Some merit to quotas

Dr. Udit Raj

(First published in January 2006)

udit_raj_copy_copy_copyThe doctors clamouring against reservations for OBCs have demanded that merit be the sole criteria for admission to medical and engineering colleges. Then, how is it that they haven't objected either to the NRI quota or candidates who procure admission on the basis of capitation fee? Does this not affect quality?

Reservations was introduced in the Kolhapur State as early as in 1902 and in the State of Mysore in 1921. In Tamil Nadu, where the human health index is much better than in other states, there is as much as 69 per cent reservation.

Let us take for a moment that upper caste doctors are really meritorious. But is this of any help to the nation when many of them use elite institutes as a springboard to go abroad for higher wages. Nearly 70 per cent of doctors from AIIMS doctors go abroad. How are these elite institutes, under such circumstances, serving the interests of the common people?

On the other hand, it has been seen in Tamil Nadu that a good number of SC/ST/OBC doctors, who procured admission into colleges due to the reservation policy, stick to their state or hometown, resulting in better healthcare services.

Reservation is not a phenomenon exclusive to our country. The American MNC, IBM, voluntarily introduced reservations for Blacks in 1930. In Malaysia, there are reservations not just in jobs but also in contracts, licenses and company shares for Malays. Reservation for the depressed and weaker sections exist in many countries like Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Netherlands and Ireland. There is 50 per cent reservation for Blacks and women in the medical faculty of Harvard University. And the Whites have never made an issue of being eligible only for 50 per cent of the seats.

In fact, it is the handful of anti-reservationist doctors, who talk of disintegration of society on account of reservation, who are really responsible for creating dissension and obstacles in the way of social justice to the OBCs.

The media have, of course, played a negative role. But it is a reality that Indian society is constituted on caste lines. If the anti-reservationists are so concerned about the disintegration of society on caste lines, they should first lead the struggle against social discrimination.

Reservationitsts get a job or admission even if they get less percentage of marks. I was in the Indian Revenue Service and my experience has been that people who get high marks in an examination or a competition are not necessarily successful in the field.

Merit, as it is being presently understood, does not include honesty, hard work and patriotism. In the American school system, besides the syllabus, students have to undergo practical training in social service, etc. and marks are added in the certificate based on performance in this area. The only people talking of 'merit' today are those who have studied in public schools or whose children study in such schools.

The expenditure incurred on education in public schools is 50 to 100 times more than those of corporation/government schools. There is a vast difference in quality between the teachers of public and government schools. Parents who can afford to send their children to public schools are mostly educated. They not only teach the children themselves at home but also provide coaching for them.

On the other hand, parents who send their children to corporation/government schools are mostly uneducated. These children have to lend a helping hand to their parents after school hours. Under such circumstances, what is wrong if such students ask for the concession of a few marks?

Reservation will bring unity and integrity in society. Reservation in elite institutes will enable people from different social strata to come together and establish bonhomie among them. It is true that reservation is not a permanent solution to the vexed problems of our society. As and when equal and compulsory education is introduced in the country, Dalits and OBCs will not stake their claims to reservation.

Reservation is not a panacea for the economic backwardness of the country. For this purpose, the government has already launched many schemes. Reservation is only a concession given to socially and educationally backward people so that they may integrate with the mainstream.

We have no objection if the poor among the upper caste people, too, are given the benefit of reservations. But the problem is that here, there is the danger of the rich among them taking advantage of the policy.

[Courtesy: Hindustan Times, June 5, 2006]

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