Friday, May 26, 2006

My Stand on Reservations III

There are two parts preceding this. To read them go here.

Isn’t affirmative action implemented to promote minorities?

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan of Rediff Columns writes:

'Affirmative action' in the United States is aimed at the minorities. As such, in India it should focus on Brahmins. They constitute no more than 3 per cent of the population.

There is nothing far from truth than the above statement.

Affirmative Action in US is focused on correcting the wrongs of the past which include systematic discrimination meted out to certain sections of people based on attributes- color, race, gender or ethnicity. Within this affirmative action, there is progressive affirmative action which is a proactive and corrective mechanism introduced to uplift the discriminated sections- who were persecuted and discriminated based on race (like ‘Black’ and ‘Red Indians’, the political correct names being ‘African American’ and ‘American Indians’). There are so many minorities in US- for example, Indian Americans (coming from India) and Japanese Americans form a minority in US but they are not helped by affirmative action. Promoting diversity (to include people from different ethnic, religious and racial groups) is not the same as affirmative action (to correct the discrimination with proactive steps). Minority groups like Jews in US and Parsis in India are in minority but extremely well represented and rich compared to other groups. Sikhs, Muslims, Jains were not persecuted or discriminated in India. Do they need a corrective and proactive affirmative action? Sounds ridiculous!

Isn’t reservations same as affirmative action?

Though the core idea behind the two is same, they are not necessarily same as practiced in India and US, respectively. Reservations ‘mandate’ certain quota of seats in education and jobs, while affirmative actions deploy means and methods to lower the barrier to entry to persecuted people and promotes their participation in education and jobs.

Almost all Fortune 500 companies in US support affirmative action voluntarily and promote diversity voluntarily. For some reason, they don’t seem to share the belief of their Indian counterparts that affirmative action or inclusion of lower castes will decrease the excellence and quality of their organization. Instead, they seem to be quite proud of promoting discriminated sections (like Blacks, American Indians, Women and Physically handicapped people) through affirmative action. Affirmative action in US was earlier imposed by State and now is self-imposed by each organization and institution. Such maturity amongst US schools and corporations is quite admirable but definitely absent from Indian Universities and Industry.

As for as India is concerned, lack of such mature ideals is one of the reasons for mandating and forcing reservations instead of leaving it up to the colleges and industries to implement such corrective measures voluntarily. There is no way I can think of where in Indians would agree to rub shoulder with a Dalit in a college, a coffee shop or a working environment in a company other than the reservations imposed by Indian Government. There is need to actively force these people to tolerate and include them in their midst. If it were left to Indian Academia and Business people, they would have continued the discrimination and persecution under the garb of ‘merit’, ‘excellence, ‘quality’ and ‘skill’, leaving these sections outside the mainstream forever, for another two thousand years if possible. First they have done in the garb of religion, now they would do it under the garb of merit.

You have to give kudos to our forward castes though. They have been able to continue this discrimination and persecution making it an inherent part of the religion for more than two thousand years. All other persecutions that happened elsewhere were sporadic and were limited in geography and time. Even Hitler’s mass persecution of Jews was limited in time (though the persecution of Jews was as long as ours). Persecution of Cossacks in Russia, feudal System in Western Europe, slavery in New Continents, etc, all stand pale in comparison to the widespread, deeply routed and prolonged discriminated that Indian higher castes meted out a majority Indian lower class- unremitting, unwavering, flawless, and forever.

Americans took thirty years to correct the wrong of discrimination meted out to 10% of their population that spanned 200 years period. How long should India take to correct the wrongs of discriminations meted out 70% of its population spanning 2000 years? Even a rough and equivalent comparison would put the number to 2100 years of continued reservations. That number is too large but a realistic sense would demand at least another fifty to hundred years of continued reservations to bring the system to a stable ground. How come we are expecting the corrections within 60 years of reservations? Ludicrously optimistic almost to point of being demented, I would say.


  1. Why should we only look at US for affirmitive action. Why not South Africa? Why not other examples?

    I agree that what the affirmitive action in US is a very good example. But it would be a fallacy to just look at that.

    Great post btw. Will nominate again for Desi Pundit.

  2. There is no way I can think of where in Indians would agree to rub shoulder with a Dalit in a college, a coffee shop or a working environment in a company other than the reservations imposed by Indian Government.

    Nothing could be more further than the truth. You mention all urban environments so I'll refute your claims as we have never cared which caste our friends or co-workers belonged too.Probably caste issues came up during marriage talks but then again, a similar prejudice occurs between blacks and whites in the United States. Don't tell me that we ought to have a law mandating inter-racial or inter-caste marriages. There may be nothing wrong in doing so but the government has no role in making these decisions for us.

    Prejudice is addressed by the government when unfair and historic discrimination has occured. Although reservations were opposed, there still can be justifiable for SC/STs but the OBCs have never been discriminated against.

