lessons instead of goofing off. But they were lucky enough to have had the opportunity of going to good schools because their parents were rich enough to afford them. While commending them on their hard work (to the extent they had to work hard), it is important to keep in mind that they were privileged in having the opportunity which are not available to those who come from the backward classes. Much of the outcome rests on the luck of the draw which dictates which socio-economic class one is born into, and that fact should induce some degree of humility in those who protest that their merit is not being recognized as a result of the quota system.

The disadvantaged segments of the population are not disadvantaged only in their ability to gain admission to higher education, they are disadvantaged in all levels of education. The solution then is to help them with providing them opportunities in the lower levels first. Equality of opportunity at the lower levels (primary, secondary, and high school levels) is a necessary and sufficient condition for the disadvantaged segments to have a shot at competing with the others. Equality of opportunity is to be desired and can be engineered, but of course that does not guarantee equality of outcome. The policy makers need to understand the distinction between the equality of opportunity and the equality of outcome: the former is a necessity for social justice and can be obtained, while the latter is neither possible nor desirable.

At this point you would forgive me for repeating my other mantra: distinguish between the causes and symptoms (or consequences), and address the causes, not the symptoms if you want to solve the problem. The inability of backward classes not being able to compete in gaining admission to higher education is a consequence, not a cause of their backwardness. The cause of their backwardness lies elsewhere (which I will not go into now) and so by forcing them into higher education will not magically remove their backwardness.

Quotas, as I claimed earlier, are economically inefficient. Assume that the full cost of, say, a 4-year IIT education is $50,000 (or about Rs 22 lakhs). Further assume that a quota student ends up benefiting less than the full cost, say, $10,000, while a non-quota student gets at least $50,000 of benefits. The net loss is then at least $40,000. Instead of wasting $40,000 on one backward class student at the IIT, if the money were spent school education, 20 students could have been educated (with an average spend of $2,000) and out of which perhaps one would have been sufficiently bright enough to gain admission in the IIT on merit and subsequently compete within the system as well. This is the tactical flaw with the quota system: they have the sequencing wrong, and instead of creating more opportunities at the school level, it tries to equate outcomes at the college level.

To summarize: the fact that IITs and IIMs don’t have sufficient representation from some economically and socially disadvantaged groups is a symptom of a deeper problem. Therefore merely increasing the numbers from these groups by fiat will do no good, and indeed may end up harming the groups. I will outline the solution of the underlying problem in a subsequent post.


  1. The maestro drilling-down into the details of Reservation!

    This is mostly for the readers of this blog:

    Ignorance leads policy makers to believe that by imposing a price-ceiling, a more equitable distribution of resources will be obtained.

    Some people don’t understand the *fundamental* easily, the above is the Fundamental Problem and all the problems/issues like Reservation, Joblessness, Poverty, No Infrastructure and every other problem is an elaboration/affirmation of the above problem.

    Another good article that has Fundamentals is:

    The US pursues the politics of wealth creation and India pursues the politics of wealth redistribution. In the absence of national wealth, India redistributes poverty and stays poor while the US gets richer and richer.

    In essence the relentless pursuit of productivity gains is at the heart of US prosperity and the mindless emphasis on preserving jobs is at the heart of Indian poverty.

    Please do note that Atanu has stressed on the same in most articles, please browse through the archives.

    Once someone understands the fundamental problem, with the help of a few examples from Atanu, like this current article and some older ones, people can start thinking for themselves, do the analysis like the maestro and ask the right questions that will contribute to the body of analysis/knowledge, instead of asking questions that might not necessarily lead to what Atanu wants to do – Deesha -> Setting the direction for a better India.

    My goal is to learn from the master and improve upon (if possible!) to reach meaningful conclusions which will make me ACT, with the right direction. Like Atanu said, understanding the problem is extremely imporant. The solution lies within the problem and not outside. One can act without understanding the problem, but it would be futile and the effort would lead to inconsequential and insignificant improvements. Atanu sets the direction (of the path) and I have to implement it!

