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Sunday, December 10, 2023

We need a India of merit not reservation based on caste or creed

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The politics of reservations in education will damage India’s future by creating a huge workforce across India that is averagely educated because the student has got an education based on reservation only and not on merit.

Education that requires high knowledge quotient such as medical and engineering need students to be based on merit. Skills used by such highly-educated professionals in their professionals are at most times responsible for the lives of other people. Imagine specialist doctors who have got the education and job based on their reservation status and not merit. Or for that matter engineers in charge of the construction of a critical public infrastructure project who has got the education and job based on their reservation status and not merit.

Reservation is a political tool and at most times an unfair practice to the student taking the reservation and to the meritorious student who has lost out because of the reservation.

There is no substitute for hard work. But there also must not be a substitute for smart work. Students have been taught to work hard and compete with the best of the best in their schools and colleges. Their hard work means nothing if they have lost out on account of reservations to a fellow student who may not have worked hard.

Merit cannot be brushed under the carpet. Merit is what distinguishes the brilliantly-abled from the averagely-abled. With reservations, the averagely-abled student does not rise up to compete with the brilliantly-abled because he or she knows that it does not need to, admission and jobs will be secured because they belong to the reserved category. Such a practice is unfair to the reserved category student because it continues to limit them to being a reserved category and it is unfair to the general category because even though they work hard to get good marks, they do not get education seats because they have lost out due to reservations.

Students who do not get education seats in India in medical and engineering are left with no option but to seek education in colleges outside of India. The brain drain from India from the medical and engineering streams is reportedly high. Most of the doctors and engineers in some of the top hospitals and companies abroad are Indians. They migrated abroad because their educational quotient or prowess was not valued in India because at most times they were unfortunate victims of the unfair practice of reservations instead of merit.

Recently, the Union Minister of State for Education, Subhas Sarkar, in response to a written question in Rajya Sabha recently revealed: The number of dropout students from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs), and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in all Central Universities, Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), and the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) during the period between 2018 to 2023 has crossed 19,000. It is 19256 to be precise. While 14,446 students from the three categories dropped out from central universities during the period, 4,444 students dropped out from IITs and 366 from IIMs.

It is important to understand the reasons for the drop-out of such a large number of students from the reserved category for the last five years. More so, with students from the reserved category dropping out from such prestigious universities, it is a criminal waste to the meritorious students.

Some moot that the huge number of reserved category students dropping out of such high-standard colleges is not an individual issue but a social issue deep-rooted in casteism. Their arguments further rely on this reasoning that these dropouts could have been avoided if faculty members from SC, ST, and OBC communities were adequately represented in these institutions. However, while there might be some truth to this moot point if the teachers are genuinely good and have earned their position by merit or it will create an even bigger vicious cycle of non-meritorious students and non-meritorious educators if the only criteria for students of reserved categories are that it must be taught by people from the reserved category.

I am against reservations based on caste because I see it as a process of piercing small holes in a boat that is sailing to its future destination but is not getting there as desired. For India to be globally competitive it needs to rise above reservations and ensure that merit alone is the yardstick for education and professional success.

Recently in Goa, a young student from the ST community topped the NEET Exam from the state. It was such a proud moment for the Goans. I was proud because she worked hard and earned her praise. Unfortunately, some political and social leaders decided that the fact that she is an ST is more of an achievement than her rank in NEET, as though we should accept that STs cannot score good ranks. It is the most absurd behavior. It should not matter whether she is an ST or not. The only thing that should matter is that the child worked hard to get that rank.

As the reservation grows larger, it becomes a mechanism of exclusion rather than inclusion. You exclude the merit and include the reserved who in most cases are averagely meritorious. In the long run, reservations will bring down the economic growth rate of the country as it reduces the efficiency of its labor. The reservation system has just become an instrument for politicians to gain vote banks.

Reservations based on caste and not on the basis of economic conditions are to me unethical and unacceptable. Fair and just reservations should be provided to uplift the people with poor conditions of life, those who don’t have meals to eat, clothes to wear, and no home to live in. The process of the reservation should be such that it filters the truly economically deprived individuals and bring them all to justice.

 

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