Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flowers from my Mom's Garden

Collage of Flowers on Blog, originally uploaded by prahalathan.

Thought you'd seen it all? Head over to my photo blog Garden Flowers for Flowers, Flowers and more Flowers! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Reservations: Taking a stand

I've not yet started receiving too many hate mails. But, I thought I better clarify where I stand. I am NOT entirely against reservations for the under privileged.

I am against...
I am against smothering merit by reserving almost 50% of the seats
I am against govt schemes that aren't based on sound logic or facts
I am against any reservation system that benefits the 'creamy layer'
I am against this blatant misuse of power in pursuit of a vote-bank
I am against a condescending attitude towards the under-privileged
I am against labeling entire communities incapable / backward
I am against casteism

I am for...
I am for affirmative action for the truly under-privileged
I am for a system that balances social justice and merit
I am for scholars and thinkers into the bureaucracy
I am for fresh, unconventional thought in politics
I am for youth into politics

Some people think I dream too much, call me over optimistic.
But I see a future for India that's vibrant and young........... in my lifetime!

PS: I've NOT seen or been influenced by Rang De Basanti / Yuva. The idea of being inspired and becoming patriotic after seeing a 3 hour movie is silly. So where do all those feelings go after you forget about the movie? I AM NOT SO FICKLE MINDED...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hypocrisy #08 - Who needs a reservation? Part 2

Other articles on the same controversy, just click or scroll down

Hypocrisy #08 - Who needs a reservation? The main post(updated)

50% reservation is 100% Politics

The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times & in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false
- Paul Johnson
As the proposed reservation controversy is dead-locked with neither the students nor the government willing to give up. I looked up the roots of the reservation system...

Affirmative action (U.S.), or positive discrimination (British), is a program that is meant to be a corrective measure for past governmental and social injustices against demographic groups (like race, gender, or ethnicity) by increasing the representation of these groups in fields of study and work in which they have traditionally been under represented.

Affirmative action in the U.S.A. (since 1960s) is primarily associated with race and gender. In South Africa it has a narrower focus, aiming at reversing primarily race-based and, to a lesser extent, gender-based discrimination.

There is much debate concerning claims that affirmative action fails to achieve its desired goal. Opponents regard it as government sanctioned racial discrimination, and also believe that it is demeaning to members of minority groups, that it wrongly sends a condescending message to minorities that they are not capable enough to be considered on their own merits.

In India, the focus has mostly been on undoing caste discrimination. Between 1909 and 1935, the British sowed the seeds of the current controversy by first granting Muslims share in the administration and other facilities. Then, legislative seats were reserved for members of the Muslim, Sikh, Maratha, Parsi, Christian, European, and Anglo-Indian communities. In addition seats were reserved for depressed classes within the Hindu community.

In independent India, provision for reservation in legislature was not made in the constitution until 1960. The Mandal commission recommended reservations which kick-started a controversy in the 90s. But these statistics were based on the 1931 census. How can this data be considered valid almost 75 years later? Now the 104th amendment to the constitution has kick-started this current controversy.

In 2005, In the medical admissions for the state of Tamil Nadu, where we have a 69 percent reservation (50 for OBC (BC+MBC), 18 for SC, 1 for ST) Students belonging to the Backward Classes (OBC) took 952 of the total 1,224 seats in 12 government medical colleges in the State (77.9 per cent). SC students cornered 18.9% and the ST students got 1% of the total seats. The cut-off mark for a ST candidate was 20 marks lower than the so called 'Forward castes' who could get only 28 (2.3%)seats. Paradox? How can this be social justice?

According to the National Sample Survey organisation
OBC Population of India: 32%
University seats already occupied by OBCs: 23.5%
Is a Reservation justified for a mere 8% difference?

According to the Hindustan Times
Only 3% of the scheduled caste students who enroll for class 1 complete their schooling.
Quota for SC/STs: 22.5%
Seats occupied in higher educational institutions: Only 16%
One third of the reserved seats are being wasted every year and are being denied to the general category. If 50 years after the quotas were implemented, so many seats are being wasted is it not the failure of the Primary and Secondary education system?

Providing reservations at the University level instead of improving primary and secondary education is like providing crutches to Polio afflicted children instead of providing universal immunization!

Updated New Links:
The 104th Constitutional amendment act that was passed as the 93rd Constitutional amendment Bill on 22.12.2005
Synopsis of Lok Sabha discussion for the 104th amendment act to the constitution
The Resolution was brought in by Arjun Singh, Only two MPs abstained, all voted for the resolution.
Full text of Arjun Singh's interview by Karan Thappar on CNN-IBN: Devil's Advocate
Our HRD minister has no opinion, he comes out as being pretty dumb. I wonder if any Human Resource Development takes place in the country...
National Commission for Backward Classes definition of 'Creamy layer'
Not extensive or perfect... But it's good enough. Why can't the government prevent the 'Creamy Layer' from benefiting from reservations?
OBC is actually Other Backward Classes not castes
Read on, about how we're being misled and about the pitfalls in the Mandal Commission's Methodology.
Affirmative action and caste dilemmas
The Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action in USA and how it is completely different from the Indian Quota System

Related Links:
National Sample Survey organisation: Reports
2005 Medical admissions in Tamil Nadu
2001 Census of India

More Hypocrisy

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hypocrisy #08 - Who needs a reservation? (Updated)

As the Anti-reservation rage spreads across the country. Politicians have started exploiting students to 'engineer' pro-reservation rallies in some places too. Though it is dividing the nation they seem to be least bothered with anything but their vote bank agenda.

Is it not shameful that after 59 years of Independence, of which the congress party ruled for almost 50 years, the present congress government considers more than 70% of the population backward. What moral right do these people have to rule (RUIN) this country any further?

