Reality Check India

Demonetization as a window to force a Digital flip

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 25, 2016


Kayyila Kaasu  Vaayila Dosai !

(Old Tamil Saying : Cash in hand  Dosa in mouth)

If something persists for a long long time despite multiple attempts to defeat it – it is always wise to step back and see if there is a reason for why it is persisting. This catchy aphorism ” Cash in hand = Dosa in mouth” may seem too simple but it captures the essence of what people are expecting from a settlement system.Cash OUT Dosa IN. End of story. Captures the beginning, the middle, and the end of the transaction. No intermediaries as facilitators (telcos) as final approvers (banks, wallets)  loggers (govt, authenticators) or commission brokers (cards). As Prof Jayant R Varma puts in so eloquently in his article A Digital Device for every Indian  he says  “Cash gives the poorest of the poor access to a retail payment system that meets the gold standard for payment systems: real time gross settlement in central bank money. It is unacceptable to give them anything less than this in a digital solution”

An instant bilateral settlement of Dosa eating at zero cost  with no third party who holds a veto power over this.  Bank deposits and Wallets are comparable to ‘tokens’ –  inferior forms of money.  You can only access bank money through a particular bank, with their tools, through your specific type of account, tier of service. You can only access Wallet money in certain situations.  Access to this gold standard settlement with cash is what the poorest of the poor had at exactly the same level as the richest. Pardon me for dwelling a bit more on this because it is important to set the framework for the rest of the article.

This super slick transaction mechanism  described above of course has its well known downsides. The costs of machines to detect counterfeits are high,  cash is unwieldy to carry around in large amounts, the test of ownership is “possession”. This means if a robber takes your cash it is his (generally).

Transactions are invisible to government authorities and they have to rely on ever smarter Financial Intelligence (FININT) systems to detect these.  The first three drawbacks are not real  because people factor those into their usage patterns. Very few people go any buy a car or even a TV with a suitcase of cash.  The risk of getting mugged or pickpocketed is real so people are wary of crowded or iffy places when carrying cash. The last drawback : the invisibility of the transaction from a government point of view is the main criticism of cash.  If sufficiently large number of these invisible transactions take place over a long time period, they can lead to build up of an alternate “overlay” economy called the Black Economy.   Cash can move at ease between the two layers testing and teasing the various Financial Intelligence, NMS (Non Filer Monitoring systems) and Bank Analytics systems that exist at this boundary.  This was the state of cash India. A super efficient settlement tool that supported a  level of transactions amounting to about 55% of all economic activity by value and 95% by volume. But also one that was being exploited by tax evaders and other nefarious elements.

On Nov 8 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shocked the nation by taking a very audacious move.  Over 85% of all currency , those held in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations roughly 16 Lakh Crores of paper was declared invalid except for the purpose of depositing at a bank.  At that time I had immediately hailed the move saying “Modi has belled the black money cat“.  It is remarkable and a tribute to the man that he would take such a decision that would disrupt his own party and a large part of this support base.   I hailed then and continue to hail now : Demonetisation as a truly fundamental and necessary disruption. My position is in contrast to people like P. Chidambaram who view the demonetisation itself as a bad move.

But from Day one,  I and some allies on  twitter have been warning that to pull this off we need a war like effort. An effort whose main thrust would be a frictionless swap of new tender and that needed a full time focus with a war-room-dashboards approach. This was not to be.  Today is Dec 25 2016 with only 6 days to go for the Prime Minsters 50 day deadline.  The overwhelming majority of ATMs (keep in mind these ATMs are part of the white economy) are still closed even with very low withdrawal limits at 10% of earlier limits. Authoritative figures are hard to come by but it appears only about 30% of the notes have been replaced with a large number of them being siphoned off.  The government has long pivoted from “War on black money” to  a “Cashless” economy.  This is where I part from most of the Right Wing and Center Right supporters.  Demonetization YAY. Cashless NAY.

The first step to recognize is that these  are two independent campaigns.  If you do them simultaneously it just means you have sucked in the peoples cash – which continues to be their  settlement mechanism of choice –  and are not going to return it.

How would a demonetization exercise but without the Cashless hoopla look like?

Step back a minute and understand the main issue here. The Black Economy and the White Economy are not isolated. They are overlay economies. Say you are hoarding a stash of cash, you can cut off a slice and buy your son a Bajaj Pulsar. You have just effected a cross-layer transaction. The income shows up in the Bajaj dealers books but if you are lucky it never showed in yours.  The government is not stupid either, they have complex Financial Intelligence, Anti Money Laundering (FININT) software at key points where the black and white layers collide ( auto dealers, jewellers, real estate, banks etc). On the other hand they turn a blind eye to other places where the layers collide (political parties,  and in general allied activities of politicians like education,mining,campaigns, lending).

A prolonged expansion of the black economy created pockets of very high capital accumulation (cash hills) that made FININT systems harder and harder to work effectively because there were fewer transactions crossing the boundary. An entire ecosystem of credit, financing, property registrations that in turn fueled growth segments construction, commercial rentals, political initiatives, meant that you could stay completely within the Black Economy and rarely cross the line.  Particularly the borrowing and lending of black money meant the you could make your Black money work for you just as hard as the White (via Capital Markets, FDs, etc).  The intertwining of political muscle with black capital was doubly potent. A thuggish politician could count on recouping any outstanding loans by leveraging muscle power and that also neatly ensured his ascendancy in the political arena.  So what do you have here. Emergence of an almost stand alone economy increasingly harder for FININT to detect when crossing the checkpoints. A situation hard to reform due to involvement of politicians and corrupt govt officials.  This was the state of things.

What demonetization did was wreck this.

It would destroy the Black Capital held as cash and would put all outstanding loans in jeopardy thereby destroying the Black Credit sector. Why? because loans availed in black would have to be paid back in white. Not going to happen. By forcing everyone into the White Layer they would have to meekly surrender to FININT . A brilliant move. So all you had to do was to recall the old notes and hand out new ones at a rapid pace.  I view the friction caused by paperwork in the first week of note swap, the unnecessary change of currency sizes, the chaotic and unplanned printing process, the headroom given to bank staff causing loot of new currency notes, a near total shift of focus to e-Payment, were all avoidable errors.

The next step is the tricky one. Say you had the entire black layer cross the perimeter and FININT systems alerted and lit up like a Christmas tree. Does the state have the capacity to follow it up?  Mr Ravi here just plonked 20L in his ICICI account – what next?  If the state doesnt even have this capacity then think about it. How can it have the capacity to detect and respond to frauds in any situation – cash or cashless? This is exactly the same tragic situation in Police capacity  with Sec 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act – the Disproportionate Assets clause.  Once people wisen up to it, the cases get harder and harder to prosecute and the Police get more and more complacent. This is what some people say when they mean ‘failing institutions’.

In summary, Demonetization by itself would have wrecked the black economy, primed the FININT systems to the brim, and yet left the power of the ‘golden cash settlement’ option back in the peoples hands.  If this had been done, by this time of late December we would be on our way – moving on to bigger battles like the Core Right Agenda.

What is wrong with cashless?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with cashless. It is a perfectly valid payment option in certain circumstances in certain tiers.  I use it in many situations and fall back to cash in many other situations.  It also depends on the tier of service and the product.I would not use a credit card that has a annual fee for instance or one that needed a security deposit in the form of a FD. I try to use credit cards over other options due to ease of chargebacks and returns.  It all depends.  The movement to cashless is linked to increasing trust in government and society.  People quote Sweden as the ideal here – but forget that Sweden and Norway janta also get drinking water on tap.  The challenges of a First World country with very high trust in government and very high respect for the ruling elites is different from a Third world country that has a mountain to climb.  Then they switch the comparison to Kenya and cite the success of m-PESA. They forget that m-PESA has limited success outside of Kenya.  In fact it was rolled out in India too by Vodafone. Failed.  This is not to say that cashless has no chance to succeed but that in both Sweden and Kenya , cashless won over the people from cash. In Sweden, people just moved to less and less cash rendering banks pulling back cash operations due to low volume. In Kenya, poor access to ATMs and violence was the factor.

The real problem here is the forcing of cashless options – not for high value (car, house) or even medium value (TV, insurance) but for petty transactions. The messaging led by Modi’s advisors in Niti Aayog  is how the providers on the other side of the middle class interface  – the subji (vegetable) wala, the doodh (milk) walla, some maids, servants, paan walla are moving to cashless. The Middle Class : Service Provider interface can be loosened up if the main objective was to ease the pain of the middle class side.  Many provided their  servants with a take it or leave it option and they opened a bank account.  But that is not the only interface. The “servant” also have payables to others – like the slum lord or the pawn shop or the informal chits. At this point – we usually say. Its their problem.

In India, there are a number of cashless options available today and have been for a very long time. In spite of massive venture capital leveraged cashbacks and discounts  there is still not a winner over cash. The underwriters factor the risk that if the cashbacks stop, people might just  revert back. The range of products are not all comparable in quality, speed, security, or access.

One of the most exasperating arguments put forth by NITI Aaayog goes  like this “Cant do Wallet , then do UPI, no smart phone, then do USSD, nothing use Aadhaar app (to be launched)”. The problem is this is not equivalent to “Dont want Pepsi drink Coke”. The alternatives offered are not identical replacements ie. not fungible.  People using USSD will go through a much poorer, slower, intrusive (having to interact with humans) than upscale options.  This comes back to Prof Jayant Varma’s point. The access is tiered.  This tiering was  not a problem as long as the gorilla sized competitor to all of these systems – the cash settlement – was around. But when by Govt policy the main competitor is knocked out  (or crippled to a great extent) then you enter into a very inequitable situation.

