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Upper caste Hindus and the question of merit

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  #1  
11-06-2008
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Arrow Upper caste Hindus and the question of merit


The quota system may be flawed, but so is our idea of social reality

Nothing brings out the tiger in the mousiest of people like the subject of quotas and reservations. The most affable of individuals, whom you never imagined had an opinionated bone in their body, can become vociferously argumentative, and sometimes abusive, if you oppose their views on the subject of reservations.


To me, this is proof of how deeply people care about their class/caste positions and the privileges that come with it. Reams and reams have been written on the subject of reservations. But the debate by and large has been so polarised that the real issue at hand gets completely sidelined - a social and economic disability caused by the most
monstrous form of discrimination ever invented by human beings.


My understanding of the issue is as follows: First of all, any person who opens his mouth on the subject of reservations should start by stating his class, caste, and the educational opportunities that he has enjoyed. This is important, because, more than in any other debate, in this one, who you are nearly always determines what your position would be.
I think it can safely be generalised that in circles dominated by the upper castes, such as medical colleges, IIT/IIMs, and the English language media, the consensus is that reservations are bad because they harm merit. And outside these circles of privilege, the arguments you hear are very different, and more diverse.


I recently had an opportunity to interact with a Dalit activist and came away stunned by my own upper caste biases, which were clinically dismantled by him.
The first myth to get demolished was one of merit vis-*-vis reservations. “If you think
reservations are bad, why don’t you travel in the general compartment in trains?” he asked. “Why are reservations good the moment you can buy them?” Is being able to afford a second class ticket when millions can’t, a matter of merit?


Come to think of it, money-based reservation - operated overtly and covertly - is the biggest quota system there is. You don’t see upper caste students taking to the streets in protest against the so-called management quota, which is nothing but reservation for the wealthy. And how can we even talk of merit so long as quality education - the primary conduit to prosperity - is not accessible to all?
The very notion of merit, he argued, is only possible when all the contenders begin at the same level and enjoy equal advantages. If you pit Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal, you can find out which one merits the Wimbledon crown more. But if you enter one-legged men in the tournament, merit becomes meaningless. Economic deprivation is a serious disability.


So is social discrimination and oppression perpetrated across centuries, and which is very much alive even today. To take just one example, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, recently did a survey on the social profile of the country’s 315 top editorial decision-makers in English and Hindi dailies, and TV channels. Can you guess how many of them belonged to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes? 40? 20? 5?


The answer is zero. There is a media explosion happening in our country. And not one Dalit editor-in-chief. “Twice born Hindus (’dwijas’ comprising Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs, Vaishyas and Khatris) account for about 16 per cent of India’s population, but they are about 86 per cent among the key media decision-makers.
Brahmins alone constitute 49 per cent of the key media personnel,” he says, reading out from the survey. And this is a study of just one sector - the media. We can guess how it might be in the others. Now, do we want to believe that this is purely because of merit? That upper caste Hindus are somehow more intelligent, more gifted, than the rest of the
country’s population? That’s what racist whites believe vis-*-vis blacks.
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  #2  
11-06-2008
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Arrow Upper caste Hindus and the question of merit

Seeing me silent, my friend laughs. He quotes BR Ambedkar, who once observed that the meritorious upper castes could not even manage to write the two Hindu epics: Ramayana and Mahabharat. They were written by Valmiki and Vyasa- two Dalits.


Again, if we really are so fanatical about merit, why is it that we upper caste Hindus visit temples where the priests are not chosen on merit? In every other religion - Christianity, Islam, Buddhism - anybody can become a priest, provided they fulfill certain requirements. Not so in Hinduism. Will the upper caste advocates of merit please care to explain why a Dalit should be barred - on non-meritorious grounds - from what is by all accounts a lucrative profession? And it is these same panjandrums who peddle nightmares of how the Indian bureaucracy and our healthcare system will collapse if they are ‘overrun’ by Dalit civil servants and Dalit doctors who might come in through a quota.


My own view of reservation is that it is an extremely flawed system. Something in me rebels against the idea that my destiny should be determined by my caste. But I also believe that as a privileged upper caste, it is simply not tenable for me to oppose the one powerful tool the Dalits happen to possess at the moment, to fight their battle.
Yes, let us think of a better route to social equity by all means. But till we find it, let us not block whatever path exists. It is true that in many villages in India, it is the Brahmins who are the most deprived, not the OBCs. The quota system will finish these impoverished Brahmins, for no fault of theirs. It is unfair, it is cruel. But so is our social reality.


It is equally unfair and cruel that not one of our multitude of corporate houses is headed by a tribal or a Dalit. It is unfair and cruel that Sonia Gandhi will not pick someone from outside her family and ‘caste’ to lead the party that once led the country’s freedom movement. It is unfair and cruel that white skin and good looks is more likely get you a job as a TV anchor or an air hostess, not ‘merit’.
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  #3  
10-06-2009
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anti reservation

A- a candidate of reserved catagory earning a salary of Rs 50,000
B- a candidate of general catagory earning a salary of Rs 5,000

Both pro and anti-reservationists can answer
1. Why the child of A should get a fee concession, the child of B not?
2. Why the child of A should get a form for Rs200, the child of B for 450?
3. Why the child of A 45% marks should get admission in higher education, the child of B should struggle with 90% marks?
4. Why the child of A should get a lucrative job, the child of B has to struggle for 2 end's meal?
5. Why the child of A should get travelling allowance, the child of B has to borrow from his neighbor?
6. Why the child of A should get relaxation in age wheras he has studied in the same college, lived in the same locality and taught by the same teacher?
7. Once given a level-playing field, why A should be promoted over B?
8. Why A should get accommodation first?
9. Why the so-called downtrodden should get reservation in medical colleges,IITs and IIMs?
10. Why reservation benefits should be extended to generations of the same family?
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  #4  
08-26-2010
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Till today nobody has replied these questions, based on this unanswered provisions in the constitution, reservation system should be abolished immediately.
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  #5  
04-10-2011
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These are the basic and simple questions. The list of other privileges are mind-blowing.
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  #6  
04-14-2011
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A- a candidate of reserved catagory earning a salary of Rs 50,000
B- a candidate of general catagory earning a salary of Rs 5,000