    Warmest Regards,

  2. Those who run the Government know that it wont work. They do it simply to gain votes by acting as a messiah of the under-privileged.

  3. Hi Atanu,

    It appears more like a “What-to-do” solution rather than a “How-to-do” since the issue of how to remove the “motivation” to rob Peter to pay Paul remains open. Hence eagerly waiting for the proposed solution to the underlying problem. I admire the genius of Richard Stallman in coming up with the Copyleft precisely because of that. One way, as it appears to me, is to use the strategy of the Buddha, when he preached in the local languages. I often wonder about the feasibility though.

    Warm Regards.

  4. Atanu, a nice post. Here are some of my views. If the aim of the country’s decision makers is to aid OBC’s in education, they need to tackle the problem from the bottom up rather than attack the top end.
    I am not saying that seats in engineering colleges need to be increased. The govt cannot guarantee the quality of education provided in the current institutes itself, forget about starting new ones under its auspices.

    Staying in bangalore, come various elections, the government and the kannada brigade go into overdrive in asserting that kannada will stay as the primary medium of education for primary schools(probably even secondary ones.)
    Now this is fine, if kannada was the only language utilized at the govt and private sector. Fortunately/unfortunately that is not the case. But since the kannada brigade(kb) is so vocal and the govt so beholden for votes to such people, it is the kids of the lower classes that suffer the consequences. The kids of the kb and decision makers go to english medium schools and care a damn about what happens in the govt schools. So for roughly 5-7 years, you have students whose main language of communication is kannada and they only start their english language quest in grades 5 or above. As far as I know, there is no engineering school of repute in karnataka that teaches in kannada. So you have the govt that shackles public school students by imposing on them a language that is not useful to them in higher education. Next comes the question of infrastructure. As you stated, the govt is meddling in higher education when primary education is where it should be concentrating its energies on. So many schools do even adequate infrastructure, nobody else but the govt is at fault for not providing this in the first place. The govt might be aiming to help such students through reservations but they only block seats that can be utilized for more meritorious students. Students who do manage to graduate from such schools are inadequately prepared for the level of competition and rigorousness that city level and private school students go through.

    I’ll leave with an article(now behind a password) from the Business Standard website.

    The taxi, a Volkswagen Santana, weaves in and out of thick traffic, switching between the main throughfares and bylanes of Beijing. The driver is concentrating on the road, but only somewhat. From the backseat, Laxman C Hemnani is issuing a stream of instructions. And directions. We arrive at our destination. Prakash hands out the fare and thanks the driver. The entire conversation was in fluent Chinese.

    Hemnani is the China head of IT training company Aptech, known locally as Aptech Baida Jade Bird Company. Sitting in his offices in the Haidian District in north-west Beijing, Hemnani explains how the IT training industry works in China.

    First, a comparison. In India, Aptech, like NIIT and others, function on the fringe of the state-run education sector. In China, Aptech has a 50:50 joint venture with a Chinese company (Jade Bird). Moreover, Beijing University (called Baida) has a stake in Jade Bird. So, unlike India, where IT education and by extension firms like Aptech operate from the periphery, in China, the government seeks them out and embraces them totally. A Beijing University tag is precious to most Chinese students.

    Then promoter of Aptech, Atul Nishar (he sold it to IT-training firm SSI), recalls how, after some correspondence, the China minister for science & technology visited India and his office. This was Mumbai and the year 1999. On most days, the area around Nishar’s office in Andheri (E) in north Mumbai is jammed with a constant cacophony of traffic. The air is dusty and thick with diesel smoke. This part of Mumbai is also host to hundreds of engineering workshops. And increasingly some IT companies.

    Nishar says he walked into his boardroom expecting to meet with the minister and a few aides. “I was shocked. There were 20 Chinese sitting there,” he recalls. Nishar says his shock turned into amazement when the minister said he would visit a few IT training centres himself. Which he did subsequently. “I didn’t expect him to actually visit a centre,” admits Nishar.