Even within what I call the corporate Right Wing , the tiering is present but not involving matter of dignity.  So I can have a personal banker and a Amex Centurion card and someone else has a ICICI Coral Card – it doesnt make much difference. My experience is going to be uniformly superior to yours but yours is not too bad either. You know English and can call a Toll Free number and smash the customer support rep and get any perceived injustice (eg late charges, fees, fines, etc) waived while I may never have to pay these things.

On the other side of the divide things are not that rosy.   Semi literate people with hand down barely working feature phones with a solitary bank within 10Km are not going to be so lucky.  Cash was the ultimate equalizer in this situation. A rich guy is unlikely to be able to wave his 20 Rs note and cut the line for a Vada Pav over a coolie who also has a 20 Rs note.  I could go on , as long as you are able to role play or empathize with unfamiliar situations, you will  get this part. If not, stop reading here.

Then the issue shifts to – ‘look its not cashless but less cash”.  No one really believes cashless means a ban on cash. These two are synoyms referring to the same policy.

Cash supply held at a crippling low level so people are forced to adopt inferior products which they otherwise would not were the supply to be were increased.  A new phrase “Digi-monetisation” is now doing the rounds.

What would a cashless, sorry less cash economy look like ? I predict the first changes would be a dramatic roll back of the ATM network – if the caps are held so low and supplies crunched, the cash management company model will no longer be viable.  You may well see the ATMs that are closed since Nov 8 2016, may never re-open again.  This could mean a comeback of human tellers  which are a throwback to the 70s to 90’s are back.  I am not saying any of these are wrong but pointing out these are not emerging naturally but by force.

Another aspect of Niti Aayog PR blitz that is distressing is the concealing (innocent for sure) of the charges involved in each of these methods. They temporary waivers of charges are not highlighted, there is no legal framework of regulation which would guarantee the charges cannot be slided up or down at will, to all or to some segments of the population.  It is also odd that people like S Gurumurthy and Prof R Vaidyanathan who are very familiar with the efficiency differences in informal lending vs mainstream bank lending are not speaking up on the forcible switch to bank credit system. The replacements for chit funds, pawn brokers, are not there yet.  No doubt these activities could be tax evasive but will the banks then provide the same efficiencies?  Remember the previous government even instituted sectarian lending targets based on religion caste etc euphemistically known as “Priority Sector Lending” – this is of course in #core2 territory and is continued by Modi govt.  The informal sector treats such distinctions with disdain. Should we ignore this?


The cashless campaign is an un-necessary distraction at best in midst of a noble demonetization exercise. The fin tech startups and banks  need to compete with cash and win over the public , otherwise sooner of later we will find the govt indirectly favouring individual players in this segment to save face.  The equity aspects of the switch to cashless are real, the regulatory, inter operability, security aspects are real too. Legally the new regime that places arbitrary curbs could push up against Banking Regulation Act and other statutes.   All of this is unnecessary.  Promotion of a cashless economy is a completely discretionary and separate exercise can be undertaken at any time. Start with digitizing all govt and PSU payments,  reduce excise & import duty on cashless tech, tax holidays for Fin Tech (like you did for IT with the STPI and SEZ schemes), etc etc.

On the political aspect, I have no comments to offer. The main difference I see with fellow “RW” critics  is that I dont view demonetization  as a great agenda. The real battles are in what I call “Core Right” , by betting your house on the Cashless horse, you are running a risk which I view is too great. You could be out before you even take a single swing at Core. Think about that.




Decoding the Goa crisis – why cant India do education right?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 1, 2016

In a very significant development, on Aug 31 2016 the popular RSS chief in Goa – Subhash Velingkar quit support for the BJP and decided to find other political parties to support for the upcoming 2017 Assembly elections.


“The political front which BBSM would be floating will go it alone in the poll. We can join hands with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) if they withdraw support to BJP,” RSS Goa chief Subhash Velingkar told reporters.

BBSM has been demanding that regional languages (Konkani and Marathi) be made the Medium of Instruction in Goa’s elementary schools, and Government should stop the grants of English medium schools.

Source : Indian Express


I am writing this short post – in order to preempt yet another misinformation campaign from Indian mainstream media. There is simply no way they will tell you what is really going on in Goa. Almost all of them are portraying (see Indian Express link above) that is issue is because Velingkar is opposing English medium and not something else. In that ‘something else’ – lies the real story. Read on.

The brewing medium of instruction (MOI) issue in Goa

Since the 90’s – Goa’s policy has been to only fund Konkani and Marathi medium primary schools.   This does not mean you cant have English medium schools – Goa has a thriving English medium school network in the private sphere. You just cant get any funding  from the government.  This was the policy up until 2011.

At the start of 2011 ; the situation in the aided school sector was   Konkani (135), Marathi (40), English (Nil because by rule English medium cant be aided). [1]

The Congress govt in 2011 – responding to various claims by the church and by the parents – decided to allow aid for English medium as well. Guess what happened? About 130-140 schools from the Marathi and Konkani medium immediately took advantage and switched over to English medium.  Almost all of them ,  132 of 140 of  these schools are run by the Church. This is entirely expected because at the end of the day people want English medium. This is evidenced by the fact that in Goa’s private sector almost all schools are English medium !

In 2012, the BJP under the Manohar Parrikar (now the defence minister in Modi’s cabinet) won the Goa assembly. This was due to a strategic alliance with the Catholic Church as well as a promise made to the RSS that this policy (of funding English medium) would be reversed.

Next – the BJP under Parrikkar  did this.

On Jun 6 2012, the govt issued a notification saying that henceforth only Konkani and Marathi schools will be funded by the govt BUT the schools that have switched over the English Medium (just one year ago) would continue to be funded.  But that is not all – the notification also said that only “minority / certain institutions that shifted to English medium in 2011 would continue to receive funds”.  The reason cited was “students should not suffer” [2]

This predictably blew the RSS fuse under Velingkar.  Then two opposing groups formed – the first one called BBSM Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (wanted cancellation of aided to these minority) and on the other side FORCE – a group of largely Christian educationalists who stood to lose if grants were withdrawn.

So this is the back story. In 2016 there have been hectic parleys between BBSM and the BJP Govt but all appear to be in vain as the govt under Lakshmikant Parsekar who asserted that church run english medium would alone get govt funds – His statement on Aug 10 2016  “The grants to English medium minority schools will remain uninterrupted,” Parsekar said.

Analysis of the MOI issues

Many people have wondered why India even after 70 year of Independence cannot seem to do education right. The most basic of things. For this blog and thousands of supporters of the #core right agenda – this issue is right here on top. The central anomaly in India is that people pass laws and comment ignoring this basic reality.  In India, the split in edu sector is not private vs public but minority vs non-minority.   So what happens is each time you pass a law or make rules curbing some autonomy – you can only apply it to the non-minority group.  This is the root of the problem.

BBSM got it right and wrong :  This is an issue on which most people on the Medium of Instruction get it wrong.  That debate can only be built if you have an underlying uniformity principle.  We must appreciate Velingkar for his principled stand.  He understands that MOI can only be achieved by coercion and that “fine , we’ll coerce only the Goan Hindus” does not appeal to him. The reality is Goan people want English and in an atmosphere of freedom they would pick English.   So BBSM rightfully finds itself in an absurd position – 132 state funded English medium schools run by Church cannot sit along side coerced Konkani run non-minority schools. The latter will be destroyed because people left to their own devices will pick the English medium !!  A side note : Even if we dismantle the central fabric of Idea of India – that is state preferences to minorities in education – MOI is still a big deal. Unlike Korea or Japan or Taiwan to impose regional language of medium is doubly hard because we already have inherited a thriving English base. You have to coerce at two levels 1) enforce that no school does English 2) and then impose the local language.  You cant do that uniformly due to the minority situation. Also remember that in India minority participation in edu is not peripheral or isolated. They are the dominant players and can easily supply all of the capacity twice over. This is what happened in Karnataka too ; the Congress govt to impose Kannada faltered because a few astute lawyers raised the minority issue and pre-empted it.

Parrikar got it right and wrong:  BJP won Goa largely due to its deal with the Catholic Church. The central part of this deal was likely to be the continuation of the Congress govt aid to the Church schools. So he feels obligated to honour that deal ; besides even if he withdrew the grants, the schools may be able to restore them using the courts. It is unfortunate however that BJP would extend the aid to only minorities while ignoring the RSS workers.

What is the solution ?

This Goa episode is just a small even in the larger scheme of sectarianism in Indian educaiton. There can be no reform possible unless this is addressed head on. Starting with the repeal of the 93rd Constitution Amendment, and the Right to Education Act. Without this uniformity principle I fail to understand how you can come up with “New education policy” etc.  The twin principles of #core right are 1) if you cant do it for all, do it for none  2) if you give govt money to religions it must be on strict pro-rata basis.

This is complicated by the Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar commitment in Parliament to not to ‘tinker with”  Minorities.  [4]



References :

[1] Goa MOI policy note

[2] Goa govt MOI circular dated 18/6/2012

[3] Herald Goa “Grants will be given to English Medium Minority schools”

[4] No tinkering with minority institutions – Prakash Javadekar

The incredible unconstitutional admissions process in Delhi University

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 6, 2016
Lakhs of students with good faith denied a fair process

Atrocious betrayal of lakhs of students who had good faith expectations of fair and non-discriminatory process in DU Admissions 2016.  (Image Credit :


Young Ruby Gelhot (name changed) a resident of Delhi is completely devastated. She had dreamed of attending Shri Ram College of Commerce, a premier centrally funded college. She and her friends prepared hard for two years in a  CBSE mid range school in Delhi. The hard work paid off as she passed with flying colors and scored 95.5% is Class 12th exams. On the day of the results, her whole family was elated – sweets and parties happened. Come June she had the shock of her life. It not only appeared that her dream college SRCC was out of reach , but she might even have to move out of NCR and seek admission in some other college.

