24 May 2006


"Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey". - Unknown

It seems the opposite is true in our case. We are so attached to the journey that the destination now seems unimportant. Reservations have been in vogue in India from past 50 odd years and we are so convinced with it being right, that we fail to see what it was meant to achieve.

Any institution whether educational, government or business or social has a purpose and when that purpose is compromised, its functional efficiency takes a beating. Lets take the case of educational institutions, although the same logic holds good for any organization. The purpose of an educational institute is to impart knowledge. As a society we have founded and funded many good educational institutions that involved lot of cost and effort. The purpose of this funding is to create a knowledge-based society to nurture a generation that will inturn help our economy grow and increase our knowledge capital. If this aim has to be achieved, then we need to find the best student who is capable of doing justice to the knowledge these institutions provide. Since there is a physical limitation of number of students we can train at a given time, we are forced to restrict the influx to give quality output.

To make a good Physicist, we need to pick & choose the person who's good in Physics. This is the one basic choice on which we cannot compromise. Just as choosing a student of History or Literature to study Physics will not work, the same way choosing students on Quotas will not. Nothing but a bright student in the relevant subject would do. Period.

But, picking a bright student is not easy. India, unfortunately, has a baggage of castes because its history and some of these castes are deprived of social benefits. Since it is equally possible to have a bright student from any caste, and since some weaker sections of the society cannot afford the sophistication and luxury of many others, bright students from among these castes get overshadowed by more fortunate, but less brilliant students from stronger sections. Our traditional scoring, grading and ranking system might not be best way to identify such good students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Giving such students an opportunity is of paramount importance to us because they bring better returns to our investment. Finding such students is necessary for the society and makes economic sense, and the money we put in running the educational institutions is wellspent.The aim of the Reservations should be to identify brilliant students from weaker sections and provide them opportunities, not becoz they require help, but becoz the institutions that we found needs them. We are not helping these students because they are weak, but because we require them for their strengths, i.e their brilliance and intelligence and hence we go attract them by giving reservations. This is the only reason for providing Reservation. This is the only reason which respects the person and brings dignity to their section of society. Any other reason is a deception and an insult to these castes.

Our educational institutes need not reflect the demographic or social patterns of the society. We need not mimic the social setup in each class. To make good doctors, we should start with a class full of good students of medicine, and NOT 20% of Caste A, 10% of Caste B etc. How to select these students and how to implement Reservations is still debatable, but solving social inequalities thru our funded institutions is arrogance of power and ignorance of purpose.

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