    The minister began by saying they wanted Aptech to come to China and “help with development”. The deal was signed only later. Nishar says options were a 100% subsidiary or partnering with the government. “We chose the latter. We signed a joint venture with the ministry of science & technology, which in turn assigned the venture to a company called Jade Bird.”

    In five years, Aptech has set up over 200 training schools in 57 different Chinese cities. The joint venture, according to the China Centre for Information Industry Development had 19% of China’s IT training market in 2005, up from around 15% in 2004. The business itself is growing close to 20% annually with total billings at $40 million. Pramod Khera, CEO, Aptech, says they now want to build an education content development “factory” in China. “We are thinking of taking the JV public in a year’s time,” he says.

    At the Haidian centre, close to Hemnani’s office in Beijing, some 2,000 students have enrolled for either a two-year degree or a one-year network administrator’s course. Hemnani explains they also work with individual colleges and universities directly. “When it comes to English and IT, they are empowered to tie up with companies like us,” he adds. Not quite the case in India. I ask Hemnani about this apparent contradiction in approach. He thinks about it but refuses to be drawn in. “It’s a little different here, I guess,” he says.

    Little is an understatement. Aptech is not just running IT-training classes through franchisees, it is also re-designing curriculum for several universities. In India, Aptech would possibly be shooed away from the gates of Delhi or Mumbai University for even suggesting something like this.

    The curriculum replacement model is fascinating. Aptech plugs its two-year course into a three-year university degree in computer science. At the end, students sit for Aptech and University exams and get twin degrees. Some 50 colleges have opted for this model. The teachers are trained by Aptech. And it’s the University, not the students, that pays Aptech.

    What are the lessons here? Before that, there may be many reasons why Indian universities are not joining hands with private education firms, Indian or overseas. Most may be legitimate. But the Chinese do hold their universities close to their heart. And nowhere is there talk of a foreign hand destabilising the education system.

    To use Nishar’s words, the Chinese are a determined bunch. In information technology in specific and lots of other areas in general. As the Chinese minister’s visit demonstrated. Nishar says he still can’t imagine collaborating with government-owned universities in India in this manner. “Government bodies are wary. Maybe in airports or some companies, but not quite education,” he says.

    Nishar says the other lesson is that in China, the government is a good partner. “They enable you and enhance your presence; they are not a hinderance.” But the important thing is this. “They begin by asking whether it will help China as a country. Will it help meet with objectives? Is it in their interest?” And then they work from there.

    Nishar today marvels about a new road out of Shanghai which will cut travelling time to Hangzhou. This is one of the places he is considering taking his IT services company Hexaware. But as he also realises, his former company’s success in China had very little to do with roads and airports. Or the China infrastructure story.

    Govindraj Ethiraj / Mumbai March 21, 2006

  5. On a similar note, in regards of higher eduation, Satya compares this scenario with Indian telecom revolution and food sector experience and argues that supply is the major problem.

    I too believe on similar lines. Otherwise, why chattisgarh could come up with “40 private universities” in a span of very short time. I accept that, they were under quality institutes but then when the number increases, then quality would become the major issue. Which essentially mean: people want as many as institutes to come-up and they are ready to pay for quality education.

    And then, in regards of primary education, Kerala did good things by increasing competetion by giving straightly scholarships to children, and subsidy in transport. Even in the case of primary education, poor ready to spend money.

    Coming to Atanu’s mantra that we should be concerned about causes not the symptoms: in the case of today’s medical system as well, we are always very much bothered about symptoms but not the causes. On a surprising note, we prefer this and dont prefer ayurvedic system which chases the causes. Is this due to mass psyche?


  6. Hi Atanu
    Going by what you say here, I am inclined to say that institutions like Indian School of Business at Hyd are the way to go. But what about the prohibitive tuition fees at institutes such as this? Would you recommend setting up more institutes like ISB in India?

