Reality Check India

Politicians Vs Data (1-0)

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on June 12, 2006

chidu2.jpgThis post is about Indias Union Finance Minister P.Chidambarams interview with Karan Thapar on the program Devils Advocate aired on CNN-IBN on Sunday Jun 11 at 8:30 PM and on CNBC-TV18 at 10:30 PM. The video and transcript are available here.

A close shave  

The highlight of the interview was when P.Chidambaram almost committed suicide when he mentioned the Sattanathan and Ambasankar commission reports. It is quite unbelievable that he mentions these two reports that point out large scale misuse of the OBC quota in TN. One would expect these two reports to be used as an argument FOR a new statistical study ! Its unreal that he escaped.

  • These two reports (which are 37 and 26 years old) point out large scale encroachment of the OBC quota by a few powerful OBC castes.
  • Both these reports talked about the urgent need to exclude the creamy layer and repeatedly pointed out that large sections were not benefiting.
  • The state government ignored the creamy layer removal recommendations of both these reports.
  • The Ambasankar commission is 26 years old. If it pointed to large scale misuse 26 years back, dont we want to find out if things have improved (or) if they have gotten worse ? What we are asking for is a new "Ambasankar Commission" in all states ? Since he has no problems citing these two reports, why on earth does he not want a new study 26 years later ?
  • The real reason PC on behalf of DMK does not want data is not because of the so-called forward castes. It is because they are scared of the classes that are left behind (the remaining 200+ backward classes who are not getting even a tiny share of the quota benefits) Barring the rare exceptions, barbers are still cutting hair, washermen still wash their clothes in filthy rivers, tanners still beat rawhide in unhyegenic conditions – quotas in IIT/AIIMS mean nothing for them. This is about quotas for the people who own the land they toil in , the factories they work in, and the kids of various state government officials.
  • If Karan Thapar had come prepared with even a summary of these two reports – PC would have been toast. That is why PC will probably not appear on this program again on this topic.

Interesting points

Karan Thapar: Have they succeeded?

P Chidambaram: Yes undoubtedly they have. Let me explain. Once you get a set of parents from the backward communities who are educated, the degrees the graduation the post graduation, then you find the second generation child is able to compete more effectively with children of families who have say 200 years of unbroken tradition of learning.

Does he imply that in 1806, south India had organized universities that were filled with upper caste kids ? Indias oldest University Aligarh Muslim University was founded in 1877. What is he talking about ? An overwhelming majority of forward-castes cannot trace formal education beyond their grandparents (prior to 1920's). In any case, many of todays OBCs too were well educated 100 years back.

Secondly, in TN there are many top OBC families that have grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. Should they be excluded from the quota because according to him just one generation seems to be enough to compete ?

P Chidambaram: You ask for empirical evidence and you don’t have the patience to wait for the answer. Tamil Nadu we have had the Satanand Commission, the Ambasankar Commission and nobody has challenged that count so far in Tamil Nadu.

Karan Thapar: It may be true of Tamil Nadu, what about nationwide?.

Reality Check : Thanks for bringing up these two commissions. The last of these two commissions, the Ambasankar was conducted 26 years back. It pointed out large scale misuse of the system. A small set of OBCs constituting 30% of the OBC count were cornering 80% of the professional college seats. Fast forward 26 years (and 14-18,000 OBC doctors later) – dont you want to find out what is the status, are the same communities and families benefiting today ? Isnt it time for another study ? Why are you opposing it tooth and nail ? 

Dude, where my data ? 

This is the core of the interview and the main issue today. What PC is saying is basically, "Look, we wont give you data or even agree to a basic study of the system. The truth (data) is uncomfortable to us politicians because it will show a small section of wealthy OBCs hijacking the system. Since we are in a majority – we do what we want". This line of thinking is so dangerous that it will make a mockery of democracy in the years to come.

Karan Thapar: If you are so confident that reservations have worked in the Southern states, which many people are strongly and strenuously disputing, then agree to the review, cause the review will presumably prove your point. Why aren't you agreeing to the review?