How can whole communities be considered backward? Aren't there rich people of the scheduled castes and poor people of the forward castes? Let us consider two real life families

Family 1: Scheduled Caste
Father: Government Employee
Mother: House wife
Eldest Son: Entered MBBS at a private College by paying a whopping 25 lakhs!
Second Son: Entered MBBS through caste quota, Entered MD through caste quota
The family owns at least one house and a car.

Family 2: Brahmin, Forward Caste
Father: Expired in a Road accident
Mother: Bank Money collector
Son : Holds a Bachelors degree in accounts. Same job as his mother.
Daughter: Holds a Bachelor degree in science. Married.
The family owns only a single room housing board flat.

I've known one family for 18 years and another for the last 7. Even though the daughter of Family 2 scored only marginally lesser that the second son of Family 1, he entered Medicine in a government college with subsidized fees and a scholarship, she had to study arts because her family couldn't afford the engineering college fees.

How can a system that grants reservation, subsidized fees and scholarship to a family from the scheduled caste that can afford a 25 lakh fee and nothing to a poor 'forward' caste family be considered fair?

Two social scientists have proposed an alternative model, which takes into account both academic merit and social disadvantage and not just caste.
This model proposes reservation based on group and individual disadvantages.
Group disadvantages include caste, community, gender, and region.
The individual focuses on parental occupation and type of schooling.
The final quantum of reservation computes merit and social disadvantages in a ratio of 80:20.

It appears to be sensible and seems to have found the right balance between merit and social justice. It brings everyone on an equal footing and if implemented could be a cure-all to this whole controversy. But the politicians cannot derive any mileage from it, for that single reason it will be ignored and forgotten!

To hell with these politicians!

Related Links:
Proposed alternative model by sociologists Prof. Satish Deshpande & Prof. Yogendra Yadav
Part 1: Meeting the challenge of Mandal II
Part 2: Reservation — an alternative proposal

2001 Census of India
More Hypocrisy

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Da Vinci Debacle

The Indian Government is mulling over a possible Ban on the movie version of the Da Vinci Code.
  • Over 60 million legal copies of the book Da Vinci Code have been sold worldwide
  • Assuming the pirated versions of the book sold as much, On a reasonable estimate, over 200 million people must have already read the book.
  • Lebanon was the only country that banned the book version of Da Vinci Code.
  • Will India get the dubious distinction of becoming the first and only country to ban the movie Da Vinci Code?
An unequal society... A government that divides and rules... Petty vote bank politics... Is this country going to give me another reason to be ashamed of?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Price of a vote

Since it looks like the DMK Alliance is going to win this time around I'll stick to them.
  • Two Acres of Land
  • Rice at Rs.2/Kg
  • A Colour TV
  • Rs.100/- and Biriyani the night before the election, and breakfast in the morning.

The first three 'inducements' were part of the election manifesto, in case you were wondering about the last one that's what people in the slum near my house were given on the eve of the election.

Can't blame the poor who got chased away on election day by the para-military forces when they tried to put in a few extra votes... They were happy that their stomachs were full and had some cash to spend But

  • 5 years of Mis-rule
  • 5 years of Corruption
  • 5 years of trying to get back all that was spent on this one month election circus
  • 5 years of trying to save for the next election

Are these not part of the deal too? When will we Indians understand this? When will we get a more long term perspective?

I'm not Anti DMK or Pro AIADMK just Pro Indian!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

50% reservation is 100% Politics

Yesterday Medicos all over the country joined the protest initiated by the Medicos in New Delhi under the Youth for Equality platform against the proposed hike in reservations in higher educational institutions. It gladdens my heart to see such a pro-active role from Medicos after seeing five years of relative inactivity at Madurai Medical College.
Yet the politicians are not bothered and are doing what they're best at improving their vote banks... even it meant dividing the country with a not so invisible barrier.

Reservations not only makes the reserved people feel separate and special it also creates resentment on the meritorious who miss out because of the reservation system. Friends who didn't know who belonged to which caste will feel differently when they start getting treated differently. The simmering rage is a bomb waiting to explode, the government has now giving it a nuclear potential.

  • Scheduled castes constitute around 20% of the Indian Population and backward classes around 30%.
  • Only 3% of the scheduled caste students who enroll for class 1 complete their schooling.
  • Wouldn't a 22.5% reservation in higher educational institutions give an unfair advantage to the 3% and the even fewer who complete graduation?
  • Why can't the government improve the quality of schools and reduce school drop outs among those castes?
  • If those castes were subjugated for around 3 centuries what is the government doing to the meritorious now?
  • What is the need for this step backward fifty eight years after our independence?
I received around 20 emails through my Blog and Orkut asking me what I thought about the proposed hike in reservation. When I mailed back asking if they had voted hardly 2 or 3 had bothered to vote. Many didn't even have Voter IDs. Friends like Indhu asked "What difference does my one vote make?"!!!

My state of Tamil Nadu faces elections to the state legislative assembly on May 8th. I would win by a huge margin if I bet not even 10% of my batch of 160 at Madurai Medical College would bother to go out and vote!

India's intelligentsia considers itself too elite to even bother to vote. Even our Prime Minister didn't vote in the recent elections! India's politicians will satisfy and improve the conditions of only those who vote. No point in blaming the government and crying hoarse now!

It's nice to see youthful organizations like Lok Paritran, Bharat Uday Mission, Youth for Equality etc., getting involved in socio-political issues. But what the country needs is a revolutionary change in the mind-set of the non-voting intelligentsia.

It's not only our right, It's also our responsiblity!

If you don't vote you only get the Boot!