The same story with Utsav Ganguly from Kolkata, who scored 96.25 per cent, added: “Honestly it felt great to have made it. Back home it felt like ‘Oh my god! I have scored so much.’   He was a topper in the West Bengal Board exams But after coming to Hindu College here I realised that everyone has scored well. It feels good to see a lot of students performing well ..


you will not believe what is going on in the nations capital right under the noses of the highest courts and the seat of the government. Read on.


Shri Ram College of Commerce is a college under Delhi University. It is a premier institution run by a trust whose founder Shriram Lala belonged to the Hindu religion. This puts it in a non-minority legal category. The college is aided to the extent of 95% by the Central Govt. It is rated as one of the top colleges in Asia for commerce and the number one in India. For lakhs of  students in the commerce stream across the country  it is a dream to get into this college.  In this post, I will explain how the “Idea of India” state has cast aside all norms of propriety and imposed a patently unconstitutional admissions regime that will destroy this college and all other non-minority colleges in DU if left unchecked.


Tamilnadu students claim 110 or 160 seats in SRCC

The startling revelation by a Times of India report that reported “Tamilnadu students claim 80% of seats in top Delhi Commerce college” let the cat out of the bag.  It turns out that out of 160 seats in SRCC B.Com (Hons)  110 were are taken by students from Tamilnadu Board. Of the 110 seats,   50 are from one school in Erode District called  Bharathi Vidya Bhavan.  Kind of odd isnt it? Are the TN Board students head and shoulders above the CBSE, ICSE, and all the other boards, that they can dominate to this extent?  After all Tamilnadu is the land of Ramanujan, CV Raman, is it not?

Treating unequals equally – a matter of extraordinary processes

The DU Admission process is as follows. There are about 70 DU Colleges but only about 15 in the top tier. They are split into two legally distinct groups.  Please have patience and bear with me here for making this article a bit longer. Because if you do not know about the admissions process  you will not be able to follow what the issue really is. The DU colleges are split into two groups that operate under different legal regimes as follows.

  • Minority colleges – St Stephens, Jesus and Mary, and about 4 Khalsa colleges ;Delhi does not have linguistic minority
  • Non Minority (Hindu) – – Shri Ram College, Ramjas, LSR, Hindu,  and the rest

The Minority Colleges are allowed by law to do their own admissions process – including administering a written test and face to face interviews. The Hindu trust run colleges must follow the selection norms announced by Delhi University. Now what are the selection norms that are announced by DU ?

  • Students from all over the country from any board  can apply to DU colleges
  • The selection criteria is the marks they obtained in their own board !!
  • So a 98% from TN Board is considered better than 97% from ICSE which is better than 96% from CBSE.

I have never seen a system like this anywhere. There is no attempt at normalization or curve fitting. The DU rules just take the outputs of completely different processes and merge them in a totally arbitrary way that results in outright discrimination.    This is a case of treating unequal processes equally – a patent violation of the most basic of guarantees, the equal protection guarantees of Art 14 of the Constitution. (whatever is left of it).

Invidious discrimination against non Tamilnadu boards

The recent trend is for all boards to adopt a very low testing standard and be liberal with grading. Post UPA almost all boards like CBSE , Kerala, ICSE are  entering into a grade inflation spiral. But Tamilnadu is an extreme case which no board can match as of now.

Here are some facts.

In 2014, in Tamilnadu medical admissions there were 132 students tied at 100%.  At each 0.125% typically there will be about 200-300 students tied. For example: there will be 132 tied at 100%, 292 at 99.875%, 218 at 99.75% … and so forth.  This happens every year, even in 2016.

Coming to SRCC admissions in 2016 for B.Com(Hons) Commerce, the subjects considered for this course are language plus any 3 core subjects usually accountancy, commerce and economics.  In TN Board Accountancy exam here are some stunning facts.  4,342 students scored 100%, 2,833 score 99.5%, 2501 scored 99.0%. More than 10,000 scored above 99% and 15,000 scored above 98%, 22,000 over 97%.  In Commerce 2016,  3,084 students scored 100%, 1,994 scored 99.5% and so forth. About 7,000 students scored 99% or above.   In Economics, 442 scored 100%, 690 scored 99.5%, more than 2,000 scored more than 99%.   The languages French and Sanskrit are extremely liberal too. In Sanskrit for example the AVERAGE score is 88% !!

The typical statistical shape in Tamilnadu is “bunch at the top” as shown below in accountancy. The spike around the 70/200 (35%)  marks is because in TN no one scores between 60 and 70 out of 200. If you make 61 you will be pulled up to 70/200 – which is the pass mark ! The surge and spike at the 95%+ points to the bunch at the top.

2016 Accountancy showing the bunch at the top with a spike at 100%

2016 Accountancy showing the bunch at the top with a spike at 100%

Why one school in Erode?

Many people are surprised given that more than 10,000+ students from TN would have an aggregate score of 97% or above, how come only 110 got into SRCC which only has about 180 seats in the first round.  Any what is so special about this one school Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Erode?  The answer is very simple. The other schools in TN simply do not know about this incredible offer!! Until now.

Most principals in TN cannot believe this is possible in India. That their students can just apply using their board marks to elite DU colleges with no entrance test and their percentage marks are not even normalized !  This kind of information takes time to spread, it turns out this particular school has been silently dominating DU admissions for some time now. In 2015-16, about 30% of seats in SRCC – around 100 of 300  were taken by Tamilnadu Board.  Out of that Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Erode school took about 40 seats.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is a good school producing consistent “centums” (a centum is 100% marks).  In 2016, this school  has scored about 230 centums  in various subjects but it is not even the top most school.  There are schools in Namakkal District that have 290 centums (Green Park Matric school – and that is just the girls).  Now the word is out. If this information is widely known to all Tamilnadu schools – then you can be assured there are enough students to fill the entire DU capacity several times over. In TN Board about  2.2 lakh students are in the commerce stream.  There are roughly 20,000 seats in B.Com and B.A Economics together in DU with about 2,000 seats from elite colleges. Easily 20,000 from TN will have aggregate of 97% or above. That is enough to fill entire DU capacity 10 times over.

Do not blame or shame  the kids

Please do not use this data to blame the Tamilnadu students who have made use of this ill conceived admissions process –  it is not their fault. They did not set the rules. The Delhi University did, the intellectuals, academicians, AAP and BJP politicians, judges who live just down the street did not EVEN BOTHER to do a basic checkEven now the only analysis available on this stunning phenomenon is ON THIS LITTLE BLOG. There are Thinktanks dedicated to Education Policy all over New Delhi with aggregate funding of $200M (per estimates from FCRA).

There losers in this ludicrous process are the hapless Delhi students, students from CBSE, and other boards which have a harder grading system. The have been washed out.  The pleasantly surprised winners are from the Tamilnadu and perhaps to a lesser extent other  easier boards. Once again this is not a comment on the ability or hard work put in by the Tamilnadu students. In their defence, they did not ask for a dead easy exam and liberal grading. (Why TN does this and destroys its own human capital is a topic for another day)

The importance of admissions autonomy to Hindu run institutions

As you can see Shree Ram College of Commerce  which is an elite college has been turned into the site of this immoral betrayal of lakhs of students who expected a fair and non-discriminatory admissions process.  The college itself is helpless because as per DU rules, non-minority colleges like Shri Ram College of Commerce cannot conduct a second screening. This is allowed only for minority colleges like St Stephens, Jesus and Mary College, and now the Khalsa colleges (pending in High Court).

What St Stephens does to preserve its admissions integrity is to neutralize grade inflation by adding in a second written test and a personal interview. For example; they  would call a group of say 4 x the available capacity – then administer their own process. This means they can really pick and choose and escape the immorality.  Very few understand the absolute importance of this from an institutional perspective.

The quota quagmire

Non Minority DU colleges like SRCC also have to do the 27% OBC quota in addition to the 22.5% SC/ST quota.  Minority colleges do not have to do the OBC quota.

Here is the problem.

  1. The OBC group itself does not have the same moral standing as the SC quota. This is the main reason the UPA govt exempted the minority run colleges from it using the 93rd Amendment and by using NCMEI to grant minority status to AMU and thousands of other educational institutions. It is considered a political quota – despite their being some groups in the OBC list which are truly backward.
  2. The OBC quota like the SC/ST quota is a Vertical Quota (VQ) quota system. This means an OBC who scores well above the cutoff in the General Category is not treated as OBC. The VQ system is also called “Over and Above” system.
  3. The OBC group in TN is massive – 74% of the entire population of Tamilnadu is classified as OBC. Since the reservation system in Tamilnadu derives from the Anti-Tamil-Brahmin movement, these OBCs groups are not really backward at all. They are not backward in the sense that they do not exhibit ANY evidence of academic disability.  I have analyzed in detail how in Tamilnadu MBBS 2016 – there are only 41 students out of 2172 from the Open Category and OBC in TN actually lose seats due to the quota system !!

Here is how the anomaly plays out.  Since TN OBCs are not really backward and since TN OBCs are returning thousands of 100% scores,  they can easily get into the DU Hindu-run colleges in the General Category.  What happens then is that the Non-TN Board General Category students from Delhi are completely squeezed out. Remember in Delhi only 20% of population is OBC and more than 55% are Unreserved.  There were some reports saying in some courses only 9 out of 29 students were from general category. Luckily St Stephens does not have to DEAL WITH ANY OF THIS.

Once again, a gentle reminder please dont blame the TN kids for taking advantage of an unconstitutional system. Drag the DU administrators, politicians, thinktanks, and academics who created this. My heart goes out to all the students especially the girls from Delhi CBSE schools who are now sidelined and may need to leave home for hostel.