  7. Not to worry. Within months of implementing a (near-) 50% reservation, everyone will be applying as a candidate in a reserved category. A whole industry and shadow economy will be spawned around fake birth certificates and modified ration cards. Soon, we will have the entire population in the reserved category, and only 50% reservation, which can then be upgraded to 100% without any opposition. End of story. You think only politicians can play dirty games? Hum saab khiladi hain!

  8. Are we asking for Ekalavya’s thumb so that we Arjunas can stand in the
    frontline? There will be injustices in any system. What if there are more people who are economically backward are backward in caste as well? Is the Mandal commission correct in what they are doing? If
    there are 90 people out of 100 getting benefited justly due to this correction isn’t it worth it? 10 people will get benefited unduly. In the same way 10 people may loose. We can’t say anything till we have the numbers. The son of a farmer who suicides in Andhra Pradesh will
    not have ‘merit’ and he may even be lower than a SC/ST. If he gets an entry, wouldn’t his future generations produce people who have merit by themselves?

    I, too, think that dividing people based on caste, race, etc is crap. But if India is soaked in such a system for a long time and if the easiest way to help people is to play the same game, then, why not?

  9. The reservation issue is an abstraction layer that represents the reality of our society. Economic and moral arguments are specious as the economy or ethical standards of conduct are not entities that exist in a vaccum. If the bulk of society (the pauls) feel that they are not in a postion to leverage the best they can out of the social system, they re-engineer it democratically or otherwise. One cannot pay lip service to democracy and impose the same social conditions that led to the disperate development in the first place. The reason why caste based reservation makes sense to the voting public is that India is casteist. I would really like to see how may of the ‘progressive’ objectors to caste based reservation have actually married out of their caste/relegion. In all probablity 99 % have in-bred. This is the root of the problem. If you want a society that is fair, not-discriminatory and competitive, why do you have to marry some one from your caste ? If marriage is about the union of 2 humans, why must they belong to the same ‘community’ or religion ? Are there phisiological barriers to cross-caste breeding ? If the right wing (to which atanu belongs without doubt) can answer this question without resorting to sophistry, bullshit pseudo economic arguments and cultural precedents, i think that 90 % of the problems will be sorted out. As i tell may nay sayers here, the day someone is appointed as the shankaracharya of puri or kanci on the basis of qualification (measured very differently from how it is today) rather than caste we can revisit the entire reservation issue. The only way to eliminate caste based reservations is to eliminate caste in personal relations.
    The temporal and the spiritual have reversed their significance over the last 100 years. An ‘OBC’ could not ‘apply’ to a vedic gurukul a 100 years ago and now that the traditional upper classes do not see any merit in useless spiritual education it is the temporal areas where barriers are erected. The ultimate goal of any socially mobile group is to increase its economic clout. If an iit education is the way, that is what the community will strive for. We have not equality in primary or secondary education. Bulk of the iit grads are either abroad or engaged in solving problems that have nothing to do with the taxpayers whose money they have educated themselves on. So what is the point of this ? Assuming that we can dilute the standards of the premier institutions by reservation (which in itself is an incorrect premise) just enough to ensure that the grads are not attractive as MNC fodder, it would probably serve the purpose the institutions were created for in the first place. The southern experience with reservation has clearly shown that the arguments of ‘dilution’ of quality are specious at worst and transitionary at best. The statistics of the demographic growth and distribution of wealth is documented and indisputable. What more, it is also clear that this has not come at the cost of the traditional classes that have enjoyed these facilities. This is not all that there is to this issue, however other points can emerge as the discussion progresses. The US economy is basically a ‘robber baron’ economy for traditional and historical reasons. While the argument on its relative merits and fairness can be debated till the cow’s come home, what is indisputable is that it is a non-sustainable, consumption driven economy that has the highest disparity between social classes. Not to mention the worlds largest ever per capita debt. The real drivers of social change are at the individual level. If one can look beyond their caste, relegion, state and get the big picture before taking a stand on such issues, solutions are readily available.The bottom line is that a country of a billion people cannot live up to its potential unless more people at the bottom of the pyramid are educated and equiped with tools that contribute to the overall development.Since we have defined the problem space, the solution should be one that works on numerical populations rather than quick fix creamy layer tech solutions.