Both pro and anti-reservationists can answer
1. Why the child of A should get a fee concession, the child of B not?
2. Why the child of A should get a form for Rs200, the child of B for 450?
3. Why the child of A 45% marks should get admission in higher education, the child of B should struggle with 90% marks?
4. Why the child of A should get a lucrative job, the child of B has to struggle for 2 end's meal?
5. Why the child of A should get travelling allowance, the child of B has to borrow from his neighbor?
6. Why the child of A should get relaxation in age wheras he has studied in the same college, lived in the same locality and taught by the same teacher?
7. Once given a level-playing field, why A should be promoted over B?
8. Why A should get accommodation first?
9. Why the so-called downtrodden should get reservation in medical colleges,IITs and IIMs?
10. Why reservation benefits should be extended to generations of the same family?
Vinay,

You have made a premise based on the following: That a reserved category person earns Rs. 50,000 and a general category person earns Rs. 5000. And that too you have stated just one person per side - when reality is a lot more complex than this.

The premise itself is flawed. Agreed there are many people belonging to reserved classes that earn more than some people belonging to the open category - the exact opposite is also true. The point here is not of upliftment of these people - but of people in the same reserved class who are not well-off. That rich people from reserved classes also get the benefit is a fall-out of the system (if this can be corrected or not is another question - and should not be used to black-wash the concept of reservation).

Do you think screening people for income instead of caste for eligibility will work? If the rich guys hijack caste-based reservation they can do the same for income based reservation - and income based reservation will be far more prone to misuse in terms of scale: Where caste-based reservation unfairly benefits well-to-do people of reserved classes (i.e., it is limited to few out of many), income based reservation will unfairly benefit almost anyone and everyone who has the resources to fakely show low income!! Checking genuinness will be even more difficult in this case.
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  #7  
04-23-2011
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: Apr 2011
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Thumbs up

Vinay,

You have made a premise based on the following: That a reserved category person earns Rs. 50,000 and a general category person earns Rs. 5000. And that too you have stated just one person per side - when reality is a lot more complex than this.

The premise itself is flawed. Agreed there are many people belonging to reserved classes that earn more than some people belonging to the open category - the exact opposite is also true. The point here is not of upliftment of these people - but of people in the same reserved class who are not well-off. That rich people from reserved classes also get the benefit is a fall-out of the system (if this can be corrected or not is another question - and should not be used to black-wash the concept of reservation).

Do you think screening people for income instead of caste for eligibility will work? If the rich guys hijack caste-based reservation they can do the same for income based reservation - and income based reservation will be far more prone to misuse in terms of scale: Where caste-based reservation unfairly benefits well-to-do people of reserved classes (i.e., it is limited to few out of many), income based reservation will unfairly benefit almost anyone and everyone who has the resources to fakely show low income!! Checking genuinness will be even more difficult in this case.
You are absolutely right men
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  #8  
04-24-2011
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: Oct 2009
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I had picked up these particular categories of people from both sides. Why rich people from reserved class should get these benefits whereas, poor from open category should be left to fend for themselves? In this chapter, we have not discussed the modalities of reservations but discrimination against general caste.
Somewhere you had raised the question how SC/ST/OBC part with 70-80% of the govt. jobs? There was a good percentage of OBCs who held govt. jobs prior to Mandal Commission. These OBCs maintain their ranks at par or just below the open category. When they score well, they apply in open category. If not, they apply as OBC candidates. So, approximately 15-20% of the open seats are swallowed by these type of OBCs and 5% by SC/ST/NT/VJT etc. It must be noted 50% of the seats are purely for SC/ST/OBC. So, this 50% + another 20-25% =70-75% of the govt. jobs are occupied by these categories. If you want to verify this figure physically, just visit any govt. department and collect data of all the employees.
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  #9  
04-25-2011
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: Apr 2011
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This is an extremely well-argued post, and I certainly see the need for discussions on this subject.

However, in order not to divide the movement against corruption, may I suggest that we discuss this subject outside of this forum?

This is NOT to say this subject is less important, but just to say, let's tackle one issue at a time, without dividing the civil society on other (even if very important) issues.

Ganesan.
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  #10  
05-06-2011
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: Oct 2009
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I had picked up these particular categories of people from both sides. Why rich people from reserved class should get these benefits whereas, poor from open category should be left to fend for themselves? In this chapter, we have not discussed the modalities of reservations but discrimination against general caste.
Somewhere you had raised the question how SC/ST/OBC part with 70-80% of the govt. jobs? There was a good percentage of OBCs who held govt. jobs prior to Mandal Commission. These OBCs maintain their ranks at par or just below the open category. When they score well, they apply in open category. If not, they apply as OBC candidates. So, approximately 15-20% of the open seats are swallowed by these type of OBCs and 5% by SC/ST/NT/VJT etc. It must be noted 50% of the seats are purely for SC/ST/OBC. So, this 50% + another 20-25% =70-75% of the govt. jobs are occupied by these categories. If you want to verify this figure physically, just visit any govt. department and collect data of all the employees.

I missed to quote group C and D employees where very less percentage of general caste exists. In overall strength of manpower ie group A,B,C,D, more than 80% are from SC/ST/OBC
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