  3. "OBCs should not be given jobs/ admissions because they are OBCs..."

    I dont think thats the case in India - but I guess that's how our policy makers interpreted as the stand taken by Indian society at large... they din't like it ofcourse - nobody would - so they decided to right the wrong - morons as they are - they just struck the "not" out of it and thought they had cracked it - their policy now reads

    "OBCs should be given jobs/ admissions just because they are OBCs..."

    and, DO NOT even try to compare affirmative action in the US reservations - I have worked with African Americans and what I have noticed is a trememdous sense of pride - no, there is no feeling of entitlement that I see... none... what i do see back in India is a huge sense of entitlement among the backward castes - i mean, what is it...? some kind of a balance sheet being maintained across generations? - its almost like - "dude - your forefathers had accrued huge liabilities when you weren't even born - time to settle things!"

    comon - provide them education - give them access to all means they need... don't give them freebies! - this entitlement mentality will make people weak - they'll lose their sense of pride...

  4. I have to agree with Rohit and Patrix. The reservation system has actually worked to entrench caste divides rather than obliterate them.

    I don't know what caste most of my friends come from, leave alone colleagues. It's an increasing non issue with the next generation! But when you start giving out political favors in order to strengthen your vote bank- it just serves to divide the country.

    No one is opposed to assisting the less privileged. But assistance should be based on economic deprivation, not caste divides! And assistance should be enabling, it should work to strengthen meritocracy. We should be thinking about scholarships, financial aid, awareness campaigns- not dumb policies which retard national unification.

  5. Interesting. As u say,if affirmative action is for those against whom crimes have been committed in the past,that guy asking for brahmins to get affirmative action is quite laughable!!!

  6. Afirmative Action is not a quota system, but from what I read, the reservation system in India is a quota system with different % for each religion. Someone can correct me if I am wrong about India.
    In the United States that law states that any employer can not discriminate against anyone based on the person's race as per the 14th Amendment of the US constitution ( Equal Protection Clause ). But the main difference is the over extending of the system in India from what I have read.
    In US, no one including the minorities want a quota system. In fact the affirmative action in education has been challenged in a few cases regarding college admissions wherein African Americans got additional weighting to their grades and scores.
    The US Supreme Court has ruled that Affirmative action is sometimes needed and has ruled it unconstitutional in other forms.
    * Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003
    The Supreme Court ruled that the University of Michigan's point-based undergraduate admissions policy that took race into account numerically was too mechanical and unconstitutional.

    To compare the two systems is not valid because the premise under which they were implemented and the mechanics of the implementation are completely different. Even in the US government jobs, there is no quota system for any minority because it would be legally challenged and perhaps ruled unconstitutional by the courts.
    This is js my $.02.

  7. Dear all:
    On Affirmative Action.
    Its not my attempt to equate them. They are not the same. They can be compared though- because they have similar task ahead of them- to promote people of certain sections because they were discriminated against. Each country does it differently. We have quotas- because that's the only method that works for Indians.

    Indians come up with 101 reasons as to why one should not impose reservations. On the other hand, the maturity of US organizations make them implement affirmative action voluntarily. It was not always like that- To enforce a Supreme Court ruling, US had to send Army to one of its states.

    Imposing certain rules is necessary sometimes. In India, the maturity has not reached the level where in one apologizes for the discrimination of the past, or come up in open to promote backward castes voluntarily. No wonder this is also reflected in the comments.

  8. Sujai,
    Please try to answer the questions imposed against reservation (for OBCs). Your contention that people are not mature enough to warrant an answer from you is flawed.

  9. Scipio:
    I have not been evading the questions on reservations for OBC.
    I am answering my own set of questions and I am putting them on the blog as I proceed with each of them. I need to prepare my answers to my own satisfaction before I post them. Please be patient. Writing blogs is not my day job :)

  10. //quota system with different % for each religion. Someone can correct me if I am wrong about India. //

    You are WRONG.... And that is not at all a problem.... I understand that you are not from India....

    There are a lot of people FROM INDIA who cannot understand quota !!!!

    Quotas are based on something called as Caste.....

    It is like reserving 5 % of 100 seats in Harvard Medical School (if something like that exists!!) for Black People

  11. I wrote something related to this subject many days ago. Here it is

  12. Your tongue drips with the voice of the oppressed, but you use cute but sly tricks in your argument.

    When you state that all organizations are already filled with forward castes and thus skew selections, promotions; that is sheer opinion not substantiated by any fact and you ask that to be the basis for promoting enforced reservation. Infact you opinion can not be even falsified since you have branded the uppercastes to be guilty by default and nobody other than you is allowed to provide evidence.