  10. Great post, Atanu. In the beginning I thought this was just another anti-reservation “pro-merit” rant, but it’s great to see you offering solutions instead of merely cribbing, like so many others do.

    I completely agree with you that increasing the supply of education will in one fell swoop solve the problem of disproportionate representation while at the same time keeping the pro-meritwallahs happy.

    My thoughts are also here:, in case you are interested.)

  11. atanu

    but if education(and by implication, merit too) is in itself a privileged commodity, what then is the answer to unmeritocratic practices of the government? though i am not convinced about the reservations itself, i am not sure if the solution of the reservations itself is as flawed as its made to look.

  12. Dear Atanu,

    I agree with all of your views.
    Why don’t these stinking politicos reserve 50% seats in the parliament,ministeries,delegations and other such stuff.
    I have an even better idea.
    Why don’t we reserve 50 % of our air,water ,land, forests etc. for SCs,STs and OBCs.
    what about 50 % of wbsites,forums and blogs?
    Is Mr Arjun Sing listening?

  13. Atanu,

    Are you aware of the 100% reservation that had been around for centuries for the higher strata of the society? You must be dreaming when you say that merit itself would suffice. I see so many undeserving brahmins get into the educational system either by influence his/her high-class relatives or by paying their way through mostly possible due to the unjustly acquired wealth by their forefathers.

    Recent decrease in the gap between the marks of 1st person in the open merit list versus marks of 1st person in SC/ST merit list confirms your statement that they are not intrinsically inferior.

    – Abdul

  14. Interesting rant from Abdul Kadir.
    Reservations are legislative response to historical social and economic injustices.
    Should we shelve reservations if 80% of the marriages are inter-religious and inter-caste?

  15. We have instances of SC/st patients in medical College hospitals check if the surgeon is sC/ST. IF so, they change hospital as they are not sure of his competence. This reservation policy will only backfire at them leading to loss of credibility of even the meritorious among them.
    Radha Iyer

  16. Pingback: Atanu Dey on India’s Development » Imagine No Reservations

  17. if a seat goes to a Reserveation Candidate to uplift his status, what about the one who was denied a seat bcus he belongs to upper caste or wahtever? doesnt that candidate have a gloomy picture?

  18. Hi, A very nice article but there is a need to spread the message to more and more people. Awaken them and let them know the truth. I hope we people can do that.

    I would like to put my points regarding the ongoing quota system debate.

    Is reservation good or bad ? A debate that is never going to end. People who are going to be benefitted will surely support and people who are loosing will oppose it.

    India is a big country and many people live below poverty line. And it’s good (???)that government is trying to help the needly people ( I don’t know whether govt is really helping the people in a true sense or not).

    But has government thought about Pros and Cons of this movement ?? I have doubt. I think this is all a politically motivated propaganda.

    Government is not at all serious about helping people. Reservation is not going to help people in anyway because the people who need reservation are not able to use that.

    If govt. really want to help people then govt should try to reduce corruption. If corruption is reduced than people having higher income will not be able to take certificates by bribing. (Infact, i have seen people misusing the quota system..)

    Govt.should try to reduce their wages and should put a limit on their spendings.

    It is a shame on govt that it is criticizing the knowlege commision recommendations. (Then why at all have a knowledge commission ??).

    It is good to put efforts to improve conditions of needly people. But that should not be politically motivated.

    It is really bad to see that people from that category are not opposing ( I am not saying that if it is good then also you should oppose. they are not doing any neutral analysis). Govt. is trying to divide the nation now on the basis of caste..India had to pay a lot because of castism..( Even britishers had divided india on the basis of religion) Why politicians of india not learning from the past mistakes ??