Data Source : All 2016 Std 12 data sourced from who have brilliantly analyzed TN Board results. I could not find a similar data for CBSE, perhaps hidden deliberately and refusing to release via RTI. Just like the IIT rank analysis.


Analysis of Tamilnadu MBBS 2016-17 admissions

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on June 20, 2016

Here is a quick analysis of TN 2016-17 MBBS Admissions. With a few findings at the end.

How MBBS capacity is  partitioned

Total seats in Govt Medical Colleges 2172 100%
OBC 576 26.5%
BC-MUSLIMS 76 3.5%
SC 391 15%
ST 21 1%

Seats obtained by each group using Vertical Quota method

The quota device used in India is called Vertical Quota. Also known as the over and above scheme (thanks to Marc Galanter for this word)

Community Seats obtained Percent 2016-17 Percent 2015-16
Total seats in Govt Medical Colleges 2172 100%
OBC 1036 47.7% 48.8%
BC-MUSLIMS 97 4.5% 4.5%
MOST BACKWARD (MBC) 557 25.6% 25.3%
SC 410 18.9% 15.9%
ST 21 1% 1%

If there were no quota at all

Assuming there was no quota system at all in Tamilnadu. Here is how the seats would be allocated

(blue indicates a gain over the vertical quota system)

Community Seats obtained Percent 2016-17 Percent 2015-16
Total seats in Govt Medical Colleges 2172 100%
OPEN COMPETITION 156 7.2% 6.5%
OBC 1439 66.3% 73.3%
BC-MUSLIMS 73 3.4% 2.5%
MOST BACKWARD (MBC) 414 19.1% 15.2%
SC 83 3.8% 2.3%
ST 0 0% 0%


If a hypothetical Horizontal quota method were used

As explained in “The real difference between horiontal and vertical quotas in India” Each group would  be allowed to scale up to the ‘minimum guarantee mark’ after the 1st round of allocations is done pretending there is no quota at all.  The following groups have shortfall ( MBC 20,  SC 308, SC-A 60, BC-Muslim 3, ST 21 = Total = 412 ) after the first round. The OBC and the General category seats will be knocked from the end until the minimum numbers are met for each group.  Based on rough calculations from the merit list – we estimate that Unreserved (OC or Upper Caste) loses about 20 seats  and the OBC loses 392 seats.


(blue indicates a gain over the vertical quota system)

Community Seats obtained Percent 2016-17 Gain % vs Vertical Quota*
Total seats in Govt Medical Colleges 2172 100%
OPEN COMPETITION 136 6.3% 183%
OBC 1047 47.8% 0.4%
BC-MUSLIMS 76 3.5% -22%
MOST BACKWARD (MBC) 434 20% -22%
SC 391 15% -0.8%
ST 21 1% 0%

  • % Gain over Vertical Quota calculated as  : ( HQuotaSeats – VQuotaSeats)/HQuotaSeats %)

Source of data :  MBBS Provisional Merit List published at (click on the scrolling list of documents).


Key Findings

  1. It is a pure miracle in India that such a data source is available that throws light on the actual utilization of the various categories.
  2. The Central Govt using the cover of RTI go to great extent to hide, that is correct, hide from the people, these key statistics. You have no idea how the vertical quota system is working in AIIMS, IIT, IIMs etc.
  3. In Tamilnadu, the trends are remarkably stable since I started analyzing these statistics 5 years ago.
  4. The OBC group in Tamilnadu are showing absolutely no evidence of disability. In fact the quota system leads to a loss of about 400 seats for them.
  5. Of the top 20 Ranks : 16 are BC, 2 are BC-Muslim, and only 2 are from Unreserved.
  6. The open category in Tamilnadu is only about 4.5%. It is a matter of amazement that such an over inclusion does not generate any comment from the $400M thinktanks in India.
  7. Any analysis of the Jat, Kapu, Patidar protests from inclusion in the Central Govt OBC list must take into account these national imbalance in classification.
  8. The reason for such poor performance of Open Category in Tamilnadu could be a combination of participation disincentives or just lack of competence.
  9. Clearly the Vertical Quota system mechanics need a ground up debate. Do we have the intellectual ecosystem to enter into such a nuanced but ultimately decisive debate?


Demystifying NEET. Caveat Emptor

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 22, 2016

You can judge how mature a society is by looking at its education sector.  The Indian state even after 70 years of Independence is certainly not looking good from that angle. So how  exactly are doctors made in the worlds largest democracy?  What is the NEET (National Eligibility and Entrance Test) ? Why is this the subject of so much misinformation ? Here is a shot at clearing the air.

First, this is not about the legal issues surrounding NEET.  The legal issues are at a lower level and not very interesting.The two main legal issues are 1) does the MCI have statutory authority being merely an administrative agency using delegated powers to run roughshod over the states ?  2)  can NEET  be imposed on minority medical colleges?  I have already covered these in an article written immediately after the NEET judgment “On Justice Kabir’s correct NEET judgment



In this article will try to plug what I consider to be the main information gaps in the NEET debate. Lets try a Q&A format.

How many seats for MBBS in India?

The rough stats are as follows.  India has about 50,000 medical seats at undergraduate level. Roughly 55% are in private colleges and 45% in govt colleges. Of the 55% in the private sector 50-60% are with minority private colleges and the rest with non-minority colleges.  Of the 45% in govt colleges the vast majority are with state govt. The notable ones with the Central govt being AIIMS, AFMC.

Believe it or not getting this basic level of information is hard work.  The collation and disclosures are not being done by any ministry after the ‘pull model of the Right to Information Act’ took hold.

Can private medical colleges admit purely based on money?

India hasnt been able to solve the central problem of education at school or college level. It has a love hate relationship with the private providers. The main issue is if you granted a free pass to the minorities (linguistic and religious) due to the way the constitution is interpreted  you simply have to do so for the others. This dilemma has not been resolved to this day and is currently the site of the main strategic battle in India.

In the 90’s there were two landmark cases you need to know about that shaped the current situation. The first was Mohini Jain vs Govt of Karnataka.  In that case, the court ruled that private colleges could charge no more than what govt medical colleges did. Obviously that kicked the private institutes hard and it was clear they were all going to go bust and the govt was in no shape to pick up the demand. So they retried it in another case called Unnikrishnan vs State of AP which established “cross subsidy” as a principle that exists to this day. The idea is you could split the seats into ‘free seats’ and charge a higher fee for some other students and use that to subsidize the former category.

Contrary to what people think private colleges cannot take all their seats and simply sell them to the highest bidder. Transparently or non-transparently. This is how it works, roughly with minor variations across states.

  1.  About 40% of all seats are given to state govts – they are filled by merit list created by a state govt administered test. The fees are comparable to govt colleges.
  2. About 30-40% are filled by another test – usually as a result of a consensual agreement. This is COMED-K (in Karnataka) and MCET (Andhra)  similar tests exists everywhere.  The fees are fixed and are much higher than the govt seats.
  3. About 10-20% are with the managements to be allocated via a transparent process.
  4. 15% is the quota for Non Resident Indians !!! (believe it or not) The rationale for this quota  is that foreign Indians are usually rich and can afford to cross subsidize the others!

So only the 3) and 4) intake can some hanky panky happen.  Lets go a little deeper.

What is scope of NEET ?

NEET is an eligibility and entrance test.  The test would create a single merit list nationwide.  From that single list states and colleges can carve out their own lists based on categories. The rule is that within a category the inter-se ranking is preserved.

NEET would remove quota system for OBC

Absolutely not.  NEET has nothing to do with the caste quotas.  What will happen is they will take the NEET merit list remove all the non OBC students and voila you have a OBC Merit List. This will be used to fill the Vertical Quotas for OBCs in all state and central medical colleges.   Similarly for SC/ST/OBC-1/OBC-2A/ what not.  You take one list and derive many lists. I was surprised to see so many Delhi students think that NEET would do “merit wise” medical seats and not caste based !!

Are you saying “meritorious” students cant access thousands of new seats after NEET?

So tragic that this lie is being spread to gullible students by some vested interests in the establishment.  This is the truth.

NEET will not add a single extra seat.

All the seat sharing arrangements I talked about earlier stay as it is.  All the state govt domicile quotas stay in place. All the caste based quotas also stay as is. The NRI quota which is outside NEET also stays as is.

There are so many students in Twitter thinking that after NEET they would get to access a whole lot of new seats in other states, private universities,etc. Stop. Please.

The only thing NEET does is force all the existing seat sharing arrangments to draw from a single national merit list by categorizing it.  For example : a TN State govt would take the national merit list and throw out all non-TN students and derive a state merit list. Not a single new seat will be added.

Will NEET break the Mafia Nexus and throw open seat to poor students?

First of all the “mafia nexus”  as alleged by some activists in a letter to the President is an interesting beast.  The real question is WHY there is a politician and “mafia” nexus in such a high echelon & knowledge based sector like medical colleges?  The reason for this is the sectarianism and capture of this vital sector by malafide players. The sector is not seeing participation from eminent philanthropists rather by those with the political connections to get this, that ,or the other license approved.  NEET does not address this at all. So lets take it easy o the Mafia , they are here to stay. NEET or no NEET.

Will NEET allow poorer students to access seats denied to them ?

Well, the jury is out on this one too.

See this from the angle of a poor or middle class student. If you rank high enough in the state entrance tests, even today you can afford an MBBS seat. If you dont kill it in the state govt exam but make it to the private exams (COMEDK etc) you can still become a doctor if you can scrape together about 6-10L/year.  If you are poor and you fail to make the grade in either of these types of exams – essentially the door is closed.

