The current protests against the long-overdue implementation of reservations for OBCs are highly disturbing. The drama around merit has taken attention away from the fact that they are mandated by the Constitution. Reservations represent only a small fraction of our commitment to equality and social justice. Still, the upper caste and its media are orchestrating a ‘national’ campaign against them. They simply dub this as "vote bank politics"- this is the latest dirty word! Let's not forget that vote bank politics is the only mechanism that has been historically available to ensure democratic representation in India.
Youth For Equality???
What does it mean for agitating upper caste youth to call themselves youth for equality? How easy it is for this small, privileged elite to claim sympathy in the name of the nation! Don’t Dalit, Muslim, OBC and ST students equally (if not more) constitute this nation?! ‘Youth For Equality’ has MONOPOLIZED heavily government-subsidized education over the last 60 years. Yet, they oppose the same opportunities for others – all in the name of "equality". It is this "innocence" of caste privilege that allows these youth to so easily claim merit exclusively for themselves! Do they think that more than half of India is non-meritorious?!
Merit is the new word for caste privilege.
Reservations lead to brain drain???
Students from the IIT/IIMs are trained to become technicians who can be transplanted to work in the U.S. and U.K. Let’s not be so naive as to assert that this 'one foot on a plane abroad' tendency is an outcome of the last month's debates on OBC reservations! Most of the time we celebrate news in the mainstream media that list the increasing number of students going abroad to study. Not to mention the whooping joy that greets news of record salaries and foreign placements during campus interviews. A sudden mourning of this 'brain drain' in a moment that is demanding social justice smacks of opportunism and selective memory.
Why hasn’t the worry about this 'brain drain' brought Youth For Equality out on the streets before this, asking the government to be accountable to its youth, to provide opportunities so that they are not forced to leave because of lack of facilities?
What Is Merit?
Is Merit Marks?
Why is it so easy to equate marks with merit? When a person gets the best of educational facilities, fancy coaching classes, and a literate and supportive home environment like most upper castes here; it is NO surprise that s/he gets 90% marks!!! Contrast this with a first-generation learner who has to struggle against social odds, studies in poorly equipped municipal schools, is systematically humiliated on the basis of caste by her teachers and peers, has no access to supplementary books or coaching, and gets 70% marks; surely s/he is far more ‘meritorious’! Merit is NOT marks. Merit is built up by socio-economic and cultural capital.
What is cutting-edge?
Creamy layer siphons off reservations?!
Myth: Many OBCs, ST & SCs are rich and misuse reservations!
Fact: The Mandal Commission itself has a clear provision that makes OBCs ineligible for reservation if a) if you own above a certain amount of land b) if your annual family income is above 2 lakhs and c) if your parents are IAS or IFS or IPS.
Fact: 33.9% OBCs are below the poverty line. Only 4.7% upper castes are below the poverty line. (Source: NSSO data for 2000)
So all you bleeding hearts for the upper caste poor get your facts right!!!
New constituencies of students HAVE to be brought into "islands" of higher education. These groups long denied entry have a right to enter these institutions. New groups of students need to come into established institutions to change old research agendas and help shape new ones. We know from history that when Indians entered the colonial education system, when women entered schools and universities the world over, when blacks entered colleges in the U.S., they radically changed existing knowledge structures. They asked new questions. They brought in fresh ideas. They challenged both stereotypes and established dogma. They breathed new life into the very idea of education, research and knowledge building and acquisition. Isn't that the true pursuit of excellence? We definitely need Dalits and OBCs to enter institutions of higher learning to challenge and fight the invisible casteism that shapes current ideas of "merit" and "excellence". We need them to ask new questions and that will help us change our thinking.
Should the public education system run on the principle of 'survival of the fittest' as the agitators demand? In fact, in Darwin, the 'fittest' means the organisms which adapted best, NOT the strongest / tallest / biggest. The biggest dinosaurs died out. By this logic, the Dalits, tribals and the OBCs in fact count as the fittest, having survived the harshest social conditions!!!!
Reservations for a Better India