P Chidambaram: You need to understand that Parliament is competent to make a law and each member of Parliament represents the people. If the overwhelming view in the country – as you believe it is and which I think is completely wrong – is 'for' reservation and Parliament reflects that view. 

Reality Check: Look how Karan is talking about the review and PC is talking about reservations in general. Two totally different things. We too support reservations – but not based on whims. Show data and make the whole system legitimate.

The rest of the interview was predictable with PC getting flustered on many occasions. Not very interesting because most Indian politicians are not great performers and PC is no exception.

Karan, Karan – some tips

You messed up big time with PCs education and his sons. That was irrelevant to the issue. You also did not get the facts right about his college. Please do your research properly next time.

  • Personal anecdotes and behavior do not matter in Indian politics. Almost all politicians send their kids abroad for studies Anbumani, Dayanidhi Maran, Rahul Gandhi, you name it ! Even so called intellectuals like Narayan Murthy send his kids abroad for undergraduate education. That is a disease we have and and a topic for another day – you cant single out politicians for it.
  • The real issue is data. You did a commendable job today as always – except PC sideswiped you with the Ambasankar and Sattanathan reports. I dont know how you could have pre-empted that, but I suggest you hire some kids to dig up related material from the internet and present you a summary before each interview. You are the best we have.

In any case, PC performed well given his task. His task was likely along the lines of  "Talk the best you can. Just make sure no study is done".

Welcome to Indian politics in 2006, where facts dont get in the way !

God bless.

32 Responses

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  1. barbarindian said, on June 12, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    A very fair review of the interview.

    I also thought that Karan definitely needed more preparations. Perhaps he should have talked to you or at a very minimum read your blog.

  2. Partha Sarathy said, on June 13, 2006 at 2:09 am

    One solution which should appeal to both the quota favoring and opposing parties: Let the government sponsor all SC ST OBC students to Kota famous Bansal Coaching to ensure that they get admissions and Bansal makes whoofs of money. The rest will be history.

  3. realitycheck said, on June 13, 2006 at 2:18 am


    I think we should send emails to all the TV channels, newspapers, and magazines.

    Currently the only rationale offered as a pathetic substitute for hard data is that “it has worked wonders in TN”. Every politician cites this example with ignorance and impunity.

    I think there is a very strong case for a 1/2 hour episode on broadcast and 1-2 page article on magazines. May I suggest a title, “The TN Quota Wonder – by Rajdeep Sardesai”. That would get excellent TRPs too.

    Unfortunately, the media also likes to keep things at an emotional level (look at all the shouting matches on NDTV).

  4. Apollo said, on June 13, 2006 at 6:55 am


    i agree with barbarindian. i think u should take a lead in exposing the quota debacle in TN. We are with u. I’am trying to get the commission reports of karnataka starting from the Miller committee of 1918 and put soft copies of it on the Internet. Can u do the same wrt the TN reports. One more blogger has taken the lead in putting the Mandal report online. It should be up by next week.

  5. realitycheck said, on June 13, 2006 at 9:42 am

    I have located the relevant reports. Stay tuned !

    Good luck with your quests. Have you checked out Arun Shouries new book ( ) ? Usually he has an extensive set of references to studies and surveys.

    Whether we like him or not, we can use data from his book.

  6. Apollo said, on June 13, 2006 at 10:26 am

    The book “Falling over backwards”. There is a review of the book in the latest issue of India today and yes that book would be a good reference.

    What are all the reports u have? If u need any help in scanning or typing the reports pls do ask we will be glad to help.

    Of the 5 karnataka reports which ones do u have so that i can try to find the other ones.

  7. realitycheck said, on June 13, 2006 at 10:47 am


    I dont have any of these reports with me physically, I just know where to go and read them. I will check on the Karnataka reports also.

    It turns out you cannot purchase these reports. You have to go to either a public library or talk to the sociology department in your local university. My understanding is you cannot check these reports out either, you have to reference them there and photocopy relevant pages. That is why it might take a while.