Now if you are rich, things could be different.   If you screw up the state exam as well as the private exam, you still have a shot using the ‘management quota’.  There are very few seats totally at the discretion of the management that they can just give to anyone with the cash.  Still you could play some games , such as dummy candidate vacated spots, lack of enforcement in politically powerful private colleges, and buy a seat for yourself.  This is what they mean when they say ‘Donation seat”. This I would admit is rampant and despicable. The thing is NEET is not the way to kill this.  Better laws that dont grant these guys any monopoly status and better police is the way to nail them.

NEET and transparent process and middle class

Be careful when you use the term ‘transparent process. A process could be fully transparent and still be of no use to you because you cant afford it.  There is a very famous medical college on the west coast of India which has a transparent exam, fully clean fees (cheques only) and cost 25Lakhs/year.  NEET will not change this.  If you cant afford something pre-NEET , you will not be able to afford it post-NEET.

What are the arguments against NEET in principle vs the way Supreme Court is pushing it

The touch stone for me is the so called ‘doctrine of legitimate expectation’. Lakhs of kids across the country have prepared for the exams in a certain way, using a certain method, inside a certain syllabus.  They are able to invest so much effort into the preparations only because they assume institutional stability.  This is not just a peripheral issue to them, but the main focus of all their activities over 2-3 years.  You cant just walk in and disrupt like that with a diktat from top. Especially when the new exam is designed to favour students of a particular board (CBSE). There are tiny nuanced differences even  between boards of high standards like AP and Bengal and CBSE. Maybe Physics goes a bit further in one side in NCERT, maybe Biology is slightly different in one. These tiny matters may not rock the boat of these clueless activists but could mean the difference between doctor or not for these kids.

The next objection is imposition of one syllabus, NCERT.  Before a single exam regime like NEET is imposed there needs to be concerted effort to bring up all the states to a single or atleast comparable academic standard.

NEET destroys institutions.   For Andhra students, EAMCET is a way of life, a pivotal institution around which their entire high school life is planned. The exam itself is not just a piece of paper, there are actual people, rules, psychometrics, exam logistics, counselling. An entire ecosystem that has seen decades of real world use and absorbed and adapted to various local pulls and pushes.  Think about it. Why would you lose this? Or if you wanted to lose this – why would you do it just because of some spite over how rich kids get in easy?

Will NEET lower fees?

Not really. NEET by itself has nothing to do with fee regulation.  In fact, my bet is that NEET will increase fees. I predict the following rearrangement.

  1. Category 1 :  NEET (low fee merit list)
  2. Category 2 : NEET (high fee merit list) for the current 30% under private exam
  3. Category 3:  The mgmt quota will take from NEET but hike fees substantially for all. So will accept 40Lakhs/year and take in NEET order.
  4. Category 4: NRI quota (outside NEET anyway) – this monstrosity needs a separate post by itself

Therefore what will likely happen is due to the loss of selection autonomy, private colleges will simply hike the fees across the board. Remember they can do this because you admitted they also have political backing.  As an illustration.  Imagine that the mgmt quota hiked the fees to 30L/year and then used NEET to pick.  Is that such a momentous improvement over the old method where the nominal fees was 10L/year but you could bribe your way in with 40-1Cr. This is the real benefit of NEET.

Next some poor analogies I saw on TV

IIT exam is based on NCERT. Why you no complain?

The difference is you can become an engineer without an IIT exam.  You cant become a doctor without NEET.  In other words, IIT (JEE Adv) is one of many exams and NEET is a single exam regime.

What loss of autonomy yaar? AIIMS did they lose autonomy?

This point was made by BJP Spokesperson Sambit Swaraj.   Firstly AIIMS uses a higher standard exam, secondly they did lose autonomy. What he is really saying is AIIMS is not complaining about loss of autonomy so private colleges should not complain.

USA does MCAT – why are you jumping ?

MCAT Is not administered by the US Govt. It is a exam by a consortium of medical schools. The analogy is to COMED and other private exams.  Second Medical schools use MCAT only as one marker. Almost all US medical schools have additional tests and interviews that can rearrange or disturb the MCAT merit order. This is not how NEET works.  Colleges cant screen afterwards.

But surely a single test is better instead of dozens?

This is debatable. If a single test emerges out of a voluntary arrangement of various providers , such as in MCAT, that is desirable. The reason being it is Extremely expensive to create a test that conforms to certain statistical shapes.  It is dead easy  to create tests that simply result in thousands of candidates scoring 100% and the shape is generally flat and bunched at the top.  This is what we are doing now.  Given these costs,  various colleges might decide on their own accord to come together and amortize the costs.

Given the diversity of boards, the availability and maturity levels of local access to coaching, and the knowledge gaps even within coaching centres —  multiple exams like they exist today are the best.  I frankly dont see the problem – multiple exams also gives you multiple chances. Not just to convert from fail to success but from success (low) to a high success (ace) – that gives you options.  I know so many motivated kids who give so many exams even going to centres in bunches by train. I dont see the issue here.

So what about Vyapam?

Nothing. I dont understand how Vyapam can be a justification for NEET. Remember Vyapam involved govt administered exams at the core. In fact I’d use Vyapam as an argument against NEET.

  • In 2015, AIPMT (now known as NEET-1) was leaked,  in 2011 the AIIMS paper was leaked.  Just because an exam is conducted by government doesnt mean it is foolproof.

If you had multiple exams and institutions had control, then the effects of a leak in a single exam is not catastrophic.  If you put all your eggs in the NEET basket then a leak in that exam will be calamitous and ruin the lives of many.

 Grade inflation and NEET

Say all the states threw away such good exams like EAMCET, and many private exams, and we were merrily doing NEET for  2-3 years. There is nothing that will prevent a future government from making NEET dead easy to achieve social balancing. Once that happens, it would be impossible to extricate yourself because the states will be helpless against a hostile central government.  Also the looming 93rd Amendment which is still not repealed can step in and completely destroy private medical colleges. Imagine this argument : You never complained about loss of autonomy when you agreed to submit to govt assignment of student in admissions. Why are you jumping when we put 3 govt babus on your board and ask you to give 25% quota to EWS output from RTE regime?

Finally , the grand daddy of them all – Idea of India

IJustice Kabir pointed it out exactly. There is simply no way NEET can be forced on minorities without  a dramatic and new reading down of Article 30.  In true #IOI tradition right now they are passing an ostensibly secular order (NEET). But those like the #Core who know how the system works also know  minority colleges are going to win out on a simple facial challenge.   NEET goes against well established minority protections starting from St Xaviers vs Guj, St Stephens vs Delhi, the TMA Pai troika.  People look for all kids of flowery words in judgments, rather than simple logic and reasoning. Kabir figured out where the tension was and bailed early. Now the country is once again being led down this disastrous path by those who cant even write a proper analysis of why Kabir was wrong.

Also in true Idea of India fashion , we might well end up with an evil lie (Tekiyyah in Hindi) compromise that adds layer upon layer of anomalies to what is a simple judgment of Justice Kabir.  One way in which that might happen is an extra step granted to some groups.

Say your college had 100 medical seats you would be allowed to invite 400 in NEET order, then administer a second test and shuffle. This is what is happening in DU where minority colleges can do a an extra screen after the board results.  Indians are generally impatient and dont tend to spot these kinds of cheap circumvention.  Imagine you had a grade inflation scene and everyone of the 400 came in with a 99+% for your 100 seats. Then that whole exam CANCELS OUT completely and the real exam is what you administer on your own.

Unfortunately I could not make this post short. Because the media and opinion makers are assigning dozens of imaginary virtues to NEET. We have no choice but to play whack a mole.

Helps? leave a comment.


The real difference between Horizontal and Vertical quotas in India

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 3, 2016

I had asked the following quiz on Twitter yesterday :

Thanks to all those who responded.  The real answer is not what you would expect and I hope to explain it in this post. You will be shocked.

The normal answer

Lets see what the usual answer to the question is because you need to understand what it is not to appreciate what it actually is.

The primary socio political organization in India is along the axis of the various Quota systems based on immutable (birth based) group identity. If you had say 100 seats – those are distributed in fixed quotas on basis of group membership identity The most common groups you know are SC/ST/OBC but there are even more fine grained ones at the states. For example Andhra Pradesh has SC/ST/OBC-1/OBC-2/3/4/5. Karnataka has OBC-A,OBC-B,OBC-2A, etc.  The key things to keep in mind in all these is

  • each of these groups have fixed quota
  • you cant be a member of more than one group
  • not all citizens have a group ; those not in any group are called unreserved candidates
  • all members with groups can participate in the open seats

Now, introduce a new  factor that allows you to be a member of more than one group. Say “Women” (purely as an example). If the announced womens quota was 30% ; each of these boxes get subdivided into 30%-70%. Thus within the SC 15% quota seats ; there is a sub quota of 30% for SC women. That is to say 5% of SC-Women and 10% for SC-Open.Similarly the OBC group is split up, the Unreserved seats are split up and so forth. Since this appears “visually” to be horizontal – they call this a horizontal quota.

This is where the fun starts.

This is not what the horizontal quota is.

Horizontal quota  is not merely a sub-quota within each group. It is a completely new quota system that works very differently. Lets dig deeper.


New terminology

As it is with all “Idea of India” schemes you need a terminology reset.  Let me introduce two new terms that more precisely describe quota system design. These terms are borrowed from the eminent sociologist and political scientist Marc Galanter.

  • Minimum Guarantee System :  Example -> OBC are guaranteed say 30% minimum
  • Over and Above System :  Example -> OBC are guaranteed 30% over and above whatever they get

Vertical quota is an Over and Above system. Horizontal Quota is a Minimum Guarantee system.

They look similar only on the surface.  Lets see what is really going on under the hood with an illustration.