    Try to uplift people but not on the basis of caste ?? India will be divided, And we know .

    United we stand, Divided we fall..

    we have to first decide, What india wants ??

  19. It is time that we understood the real meaning of the issue.

    Soon it will not be a case of mere discrimination against legitimate fundamental rights of so called upper cast citizens, but a case of PERSECUTION. Hitler had started the same way dividing German society and started a drift that changed the course of world history.

    Does parliamentary democracy in India mean that bunch of politicians can kill the legitimate and fundamental rights of a certain section of society and start depriving them?

    The constitution of India as it stands now, has lost the ability to protect rights of people who are being persecuted by the state on the basis of cast and religion -i.e. so called upper castes and Hindus!

    Is it not the time for petitioning the issue in UNHRC? Is it also not a time to start applying to foreign consulates and demand political asylum on the ground of persecution by the state?

    Beware world! If situation deteriorates in India by the action of screwed up Indian politicians then the whole world will suffer due to massive migration of people form India.

  20. Pingback: Bigash and his thoughts » India reservations for higher education

  21. Good article. Time and money that is wasted in “providing justice” for higher education , if spent in building basic education level (with infrastructure) the socalled “under privilaged” caste will benefit more. Rightly said, this reservation will only groom corruption to get fake certicates and etc. Possibly all the politicians will benefit from that also in getting “their cut” from the “Fake Certificate Industires”.
    Bottom line for these politicians keep the poor – poor with an halocination of “Reservation”; Reatin the “seat” for ever.

  22. Dear All,

    It’s practical to correct the historic blunder done by upper caste Indians.
    and do not forget that India is a country having hundreds of castes and religions.

    Its perfectly ok if Govt is trying to correct the past mistakes.All underpriviledged sections should have right to education and Job.
    Its not a property of certain affluent sections like marwaris,sindhis,Bramhins etc..

    Such reservation system exists in Norway and in USA also.

    Have a open heart to understand the problem!

    Best Regards,


  23. I am watching the news right now and the only thing that comes to my mind is that the statement and proposal made by Mr. Arjun Singh has ignited a huge fire which is slowly going out of control. One side there were only the students who were reacting to it…what has come in now is that even the people gaining advantage from such a move have started campaigning. Mr. Arjun Singh has managed to divide the whole country into two parts by way of just a proposal. The brunt of both sides is coming on the government eventually. What we need to understand is that agitation is not the way to get our message across…it will only worsen things.

  24. I am not an “Economist” to understand all these “jargans”.
    1. TN example – please see how many from really economically backawrd sitaution has risen up by this reservation policy. Every one is using this as example. In reality only economically well to do Sc/ST/OBCs have mode it to the top thru’ reservation. How many of them are really internationally competitive is another question mark.
    2. Would any one go to an doctor for treatement, who is given a degree by this “social justice” [reservation] method and not by the individual skill / competency
    Would any one excuse an Aircraft designer, who is given a degree by this “social justice” method and not by the skill, when the aircraft faces major accident
    3. What have we achieved by so called “social justice” that is been prvelenet for past 50 years – please look at the states Bihar, UP, MP etc. Who has actually gained by this
    4. Why this reservation is not applied in “Assembly house” and “Parliment”/ Why do we see only the same set of politicians till they physically become incapable or they die?
    5. Why all these politicians run to US / UK for any medical treatment or they get them flown in? Why are they not ready to get treated by SC/ST local doctors[till date]? There also they demand “White Doctors” only !

