The need for Obamaesque approach to remove caste from education and job quotas

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The need for Obamaesque approach to remove caste from education and job quotas

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Fri Jul 31, 2015 10:12 am

The American policy on Cuba for more than five decades (since 1960, President Eisenhower’s time) was to isolate Cuba economically and diplomatically in the hope of restoring democracy in Cuba and improving political and human rights for Cuban people.
Unfortunately, the things did not turn out that way. Even after the lengthy diplomatic and economic sanctions towards Cuba by the U.S., democracy had not returned to Cuba and the Cubans had achieved little in terms of political freedoms and human rights while they continued to lag behind economically the people in the neighboring countries because of American business and economic embargo (Ref. 1).
The U.S. President Obama thus did a complete and sudden policy reversal towards Cuba recently. In the address to the nation on Dec. 17, 2014 (Ref. 1), he announced the reopening of diplomatic and economic ties between U.S.A. and Cuba to bring back democracy in Cuba and improve economic and human rights conditions for the Cuban people.
The longstanding policy by Indian Govt., since India’s Independence from Britain more than six decades ago, in helping people in education and jobs according to caste (reflecting basically the ancestral family vocations, with quota caste categories OBC and SC/ST comprising nearly 50% population), instead of using economic condition as the criterion for helping people (those living at or below the poverty line / limit qualifying for Govt. aid, irrespective of caste), needs a similar scrutiny and quick reversal, like the U.S. policy on Cuba recently.   
In spite of the original good intentions more than six decades ago when the caste based quotas in education and jobs were first introduced for OBC and SC/ST, there is no decline in the caste system so far. People on the other hand exhibit more casteism and caste system in society these days, mostly the result of inherently casteist quotas used officially in education and jobs for the past six decades.
Furthermore, even though people (especially in the OBC and SC/ST categories, including “dalit” etc.) like to deride caste and caste system socially, paradoxically they favor the use of caste and caste system officially, such as having their caste mentioned in the census and application forms and the dispensing of quotas / reservations in education and jobs on the basis of caste. The politicians similarly, even though not usually openly enthusiastic about caste and caste system socially, show no hesitation in using caste officially and politically, such as to gain votes in elections from vote-banks (OBC and SC/ST etc.) and to have caste included in census forms and continuing to support the caste as basis for quotas in education and jobs. This naturally leads to the strengthening and prolonging of the caste system in society unnecessarily, because people, while even blaming and criticizing the use of caste socially, continue to exploit it officially and for personal gain (e.g. to earn votes in elections from the caste vote-banks by politicians and to receive quotas in education and jobs by OBC and SC/ST including “dalit”).
The poverty situation similarly is no better after six decades of caste based quotas in education and jobs. A large number of poor and underprivileged people belonging to the so-called “higher” castes (not included currently in the OBC and SC/ST quota categories) are unable to receive Govt. help in education and jobs in spite of living for generations at or below the poverty line / limit, while many rich and privileged persons bearing the OBC and SC/ST tags are free and entitled to receive Govt. aid through caste based quotas. This clearly shows the utmost inadequacy, inequality and unfairness in the caste based quotas / reservations in education and jobs. Note also that Govt.’s policy of using caste for quotas / reservations in education (caste based admissions and financial help to attend schools, colleges and universities) and jobs (hiring and promoting people at work according to caste) also had a detrimental effect on the overall quality of education and professionalism at work (Ref. 2), in addition to totally undermining the college and university admissions process (Appendix). It’s no wonder therefore that even the IITs (the premier educational institutes in India), which in the past used to rank among the top one hundred on the World’s list of universities, seem to be moving down on the list lately.      
Considering the above, it appears the Govt’s policy on using caste for quotas in education and jobs was fraught from the beginning with many serious and unforeseen consequences (e.g. leaving people poor and without Govt. help especially in the non-quota caste categories, excluding well-qualified and deserving non-quota caste candidates from a fair competition in education and jobs, prolonging and strengthening the caste system unnecessarily and increasing the casteism in society, lowering the education standards in colleges etc. and undermining the professionalism, merit and competency at work, etc.). It is perhaps time therefore for the Indian Prime Minister, just like the U.S. President reversing the American policy towards Cuba recently (Ref. 1), to immediately get rid of caste (as OBC and SC/ST) in quotas / reservations in education and jobs and instead, if necessary, institute a system for helping people in education and jobs etc. according to economic necessity (poverty -- people living at or below the poverty / line only qualifying for Govt. assistance, irrespective of caste).
On the subject of IITs admitting low caliber students and the confusion in caste quotas (*)
The fallacy with the current reservation policy is that students, falling in the reservation category, scoring high marks take admission in the General Category effectively reducing the number of seats available to non- reserved category while seats in the reserved category are not filled up. The correct policy should be that these brilliant students, who fall in the reserved category, even if they apply for the general category should be shifted to the reserved category thus freeing seats in the general category for deserving non reserved students and filling up the reserved category seats which are going empty.
I have seen as a general policy among the reserved category students that they will always first seek admission in the general category, effectively increasing the seats for the reserved category, if they get admission in the general category. They will apply in the reserved category only if they are unable to get admission in the general category!
It is necessary for the IIT’s and other National Institutes to look into this.
(* The July 29’15 email from IIT-batchmate Mr. Bafna) 
(1)     Peter Baker, “U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility,” The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2014,    
(2)     Yogita Rao, et al., “This year, IITs will admit students with even 6% in entrance exam,” TNN, July 14, 2015, TNN,

: Subhash C. Sharma

(July 30, 2015 :
Seva Lamberdar

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