Vertical quota selection

Say you had a total of 100 seats and a Vertical Quota (VQ) group assigned 30%.  You must do two rounds of assignment. In Round 1 – you set aside 70 seats corresponding to the unreserved quota; then allocate from a common merit list including VQ .  Then you do a separate Round 2 – this  time for 30 seats for which you only consider VQ candidates. This completes the process.

Horizontal quota selection

Say you had the same 100 seats but a Horizontal Quota (HQ) group assigned 30%.  You first do one round of assignment. In Round 1 – instead of setting aside 70 seats you consider ALL 100 seats.  Then  you allocate from common merit list including HQ.  Finish this process. Now take a long coffee break. Come back and look at the allocations. If there is a minimum of 30% HQ candidates in the final allocation. STOP THE PROCESS there is no need for Round 2. If there is  a short fall, say only 20% HQ candidates against their quota of 30%, then start a new Round 2. In this Round 2 : start by knocking out the last ranked non-HQ candidate and replacing by a HQ candidate until the 30% is met.  The Round 2 process ends at exactly 30%.

Whats the big deal yaar ? You may ask. In both systems the group is allowed to overshoot their quota. Look closer, the difference between the two system is like night and day. Merely mentioning a transition from a Over-And-Above scheme to a Minimum-Guarantee scheme will cause massive political upheaval of the kind we may have never seen.

What if we moved the OBC quota to a horizontal reservation scheme ?

Time for a little war gaming. Say a hypothetical future #core government announced that henceforth all OBC quotas will move from a vertical reservation to a horizontal scheme.

In states where the classification of OBC are questionable – this has the effect of cancelling the entire OBC quota year after year.  To go back to our illustration. In TN, it is well known that OBC group takes 70-80% of the seats in the Open Category.  In this scheme, the guaranteed-minimum is always met in Round 1. Therefore there will be no special Round 2 allocation. In other words, there is no OBC quota at all.

In effect, the guaranteed-minimum scheme a.k.a  “Horizontal Quota”  has a built in circuit breaker that prevents encroachment of the list. The only way to get an exclusive OBC quota  would be to eject advanced castes classified into the OBC lists that represent well in unreserved category. That would have the effect of bearing down pressure to benefit the really backward components in that list.

With the current vertical quota system, there is no such pressure.   This is the heart of the matter. About 50-70% of all Indian political activity is organized around these anomalies.


I have a great, sometimes unhealthy, interest in these kind of system design failures that constitute the nuts and bolts of the legal regime called “Idea of India”. Almost no one among hundreds of responses on my Twitter timeline got the distinction between horizontal and vertical quotas right. This is expected because these things are kept out of mainline debate by a compromised intellectual class in India.  The funny thing is even state governments get this wrong.  In K.R Santhi vs Teacher Recruitment Board (2012) the Tamilnadu govt made the error. In Rajesh Kumar Daria vs Rajasthan Public Service (2007) the Rajasthan Govt could not figure it out either.


I bet you never imagined there was so much hidden behind such a simple Quiz.

C’mon admit it 🙂 🙂



A Core Right agenda for a modern India

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 26, 2016

Core right

Only a move towards Core Right can resurrect the Rule of Law in the Indian context.  We are working on a detailed Core Right position but here is a sneak peek.

  1. Education :  This is of the highest priority about ten times higher than item no 2 below.  The Right to Education Act must be repealed, the 93rd Amendment overturned, and all the sectarian preferences in education prior to RTE must also be revisited. This is of utmost importance. Without this clarity and principle at the top, the lower cadre may not be able to grapple with the fallouts of such sectarianism.
  2. Sectarian Purse: No 2 on Core Right is to preserve the secular nature of the public purse if you are to function as a coherent whole.  The issue oddly, is not that the state spends on minority only issues like Haj where only minorities have an interest but on public goods like scholarships, schools, public works (MSDP), loans, etc.  Areas where everyone has aspirations and interest. This is not to take away minority scholarships but to absorb the part into the whole.  The idea is to have common public goods and ensure equitable distribution within the program. Not to run separate programs.
  3. Quota : Idea of India always had the danger that at some arbitrary point, the inside group (with benefits) would collaborate and prevent outside groups (without benefits) from gatecrashing. This is the essence of the Jat, Patidar, and Kapu issues. In Idea of India framework each of these groups should demonstrate their violence potential as proof of their grievance. The way to exit this loop is to enter a regime of open data about utilization of benefits on a component basis. Also borderline cases like Tamilnadu have to be taken up by the court for final disposition one way or another.
  4. Temple : For Hindu society to have a shot at self correction (expel the beef brahmin and elevate the dalit) it must have in its control institutions.  By appropriating all the temple wealth for secular purposes, this institutional capacity is taken away while Churches have a large capacity to present to their flock in terms of education and hospitals.  That in essence is the matter of temple control. There are some issues around the kind of trust to which this will be handed over. But for starters – there can be a central law that mandates ‘labeling’ and ‘channeling’ of temple revenues. More on this later.
  5. Essential religious practice : A constitution amendment that would put cultural practices like Jallikattu, Nag Panchami, Dahi Handi and all others out of reach of simple PIL process in the courts. If US based NGOs like PETA want to ban Jallikattu they should be made to go to Parliament and use the statutory route. This makes it to the Core Right list because the security of such practices are essential to a pagan religion.
  6. Cow slaughter : Need to have  a better law that openly says that cows get protection due to their special position in Hindu religion. The laws also have to be deeper and more well thought out. An example might be for outlaw and enforce in letter the killing of male calves. Today the laws are worded as if the target is the butcher, consumer, and not the seller and the calf-killer. Can also institute a permanent amnesty regime by micro-chipping the herds. Today, if Congress comes back in MH the herds who are immune from slaughter today can be picked up.  The costs of maintaining cattle must also be borne as far as possible by Hindus via tax deductions and special assessments on temples.

One the Core Right process is started, the first ground rule: NO PRIVATE VIOLENCE should be tolerated.  The reason the state has no majesty in front of Jats and Kapus is that we do not have any answers to their questions. “Why cant I get what you are giving him”. Once you have a Core Right agenda in place, the state will restore its majesty and able to assert itself and claw its way back out of Idea of India land.

Cacophony around being forced to say Bharat Mata ki Jai

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 22, 2016

EDIT ::: < the Core Right agenda that was here > has moved to a separate article here “A Core Right agenda for a Modern India”     please comment on that one.


The country is drifting from one meaningless issue to another.  As soon as the media stopped its din over the Wold Culture Festival they hopped on to the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” issue. I stumbled upon this article this morning by Asaduddin Owaisi.

No. This was not said in a deliberate way to create this so-called controversy. I said it on record because RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said that time has now come to teach people this particular slogan so that they could take pride in the country. I said I would not say. The Constitution doesn’t mandate it. It is my freedom of expression and religion. I have nothing against raising a slogan. I am very much aware of that. What is wrong if I say Jai Hind or Hindustan Zindabad.

Source  : Firstpost


The central issue  in this is the following.  We all know that Freedom of Expression essentially places a negative constraint on the state. That is the state cannot prevent you from saying, writing, or expressing.   The Bharat Mata ki Jai issue is different, can the state make you say, write, or express in other ways something you dont want to say?

The answer is Yes. In the case of Oaths and Affirmations, you may be forced to say things you may not want to say.

In 18th and 19th Century England, Catholics were cleverly excluded from public office for over 100 years by designing a special Oath of Allegiance.   Among other things all those who wanted public office in England had to state that the “King of England has ultimate supremacy over the Church and not the Pope”.  Obviously no Catholic would say that. So, they were ousted !!  Even in the Protestant fold, the Quakers would not agree to swear to tell the truth by the King James Bible. They insisted their entire life is about telling the truth and there is no special need to take an Oath. Because of this, Quakers were not allowed to testify and a lot of criminals got away because you cant bear witness if you wont take the Oath !!

Meaningless brouhaha

So India also has an Oaths and Affirmation (non religious) Act.  All Muslim MP have to and they do say those words when they are sworn in.  Curiously even the Indian Pledge “India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters..”  are recited without protest at school functions.  You could ask if “All Indians are my brothers and sisters” does that make the country a mother?  Maybe.

What Owaisi seeks is clear legal rules. I have to agree with him on this. Everyone cannot be asked to separately contract with everyone else on matters such as this. What people seek is a single clear interface with law.  Someone cant just walk up to you and administer a private oath “Say XYZ or ..”  and then have you evaluate his particular violence potential against your own and then decide if  you want to say it or not. This is not how mature countries work.

Unfortunately even learned Right Wing are getting the dynamics wrong. Currently the discourse is with the foot soldier of Hindutva even though the BJP is in power. The centre must seize the discourse at the top level,  announce that sectarian laws will be dismantled, and private thuggery and enforcement will not be tolerated.  What is happening it the reverse. After having voted in a Core Right agenda, people find that nothing of that sort is happening, hence they want private enforcement. This leads to such stupid issues.




EDIT ::: < the Core Right agenda that was here > has moved to a separate article here









Explaining the 93rd Amendment to the BJP

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 28, 2016

Recently a former social media volunteer and now an office bearer in the BJP govt at the Centre made the following comment in response to my #RTE tweets.

Let us not blame the Congress, the Right to Education Act as passed by the UPA did not exempt minority institutions – the Supreme Court did. So this is the court’s fault and not the Congress partys.

(from Twitter – dont recall exact words)


Another variant of this I’ve seen with very senior BJP members is “Please do not attack RTE on sectarian grounds, the law is not the problem the Constitution of India is” . The same sentiment is also expressed sometimes as “.. that minority thing  is a constitutional issue. Lets not go there – lets talk about teacher training instead“.

This mindset is disturbing on many levels and belies an understanding of the issues. Lets take a deeper look at the 93rd Amendment, history of Article 15, and the Right to Education Act.

