The draft Reservation of Seats in Central Educational Institutions, 2006 is ready. If implemented in this form, upto 50% of all seats in 32 central educational institutions (IIT, IIM, JNU, AIIMs etc) will be reserved for students from scheduled caste/tribe or other backward class backgrounds..
The Cabinet secretariat has put it on hold for now. Not because its bad in principle. But because the move could technically violate the model code of conduct laid down by the Election Commision (EC). At least on the face of it. Elections in five states are coming up. The good news is that matters have risen to a desirable crescendo. The bad news is that no real alternatives or solutions are still on the table. Till that happens, this problem ain’t going away.
In my earlier post, I made a strong case to descend to the streets to protest the government’s move. Not because I am an alumni of any of these institutions. Rather, it’s a move that’s most unimaginative in concept and terrible in principle Thanks to the media, yes, the media (not sure our politicians and their advisors rise every morning and Google Search for what the blog world is saying) the issue is right up there. Yes, Salman Khan’s incarceration is also up there.
Silent Approval..Or Rejection ?
Arjun Singh’s defiance is matched by the deafening silence of most of the political system, notably his own party members. It’s a political weapon which Singh, with silent approval or otherwise, is carrying alone. The accompanying silence points to one thing. That there is a good chance the whole thing will either get deferred or even scrapped. Of course, that is the optimistic view. There is a pessimistic view too, but no point getting into it now.
What can now make the ghost of reservations go away once for all ? Very little. Because it is this writer’s instinctive view that there needs to be a a solution that will address both constituencies. The OBC students who possibly feel alienated from the higher education system and the politicians who want to find a quick fix solution like reservation.
We’ve had a great economic going for the last few years. Thanks to the BJP’s disasterous tryst with India Shining, no one dares use this term any more. But the fact IS that Urban India is shining. And how. The fact also remains that demographically, there are more young aspiring Indians out there. Many of them are students. Remember, this is a country with a median age of around 25.
Talking Higher Education
Just to put things in perspective. An student who is classified as belonging to OBC would have had to finish Class XII or graduation as the case may be. So as to apply for IIT or IIM. The school or college he or she would hail from may or may not be noteworthy but the fact is that there has to be one. So, we are not talking about people who’ve been denied primary or basic education. That’s a different lot altogether.
Now this lot has witnessed the last four years of glitzy growth pretty much the way you and I have. Their education and exposure allows them to experience, through mass media and the like. More importantly, it makes them aspire. Their aspirations would be the same as you and me again..graduation, B-School education, jobs in good companies and so on. Or if it’s a JNU, then a platform for a good career in academia, government. Or medicine in the case of AIIMS.
The glitzy growth I speak of does not embrace this class of youngsters entirely. At least not yet. Much of the growth has been jobless so to speak. And yet, the mass media impact of urban prosperity on these aspiring youngsters cannot be ignored. Its simple. Ten, twenty years ago, most aspiring young workers fled to the Middle East. Because they were not so poor or downtrodden that they could not have the basic education and skills. And they were not so lucky so as to hit the `mainstream’.
Euphoric Growth, But Does Everyone Benefit ?
It’s a little different today. There is as much euphoric growth in India, or parts of it, as perhaps many other corners of the world. Yes, Shanghai and Dubai are building and growing at stratospheric rates but a city like Bombay, with 55 new malls coming up, sea-links, Mercedes cars as common as normal cars were a few decades ago, is no less alluring, or puzzling. Or Gurgaon. The traffic-clogged roads are as much as a sign of prosperity as of the utter non-existence of urban planning.
Is Arjun Singh and the political class trying to address this class of young India ? Is he really concerned about them ? I don’t know and would defer to the experts. Does this class of young India stand to benefit with reservation ? Yes, in some way. In appeasement if not results. And that’s the politician’s solution. But the politician can retire (as Arjun Singh might, soon) but the ghosts will remain.
The aspirations of this class of youth will have to be met. In my mind, among the best people to do it are those benefited from the same state’s model of excellence. Alumni of IITs and IIMs need to put their heads together (as they’ve done admirably elsewhere) and come up with workable solutions that will address this constituency of India.
Bottom Of The Pyramid Approach To Education ?
They need to come up with a education and growth roadmap that will address, either with private or public-private initiatives, the larger aspirations of this young India. The IT industry often asks the government to build new townships. Because existing cities like Bangalore are creaking under their people-intensive needs. The Special Economic Zone solution, with all its tax holes, will address this in some way. And pretty soon.
A similar thought process needs to evolve for education. Industry can’t find all the solutions. Nor should it. Or the jobs even if the education system was strengthened. But industry has the brains and the ability to put its mind to it. It needs to demonstrate the desire. And show the way with real master plans and solutions to attack this issue head on. Whether with a new breed of colleges (for profit) or a bottom of the pyramid approach to education. Because industry and the economy will in turn benefit from a stronger workforce. Think about it. Because its not Arjun Singh’s problem alone. Its ours as well..