  25. Pingback: DesiPundit » The Merit Debate

  26. Good article Atanu,

    First of all the merit should be given utmost importance for the prosperity of the country. The root of the problem is at the basic infrastructure for the people who want to study rather than their entry into higher education.
    One time a person who has got only one question correct out of 200 questions in the entrance test was given admission to medical college because he was from a backward community denying seat for a merit student. If the same person who got the seat by reservation was lucky enough to secure a seat in cardiology through reservation, would our cabinet & central ministers dare to get operated by him incase of emergency or heart attack?
    If a person is economically backward and is eager to go for higher studies, Government , Banks or any other financial institutions should provide interest free loans to such people, and encourage them to help few more like them, once they get into jobs. This way there is a positive spin in the growth of all. An uplifted person helping underprivileged helps the society progress together.

    Why did not politicians like arjun singh recommend to have 27% reservations for OBCs in Loksabha and Rajyasabha? Only because they dont want to loose their seats and they feel education is a toy to play with.

    I recommend to remove the existing reservations altogether from every place.


  27. I think some people are confused by raising questions like ‘what is merit’ ‘whether we are going by real merit’ etc.

    These questions are just to sidetrack, deliberately or otherwise, the real issue.

    The point is that there is a set of criteria today for gaining entrance to a course. Whether you call it ‘merit’ or anything else is irrelevant. Perhaps, ‘merit’ is a misnomer. But so what?

    The objection is that by whatever name you call these criteria which are there, there is a proposal that a set of students e.g. belonging to OBC, will not be subject to the same set of criteria. THAT is the ral objection. It has nothing to do with how you define ‘merit’ and your own personal opinion of what ‘merit’ should mean.

    What the protestors are rightly saying is that the criteria for selection (or “merit” defined correctly by someone who knows how to define it) should be the same for everyone. Just because someone is from OBC does not justify him bypassing the criteria when, for example, a non-OBC from a similar background would have to face those selection criteria.

    So let’s not get carried away by lofty ideas of definition. Just talk of the substance, please.

  28. I think some people are confused by raising questions like ‘what is merit’ ‘whether we are going by real merit’ etc.

    These questions are just to sidetrack, deliberately or otherwise, the real issue.

    The point is that there is a set of criteria today for gaining entrance to a course. Whether you call it ‘merit’ or anything else is irrelevant. Perhaps, ‘merit’ is a misnomer. But so what?

    The objection is that by whatever name you call these criteria which are there, there is a proposal that a set of students e.g. belonging to OBC, will not be subject to the same set of criteria. THAT is the ral objection. It has nothing to do with how you define ‘merit’ and your own personal opinion of what ‘merit’ should mean.

    What the protestors are rightly saying is that the criteria for selection (or “merit” defined correctly by someone who knows how to define it) should be the same for everyone. Just because someone is from OBC does not justify him bypassing the criteria when, for example, a non-OBC from a similar background would have to face those selection criteria.

    So let’s not get carried away by lofty ideas of definition. Just talk of the substance, please.

  29. Point 1 – reservation is not and cannot be a poverty alleviating mechanism. Whether we want to see it or not, caste-based discriminations are overtly and covertly raampant in Indian society. Whatever be the criteria for gaining entrance to an institution, ON THE WHOLE, it favours certain castes due to centuries of official and unofficial ‘reservation’ by virtue of their caste.
    And if anyone wants to know how ‘liberal’ our society is after 58 years of independence, have a look at the website where a ‘state of the nation’ survey points to how important caste is even today.

    There is NO example of even 1 institution whose standard has deteriorated due to reservation for backward classes. If that was so, then christian institutions and the community should have been of a really poor quality considering the amount of reservation they have!

    But yes, the creamy-layer argument stands as if this continues, the aim of uplifting the community as a whole will not be achieved.
    So whaat we need is a streamlining of the policies and not abandoning the reservation concept itself.
    Thaank you

  30. Dear all anti reservation activists!

    please start sending at least 3 sms and 3 emaiuls to all poiticians – you may get their email ids on government websites.

    let us flood them with hate and shame.

  31. Robbing is way of life for thousands of years. Only small number of spiritual people were involved in it.

  32. Pingback: Re-thinking Entrance Exams | Atanu Dey On India's Development