 REUTERS/B Mathur VM/mk

REUTERS/B Mathur VM/mk


OBC Quota in Central Institutes used to piggyback

Twin issues that appear to be related but arent. The 93rd Amendment and the OBC Quota. Let us see how the Congress government brilliantly intertwined the two.

I have already written an article titled “A Brief History of the 93rd Constitutional Amendment” where I’ve covered some of the landmark Supreme Court judgments that made Hindu educational institutions gain  equal legal status as those run by minorities.  I want to pick up where I left off. Lets cut to one of the major efforts of the UPA-1 government, one  that took 4 years of extreme effort of Congress to accomplish. The 27% Quota for OBC (Other Backward Castes) in Central Educational Institutions like IIT/IIM/AIIMS/HCU etc.

First, as soon as UPA-1 stormed into power they realized that TMA Pai v State of Karnataka (2002)  had to be overturned. The final push came in Aug 2005 when the Supreme Court in a 7-judge bench P.A Inamdar & Ors vs State of Maharashtra affirmed the essential parity in Education between Hindus and Minorities.

Secondly, the OBC quota issue was raked up and had the vociferous support of all the parties. Even within the BJP the OBC bloc seems to have supported the quota.  Now here is how the two were mixed up. The UPA used the popular sentiment for OBC quota  to piggyback the 93rd Amendment. It is not at all clear to me that you even needed an amendment to provide the OBC Quota.   To explore this further you need a little bit of info about the Article 15 of our constitution.


History of Article 15.

Article 15 – the simplest of articles in all countries – had the most harrowing journey in India. The simple diktat was “thou shall not discriminate on basis of ..”   The original article read like this

15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.-

15 (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
15 (2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.

15(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.


No sooner did the constituent assembly finish its job and the British has left our shores,  than this article was subject to mutilation.  Tamilnadu’s communal quota in college admissions was cancelled by a unanimous decision of the Madras High Court and then a Full 7 judges of the Supreme Court in State of Madras vs Champakam Dorairajan (1951) .  Even before the First Lok Sabha had met – Jawaharlal Nehru and others who had participated in the Constitution making just a few months earlier overturned the Supreme Court’s decision and passed the First Amendment.

The First Amendment added a new clause (4)  to Article 15 that read.

“15 (4) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”.

Most of the states have been providing quotas to OBCs happily under the cover of  Article 15(4) even though it does not specifically mention education. There is no reason why the UPA cant provide the OBC quota in Central Educational Institutions under this same non-obstante  clause.  But this was presented as an imperative and with overwhelming support of the OBC bloc and JDU deserting the NDA at the last minute the 93rd Amendment was passed.

The 93rd Amendment (at that time known as the 104th Constitution Amendment Bill) added a new clause (5) to Article 15 that read.

“15 (5) Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30.”

Pay attention to the emphasized text to deduce the real intention of the 93rd Amendment.  It had nothing to do with the OBC quota at all but everything to do with restoring the minority advantage that TMA-Pai and finally P.A Inamdar had leveled out.  Specifically :

  • The new Art 15(5) was to abrogate Art 19(1)(g)  :  By this I mean  –  Art 19(1)(g) (‘right to carry out an occupation’)  which was used by TMA Pai to provide parity to Hindus was rendered waste as far as education was concerned.
  • Art 30(1) was to be a non-obstante for the new Art 15 (5) :  In other words :  nothing in Art 15(5) shall apply to minorities involved in education field.
  • Art 15(5) singular purpose appears to be  to drive a wedge and elevate Art 30(1) “the minority” and completely abrogate Art 19(1)(g) “the non minority”.


After so many years of observing Indian political economy, I now think that the non-Congress parties are simply not intellectually equipped to see through these things. In any event , the 93rd Amendment passes  and becomes an “enabling amendment”.  So you may ask “what is an enabling amendment ?”. What was it supposed to “enable” ?

It enabled the grand confiscation that was still to come as the  Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. Also known as RTE.

The Enabling Amendment

This is a curious creature I now know is uniquely Indian. Essentially the court strikes down something as ultra vires (outside powers) of the constitution ; then the politicians go and change the constitution itself to give it that elusive power.  Now when the amendment itself is challenged the bar is suddenly very high.  The court has to use the ill defined “Basic structure” test. ( Side Note :   Justice Dalveer Bhandari thought that the 93rd Amendment was against the Basic structure even without the minority exemption. Luckily for UPA he wasnt around the court much longer)

Once again worth repeating what the Enabling Amendment contained and why the court had no role to harmonize  :

  • Explicitly exempted minorities in the amendment itself. Rather than depend on the court to harmonize with the protection already in Art 30. This ruled out some harmonizing with Art 30 – such as forcing minorities to admit own religion EWS or to force them to use lotteries.
  • Explicitly abrogated Art 19(1)(g) protection to Hindus (non minority) in the amendment itself. Rather than depend on the court to harmonize (for example by severing provisions impinging on full refund & autonomy in selection etc).

Now you can say that this was all just a happy co-incidence.

I was also wondering if the Congress really lucked out and that the amendment was phrased by accident.   Look at what Manish Tiwari of the Congress wrote recently about the Indira Sawhney judgment

On November 16, 1992, the Supreme Court by a majority of 6:3 upheld 27 per cent reservation for the socially and educationally backward classes (read Other Backward Castes) provided by the V.P. Singh government while striking down the 10 per cent reservation for economically backward sections of society provided by the successor Narasimha Rao government. ..

Why did 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward cutting across communities not covered by the existing quota architecture not find favour with the Supreme Court? For the simple reason that the Rao government was only paying lip service to the cause of economic reservation.

Kesri ensured that despite the amendment to the earlier Office Memorandum, no economic criterion was ever evolved and presented to the Supreme Court and no enabling constitutional amendment was carried out.

Source  DC : State of the Union : Regression for Progression by Manish Tiwari


So there you go. The Congress lawyers have been through this.  They knew very well from the ill fated econ quota in the Mandal saga that without an enabling amendment the laws were simply going to be struck down.

This was what they used in the Right to Education Act.

RTE Act as passed did not exempt minorities

As passed by the Parliament the Right to Education Act did not exempt minority institutions. But even I could smell the disaster from my little perch in nowhere land [ “RTE how well thought out is this – Dec 2009” ].

UPA-2 HRD Minister Mr Kapil Sibal met a lot of minority community leaders who were protesting the Right to Education Act.  I dont know exactly what transpired.  In any case, in no time the RTE was challenged in the Supreme Court and the unaided minority schools got exempted from the law  in a 2-1 Decision in Society of Unaided Private Schools Rajasthan vs Union of India (Apr 2012)  Why?

Because of two things :

  1. The enabling amendment  did not just keep quiet on minorities but explicitly exempted them   – it was a foregone conclusion that the court would strike it down for them. Leaving only the Hindus (non minority) wide open
  2. The court erred in not using the so called “Doctrine of Severability”. In short this doctrine means that if you chop off  too much from a given statute – what is left does not make sense (i.e. is an absurd outcome).  I guess only lawyers acquainted with the Lutyens and Supreme Court circuit  at a very close level can explain why this happened. For an excellent analysis of this read “RTE Analysis : A question of severability

Further down the road in May 2014 ; a 5-0 decision in Pramati Edu Society vs Union of India further pushed the RTE and exempted even the aided minority schools from the entire provisions of the act.  ( See pp 26 of judgment that uses the exemption in enabling amendment to waive the law)


So to cut a long story short :   The so called “Enabling Amendment”  allowed the government to  pass an ostensibly secular Act and the minorities can get out of it on a mere “facial challenge” – i.e. easy work.

If my friend got this far – I am sure he would realize what we are dealing with here.  The 93rd Amendment cannot be divorced from RTE. The latter is built on the former.



/ jh

Jat quota issue and the relative backwardness test

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 21, 2016

About 10 railway stations are burnt, 60 trains stopped, schools, police stations burnt, a private armory looted, curfew in 6 towns in Haryana, 8 dead, police, paramilitary, and Army called in to douse the flames. This is a snapshot of what is happening in the immediate vicinity of the National Capital Territory of Delhi for the past 2 days.

Violence exploded in Rohtak as Jat protesters demanding reservation in jobs and education. Also set fire to a minister's home, damaged property and burnt police vehicles. Mobs blocked highways and rail tracks. EXPRESS PHOTO BY GAJENDRA YADAV 19 02 2016.


Why is this happening ? A lot of simplistic comment is floating around the internet and in media op-eds. Almost all of them blaming the Jats for indulging in this kind of violence. Some of the commentators frown on the entire quota system and urge the Jats to be magnanimous and not seek the forbidden fruit.  They dont realize that the quota system is a central part of the social and political system of organization known as the “Idea of India”. So its kind of odd that you’d call on a large group to sit outside the main political order.  In reality, these commentators don’t want to be bothered with analysis of these issues and would wish the problem would go away.

In this post, I will try to go to the root of the problem in as simple a language I can attempt. From a completely different angle. Hopefully at the end of this you will see that the real culprits may not be the Jats at all

Brief history

Here is a brief recap of the Jat quota issue just enough for you to follow the rest of this post.  India provides explicit quotas to various groups of communities. The keyword is ‘group’ not ‘communities’.  The largest such group is known as OBC – Other Backward Classes.  Various discrete communities / castes are included in these groups, they are maintained as “Lists”. These Lists are maintained for each state – called  State Lists, and a single list at the central level called a Central List. The idea is that for Central Govt slots (jobs, college seats, scholarships,  central police forces, and a host of other opportunities) they would use the Central list and for State Govt slots they would use the State list.  Now you may ask – ‘Well that is weird, how can a caste be in one list and not be in the other“.   Hold that question for a moment, you will realize even such simple questions cant elicit an answer.

