Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Opinion: Curing the real disadvantage in India

Government of India passed a law to reserve 27% seats in Centrally Administered Institutions (IIT and IIM included) for the disadvantaged Other Backward Castes. This law adds to already reserved 15% seats for Scheduled castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes raising total reservations in these institutions to 49.5%. Our legislatures provide the rational that caste is invariably the single most disadvantage in Indian society and so we need a large scale affirmative action.

Well one thing is clear from human development indexes that India is really disadvantaged. She has a large fraction of malnourished children, low life expectancy, high income inequality, a large portion of population below poverty line, widespread corruption etc. Even after 60 years of independence, we match many African countries in terms of human development indexes (no offence to African countries). India surely needs a cure.

So what do we need to cure to realize the potential of the country.
1. Is Caste System holding down the potential of a large portion of India? Clearly those who got college education are already employed today irrespective of castes. The rural people whose only source of education is village schools are not employable in many industries. Whether it is Brahmin's from Darbhanga or Yadavs from Chappara, they just do not have the required skills. In my opinion, caste is not the determining factor. Rather it is the scarcity of quality education and little will to improve it. The private schools (till high school) in all cities have been quite successful in delivering quality education when compared to the utter failure of all government schools. Well government views everything as a avenue to provide social justice. Even government schools have 50% reservations for backward castes. Government reserved at least 50% jobs in almost every service it controls that includes DRDO scientists, bureaucrats, teachers, doctors, police etc. Proposals are available for providing faculty reservations in all institutions that include IIM/IIT/NIT/?.

2. Apart from education, Government has failed significantly in providing basic services. People are debating about what will happen when climate change will dry north Indian rivers. Now when we have water in all north Indian rivers, most places receive drinking water for at most 10 hours a day. Most cities receive less than 15 hours of electricity. Health awareness provided by government doctors to rural areas is almost null. These are not impossible issues to solve and with very little effort can be accomplished. However, government is not interested in this.

3. Law that protects rights of poor people is absent in the mind of people and its enforcer. Poor people are still stuck in usury practices, do not get minimum wages and pensions assigned by the government. Whether the police officer or regulatory officer (engineers, pension officers) is a forward caste, backward caste or a scheduled caste, his or her main objective is to sidestep laws that he/she is assigned to protect and generate money out of it. There may be honest officers but the very lack of government initiation to ensure functioning of its own apparatus explains rampant corrupt practices.

In conclusion politicians game of caste and religion and our support for those games have illusioned our path. It is imperative that we prioritize real disadvantages of Indian society.

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