Quota conundrum

ENOUGH had been written, talked about and discussed in India about the merits and demerits of reserving more seats for poor people belonging to various castes and sub-castes before a bill was introduced in parliament on Friday to increase the number of seats to other backward classes (OBC) in central education institutions from 20 to 27 per cent.

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sun 27 Aug 2006, 9:04 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:59 PM

The bill, seeking to implement the enhanced quotas from the next academic year, has been referred to a parliamentary standing committee for further vetting. However, it has kept 18 premier institutions and courses requiring high levels of competence beyond the legislation’s purview that raises a simple question: If competence is the criterion why does the government want to sacrifice it at the cost of dividing the society on class basis?

Ever since the Indian government decided to increase the quota for OBCs, student protests supporting and opposing it have rocked the country. However, New Delhi has gone ahead with the legislation, arguing economically backward and socially oppressed people need uplift. But the way the government has gone about it raises fears of further classifying people in a country that is already caste-divided.

India’s bane is its caste system that is often blamed for impeding social progress and perpetrating community-oriented politics. A look at parties’ selection of candidates contesting elections says it all: how important their caste background will be to win a seat to a legislative assembly or parliament. That means one can’t erase the caste factor in daily life and more reservations and quotas will increase the risk of social fragmentation.

Surely, there are many ways to recognise and encourage talent, merit and entrepreneurship, irrespective of caste. Social justice and economic equality can be achieved without antagonising other sections of people. If some political parties and leaders pursue myopic policies for short-term gains, they don’t spell well for a country aspiring to become a superpower.

More news from