Jats are in the state lists in a number of states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, UP, Bihar, HP, Uttarakhand and Gujarat. But they were not in the Central list. This meant they could only access the open category central govt slots and not access the large chunk of slots reserved exclusively for those in the Central OBC List. Due to sustained pressure and rioting.  The UPA Govt included them in the Central List in  March 2014.  Not surprisingly, the other castes already in the central list would not have a new competitor and decide to fight the inclusion of Jats. Keep in mind  that within each group (SC/ ST/ OBC) there is open competition among all castes in that list. Welfare associations representing the castes already in the Central List  took it to the Supreme Court in a case called Ram Singh and Ors vs Union of India. A two judge bench of the Supreme Court struck down the UPA Govts notification and thus denied entry of Jats into the Central List.  As things stand now, the quest  is to balance the Jat aspirations with the persuasive qualities of the judgment. That is the brief recap of the genesis and current position of the Jat quota.   Notice that I have not paid much attention to various govt bodies like NCBC and ICSSR etc. I believe these institutions are supposed to provide a check but the core rationale behind these institutions are missing.

For that you have to go a bit deeper.

Ram Singh & Ors v Union of India (link)

First thing to notice is the name of the case. It is Ram Singh & Ors vs Union of India. This is a PIL case initiated by an umbrella group called the “OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti”  presumably the gentleman Ram Singh was one of the petitioners.. The word “Raksha” in Hindi means protection. Protection against outsiders barging in to the group. This case is therefore the result of inside group resisting the outside group.  This may not seem important but forms the core of the issue as we will see.

So how does a caste get into the OBC list ? To answer that you have to refine that question. To get into a state OBC list you can petition the state govt and based on various considerations they may or may not grant that status. This is in fact where the major part of political effort is spent behind the scenes. For the procedure to get on to the Central list you have to go back to the 90’s.  When reservation in Central Govt jobs was introduced as part of adopting the Mandal Commission recommendations the act was challenged.  In an epic case called “Indira Sawhney & Ors vs Union of India“. The court upheld the quota and directed the govt to set up a body to examine claims of inclusion and exclusion. This body came to be known as the NCBC – National Commission for Backward Classes.  The idea is that there would be robust tribunal that would scrutinize the entire program and could examine such claims with great authority.  That turned out to be a disaster. The NCBC has not excluded a single group from the list nor has published any break up of utilization of each component. The entire exercise has a fatal flaw. The absence of ground rules. The lack of a single process or tests or even principles.  The inability to state the conditions for initial entry into the list and whether the same process would apply to new entrants.

On paper, the recommendation of NCBC is supposed to be binding on the govt. But the NCBC itself isnt doing its job because of lack of ground rules.  See how everything is linked back to the original anomaly?  The entire chain is based on an absurd premise that you can create these compact lists in a nation of thousands of claimants.  Most of us can hold our nose at this and pretend that nothing is wrong. Until a dominant and organized group like the Jats decide to challenge this scheme of things. They demand answers, no answers, then they want in by force. If that is what it takes. The Gujjars, the Vanniars, have all shown the way. For those parroting the “Constitutional Method” let me give you the reality check. A constitutional method requires simple ground rules (first principles) that stand alone. It never works when a court seeks to resolve conflicts between two groups. For that you need a conflict. And that is what the Jats are giving you.

Back to the Jat issue. In 2013, the Congress govt asked the NCBC for an opinion they said ‘no way’ without any convincing data. The Govt decided to go ahead and announce the inclusion of Jats anyway. Now this is the state of affairs as the case lands in the lap of a 2-judge bench of Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The judgment examines a lot of issues – particularly the powers of NCBC, the method used by ICSSR (the social agency which conducted a study), and some available data. They ruled against inclusion of Jats in the list on the following reasoning.

The perception of a self-proclaimed socially backward class of citizens or even the perception of the “advanced classes” as to the social status of the “less fortunates” cannot continue to be a constitutionally permissible yardstick for determination of backwardness, both in the context of Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution. Neither can any longer backwardness be a matter of determination on the basis of mathematical formulae evolved by taking into account social, economic and educational indicators. Determination of backwardness must also cease to be relative; possible wrong inclusions cannot be the basis for further inclusions but the gates would be opened only to permit entry of the most distressed. Any other inclusion would be a serious abdication of the constitutional duty of the State. Judged by the aforesaid standards we must hold that inclusion of the politically organized classes (such as Jats) in the list of backward classes mainly, if not solely, on the basis that on same parameters other groups who have fared better have been so included cannot be affirmed.

pp 55. Ram Singh & Ors vs UOI

Put simply, what the bench is saying is. “The party is over folks, you cant get in merely because others have got in and they may be better positioned than you“.  This is akin to pulling up the ladder after a certain number of groups have acquired the ‘inside’ status. Do we really think a large organized community like Jats (or Marathas or Kapus) will accept this line of reasoning ?

The judgment went on to say that it prefers discovery of new backward classes like the Transgenders who cut across castes. This part of the judgment was celebrated in the media. I fail to see why Transgenders should be given any quota. Accommodation yes, quota no.

Equal or separate processes

In my view, the judgment is fatally flawed on the following point “Determination of backwardness must also cease to be relative; possible wrong inclusions cannot be the basis for further inclusions”  I would go a step further and state that the protests currently happening in Haryana turn on the moral unacceptability of this logic.

The judgment actually does  a remarkable job summarizing the relative positions of Jats, Ahirs, Yadavs, and Kurmis.  Reading the initial parts of the judgment you get the feeling like they are finally about to take the bull by the horns.. consider these factoids.

Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, in the enrolment in higher and technical education, Jats lag behind Ahirs/Yadav

26 (out of 90) MLAs belonging to the Jat community and 4 Members of Parliament (out of 15), (Is this a factor ?)

Kurmis have 11.2% in professional education. Share of Jats is only.0.3% that is way below the share of Ahir and Kurmi shares (UP)

Among the Jats, 7.5% households have at least one member who is graduate, which is lower than the Ahir and Charan (RJ)

Jats with composite score of 1.17 are behind Gujars (1.34) and Ahirs (1.22). On net social standing, the composite score of Jats is 17.24, which is significantly lower than the Gujars (27.14) and Ahirs (19.85). On composite economic score, score of Jats is 16.55, lower than Gujars (19.38) but higher than the Ahirs (14.86). (Delhi)


After collating all this relative information, the judgment completely disappoints.The honorable judges dismiss the comparative data completely as of no relevance.

The question framed should not have been whether the proper procedure was followed in declaring Jats backward. Whether the NCBC rejection was binding and surrounding issues.

The question in my view  should have been framed as an Article 14 issue – as an ‘equal protection’ case. 

14. Equality before law The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

The above sentence is the much mutilated Article 14 (equality) clause in the Indian constitution. Now I fully understand that the Indian constitution has juxtaposed “Idea of India” doctrine as an exception to “Rule of Law“.  Remember that the central proposition in Rule of Law is uniform application and that the central feature of Idea of India is to create separate processes for groups.

Even if this is the case, the equal protection clause must guarantee that every community has the same process to get into the exception category. I repeat that – its not that you cant pick out groups for separate treatment but the process used to pick out groups for such treatment must be uniform.

Now turn to the facts of the OBC lists – the Idea of India jurisprudence has split the population into “Inside groups” (those already included in the list) and “Outside groups” those wanting to get into the list.  The biggest problem is that those who are already inside did not go through the same process of measurement that the outsiders are being subject to. This is a gigantic anomaly that cant be brushed aside. This is especially important in a ‘game of spoils’ where there is no stigma to call your self anything as long as there are special and exclusive goods to be had.

Once you cast (no pun) the question as one of equal protection – it is clear that the Jats are being asked to come through a very highly fortified front door while there are others who are inside on much looser criteria through the back door.   Also the revisions to the lists are not happening even in boundary conditions like Tamilnadu. This only means that inside group members seem to be permanently immune from scrutiny and even quantifiable relative data to outside groups now will not be accepted.

A relative test

My view is exactly 180-degrees from the judgment. The inclusion and exclusion issues must be purely relative. There cannot be any absolute measure of backwardness because remember that within the OBC group there is a pure meritocracy. The “List” ought to be the central subject of all litigation and the main job of the statutory body and the judicial review process is to preserve the integrity of the list. All it should take for Group-A to declare the entire list invalid is to show that there is atleast one Inside Group that is better off than atleast one Outside Group.  At the state level, things are totally absurd. I have proved that in Tamilnadu the situation is out of control. There are no students from the open category getting through PG Medical Tamilnadu Seats in top colleges.

It is also important to not expand the domain where the quotas can be asserted. Especially dangerous is local body quota which distorts the entire democratic process itself. Another live wire is sectarian spending such as group wise scholarships, special schools and vocational training only for some groups, special financing, and such like.

Careful of that Pandora’s box

One of the dismaying phenom in India is the following : The establishment try some mad-scientist experiments with the Rule of Law (which evolved in the west as an outcome of centuries of bloodshed) , the experiment doesnt work, so they drop some assumptions and open an entirely new can of worms.  In the previous regime, if there were 8 people who could wrap their heads around the issues, when you drop down a level and open a can of worms only 4 can handle it. This has been going on for too long. Now no one seems to have control of the situation. Some new can of worms ready to be opened are.

Can all states be like Tamilnadu ? Declare 90-95% as backward ?

Can all groups (castes/religions) be given a pro-rata allocation ? Remember this was the issue in  Champakam Dorairajan vs Union of India that prompted the first amendment. Stunning we want to go back to the Communal G.O in Madras Presidency after 70 years of Independence.

In any invidious law ; the people always measure their impact with respect to other people. If a Jat aspirant loses a bank job, it is someone else who gets it. This is the source of the tension and only a relative test can soothe it.

Truly a crisis situation. Only next to the rot in our education laws.