    You also shy away from numbers and when you do resort to them , you also present them incompletely. For example when you state that the US took 30 years to enforece affirmative action for the oppressed minorities in academia, you forgot to mention that NSSO reports how that OBCs also are represented proportionaltely in university seats. see here
    You use numbers saying that since 282/400 professors in IIT Madras are Brahmins and this represents a conspiracy to keep only their likes in their midst.For one, where did you get this data or it came out of your head like Schrodinger's equation. Even if true,its like asking , why the Jews are overrepresented in media, science and underrepresented in agriculture and this is some conspiracy that should be fought against.

    Taking the moral high ground against academia is of course again unsubstantiated. You think of the universities as children who are not mature enough to make the right moral decisions and I see no resaon why anybody should subscribe to your belief.

  13. Why can't every political party have 49.5% reservations in their highest governing bodies? Why can't we have 49.5% of our Loksabha and Rajyasabha seats reserved for weaker sections of the society? Why can't we have have 49.5% berths in the cabinet reserved for OBCs / SCs / STs? Why can't we have 49.5% representation given to backward classes in our cricket team? Why can't we have 49.5% of consultants and engineers postings reserved for backward classes at Infosys which competes with Accentures and IBMs of this world? Why can't we have 49.5% postings of our scientists at ISRO reserved for backward classes? Why exclude Army / Navy / Air force from reservations?

    Cerebral Wanderer

  14. I have to agree with what anonymous says above and am quite surprised that someone would write an article comparing US affirmative action with India's reservation system without going into the details of how US affirmative action works. As anonymous clearly points out, US affirmative action is intended to select candidates from minorities so as to ensure proportional representation, but without reverse discrimination. What this means is that among candidates with equal qualifications, the one from a minority group is given preference (if the minority group is given preference while being less qualified, as is done with India's quotas, that is reverse discrimination against the more qualified candidate). The Michigan case that Anonymous refers to clearly highlights this: a group of students took the U of M to court saying that they were in fact using quotas instead of selecting among equally qualified candidates.

    Here is a collection of Washington Post
    articles on affirmative action
    . And here is the quote from that page on what affirmative action means:

    What Is Affirmative Action?

    Born of the civil rights movement three decades ago, affirmative action calls for minorities and women to be given special consideration in employment, education and contracting decisions.

    Institutions with affirmative action policies generally set goals and timetables for increased diversity – and use recruitment, set-asides and preference as ways of achieving those goals.

    In its modern form, affirmative action can call for an admissions officer faced with two similarly qualified applicants to choose the minority over the white, or for a manager to recruit and hire a qualified woman for a job instead of a man. Affirmative action decisions are generally not supposed to be based on quotas, nor are they supposed to give any preference to unqualified candidates. And they are not supposed to harm anyone through "reverse discrimination."

    The definition of US affirmative action throws light on another aspect of all this that I've found missing from the debate on India's reservations and from the perspectives offered by the (seemingly) self-righteous defenders of India's reservation policies. Why is no one raising the issue of reservation targetted specifically for women? After all, if the aim is to bring forward a class of the population that has long been suppressed, shouldn't women qualify even more? (I would bet that even among the SC/STs and OBCs the women are very much under the heel of their male counterparts.) So why isn't there such thought and rhetoric for reservations specifically aimed at women? (At the IITs, I would wager that there are probably more seats filled by SC/STs than by women, although this seems to be changing for the better over the last dozen years.)

    I think your explaining away of the right definition of affirmative action (in your response to anonymous) with references to American maturity and "this is what works in India" is mildly amusing at best. Affirmative action is accepted (kicking and screaming at that) by citizens of the US precisely because of the semblance of fairness inherent in its definition. Affirmative action policies have been in effect for less time than India's reservation policies have been (US affirmative action began, at best, in the 70's while India has had reservations since soon after Independence) and there is already clamor for it to be ended. (And in that clamor, you hear the same arguments that can be applied in the Indian context as well: I don't discriminate against XYZ, why should I pay for the sins of my grandparents? as well as affirmative action is being reduced to a quota system in most places and that is a crime.) And to say this is what works in India when nothing else has been tried is quite amazing. The fact that 50+ years after a reservation system has been put into place, we are continuously increasing the amount of reservations is evidence as good as any that the policies of the past have not worked at all. In that context, to be so dismissive of even thinking about an alternative mechanism highlights the problem with both the policy and the present debate.

  15. Though patrix already pointed it out, I still want to make the point that the below portion is the peak of exaggeration:

    There is no way I can think of where in Indians would agree to rub shoulder with a Dalit in a college, a coffee shop or a working environment in a company other than the reservations imposed by Indian Government.

  16. Sujai, check out this interview with a social scientist. What are your thoughts?


    Management quota is

    1) Illegal [donations are illegal acc. to UGC , and for which they can be deaffiliated ].
    2) It affects more people as private colleges comprise 70% of the total seats.
    3) It divides rich and poor people [as u say reservations should be provided to poor, here it is reservation for the rich].
    4) It compromises merit and SC/ST quota acc to u just satisfies last 2 points but its not illegal.


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