Putting rights issues through the looking glass. Not seeking answers, just some food for thought to see whether things could be any different!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Affirmative action or reverse discrimination? Understanding reservations in India

Finally, a judgment by the Supreme court that makes sense. I was beginning to lose faith in the judiciary but some of it has been restored.
The Supreme Court has held that the State cannot impose reservations in private educational institutions not aided by the government and has suggested that reservations affect merit.
I have engaged in numerous debates on the subject while in college, have heard angry grievances from friends when they were deprived admissions in top notch colleges because half of the seats were reserved, heard stories of people making false caste certificates to get jobs and have witnessed students getting admissions through a NRI quota with a score of 30 out of 200 in the admission tests. Do we really understand affirmative action in India? I am totally convinced that reservations are not the way to implement an affirmative action programme in India.
The focus in relation to affirmative action is obviously flawed. I remember reading Shashi Tharoor's book India: From Midnight to the Millenium where he discussed India's brand of affirmative action in detail and said that in India, affirmative action is not about opportunities but outcomes and I could not agree more. We have reservations everywhere- schools, workplace, Parliament and now Manmohan Singh is open to a discussion on reservation in the private sector-Where does this stop? What we donot realise that with the shrinking of government jobs, more and more people are seeking employment with the private sector where efficiency is the name of the game. While reservations can get you a job in the private sector, it will not help you retain a job if you are no good. Therefore, merit is of supreme importance and no one is willing to compromise on that except the Indian government.
How long shall we compromise on merit in the name of reservations in this country? Instead of freely dishing out quotas, why don't we better the skills of the backward classes by providing better educational facilities in the remotest of villages so that they can compete with others at an equal footing? Besides, why should reservations continue through generations? For instance, if a Dalit from a village gets an opportunity to get a good education and becomes a doctor or civil servant and develops the ability to send his kids to the best schools, then why should his kids be entitled to special advantages as compared to his other classmates? Reservations should not be distributed as a freebee over generations perpetuating reverse discrimination and making a mockery of the idea of equal opportunity.
Surprisingly, no one talks about remedying economic backwardness in this country as if to suggest that it does not exist. Reservations have failed to reach those who need it the most- the poor and the weak. Unfortunately, caste based discrimination is recognised and discrimination based on one's economic status is not. If you are Brahmin and poor, too bad but if you are a Dalit and rich, you are entitled to all kinds of reservations and benefits based on the historical discrimination that your ancestors had suffered. What kind of social justice are we talking about?
Therefore, we should really reconsider reservations for once as it has failed to achieve what it had sought out to achieve. The beneficiaries of reservations are not those for whom it was originally meant. I am not disputing the existence of caste based discrimination. It is as stark as daylight. But, one really needs to understand the concept of empowerment. True empowerment of the backward classes cannot be achieved if we are unable to attain a fair balance between merit and opportunity and following a blind reservation policy to strengthen the Dalit vote bank will definitely not help the cause.
Please read a short report on the judgment by Manoj Mitta at http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=76514
Also read Swaminathan Aiyar's views on the subject at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/888078.cms
To get a slightly different perspective on the issue, read this article by Praful Bidwai in support of reservations at http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-bidwai210804.htm

God save the world from Mahesh Bhatt

It is not difficult to find people who have an opinion on everything under the sun. We see and hear them all the time. While we might find their attitude irritating, we begin to ignore them after a while. But one man who has made a living out of commenting on situations that are strictly not his domain is Mahesh Bhatt. When he proclaimed retirement after making Zakhm, many of us thought that we had lost a good director. Not that his last few films bear testimony to his skills as a story teller but his earlier movies like Saaransh, Daddy, Arth, Naam etc were all good films. It was a career well ended, I thought after I saw Zakhm.
But I was mistaken. Not only did he start producing really bad films in his bid to promote bold cinema but also reaffirmed my belief that the Hindi film industry is highly nepotistic when he began to shamelessly promote his utterly untalented family members- his daughter whose career as an actress is best not mentioned and is by far, one of the most disastrous in Hindi film history, his nephew who looks like his life is a hangover and apart from earning the title of "Kissing King", has not done much and his wife, who was once not a bad actress but is terribly unskillful as a director....They are different from the other so called camps in the Hindi film industry in so much as that its all in the family!
Another post retirement hobby that Mr. Mahesh Bhatt has taken up is the really smooth job of saving the world, not by doing anything but just speaking out on just about everything. This is a free country, alright but does freedom means licensed display of idiocy... If it is, then, we'll have to live with him and his verbosity!....
He recently commented on how Om Puri should not accept the OBE because he was in disagreement with Britain's participation in the Iraq war... Just because he does not win awards anymore, thanks to the excellent rip off cinema he creates or helps create, does not mean that Om Puri should stop accepting awards. What a pseud??
He comments on all possible social issues in the media and they immediately become news but I am yet to see him volunteer at the ground for a social cause, be it for the tsunami relief or the floods in Mumbai (he criticised the govt. for not doing enough) unless it is a glitzy glam charity fund raising event where there will be a respectable presence of media persons and he can just shoot off his mouth...
It feels really bad to see a one time good film maker voluntarily driving down the path of insanity! Why he does what he does? I am yet to understand whether these unmindful remarks is for publicity or the poor man just does not seem to have enough to do....Just relax..Do some yoga-shoga or go to the mountains for a really long vacation...Do anything but please don't talk!
But, his careless talk has inspired a number of spoofs on television..They're just too funny....At least someone is gaining from his stupidity!
Anyway, enough of Bhatt bashing but I did find a few interesting allies in this small movement of mine to request some people who misuse their fame to bore the general junta like this.. Here are the links...