    Send me email at – lets talk offline

  8. Apollo said, on June 13, 2006 at 11:39 am

    ok 🙂

  9. tamilan said, on June 14, 2006 at 6:34 am

    **Does he imply that in 1806, south India had organized universities that were filled with upper caste kids ?**

    Go and find out when did they found the Guindy Engg. College. and tell me if it was not before 1806.

    You are an emotional fool. what do you mean by misuse? Do you think barbers’ children should be drectly given IIT seats and that is reservation?
    Won’t you then cry of destruction of merit and excellence?

    Only the creamy layer will be able to benefit initially. “Initially” here means atleast 3 successive generations in my opinion. You can have your opinion.

    Can you provide data on how many years did the British relax the “pass mark” criteria or extended the 3rd class provision in the Madras University?
    How many generations or years did it last?

  10. realitycheck said, on June 14, 2006 at 8:13 am

    You are an emotional fool. what do you mean by misuse?

    Well, I may be a fool – but I am certainly not emotional. I want data and facts.

    The first engineering course in India (with a degree) was mechanical engineering from Guindy College of Engineering. This was introduced in 1894. That is why I selected Aligarh because it is older.

    The Colleges of Engg you refer to(Roorke and Guindy) were just survey schools for the british. They did not hand out any degrees until 1890 or so. The first degree was mechanical engineering in Guindy and civil in Roorkee.

    I do not know how many “natives” were admitted to these schools before 1870, I would suspect very little. This is because these schools did a lot of military work for the British.

    Look, I am not against anyone or any community. Just give me data and I will be on my way.

    You say three generations is sufficient for OBC quotas. Great idea and I support you. Let us put this in practice with tight enforcement.

    I assume you know that there are communities in TN that have benefited for more than 3 generations.

    Misuse, is when resources are diverted from flowing to the target people. In this case, target people are not wealthy second-third generation doctors, the target people are the “Backward” classes.

    In any case, do you support a fresh survey or not ? Simple question.

  11. realitycheck said, on June 14, 2006 at 8:26 am


    Some more information about the Survey Schools (College of Engineering Guindy).

    The first Survey School on the Indian soil was opened in May 1794 in Madras, now Chennai. Later on, technical education spread to other parts of the country. The Madras Survey School trained only English boys. The native Indians were left out because of political and military implications of survey work.

    For a good reading visit :

    Read Chapter 6 in particular

  12. Another Tam said, on June 14, 2006 at 10:38 am

    Why are you so naive as to believe that this whole thing is about “Misuse” and “Diversion”…maybe we dont want “your ppl” there in those institutes? maybe we really dont give a damn about you?? about equity within the OBC umbrella: why dont you let us deal with it…”your ppl” dont exactly have a good record in equity…

  13. tamilan said, on June 14, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Even I dont know which year they started admitting the natives. Chanrabhan Prasad claims to have seen the original GO (or official circular)about this in a Culcutta Library.

    But I read somewhere that College of Engg. Guindy was started in 1776.

  14. tamilan said, on June 14, 2006 at 10:46 am

    BTW,that Another Tam is not me.

  15. realitycheck said, on June 14, 2006 at 11:31 am


    Yes, the college of engg Guindy was started in 1794. The reason I didnt use that example was it was only for “english military boys”. No natives, same with Roorkee.

    Those were military survey schools. Remember we were *all* ruled by the British, not just one segment.

    Instead of merging communities and slowly blurring away the caste system, we have a unmonitored, divisive system as a substitute.

    We pit brother against brother to fuel a political system which has entered a downward spiral.

  16. Bruno said, on June 15, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    // Both these reports talked about the urgent need to exclude the creamy layer and repeatedly pointed out that large sections were not benefiting.//

    The proposed OBC quota excludes the creamy layer. Kindly tellme whether you know this fact or not.

    //Does he imply that in 1806, south India had organized universities that were filled with upper caste kids ?//

    Not in Organized Universities, but even in Gurukools, ONLY upper caste students and royals were admitted

    This is not just 200 years… It is 2000 years….

    DOn’t you know this simple fact

    Why can’t you verify and post

  17. Bruno said, on June 15, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    // Secondly, in TN there are many top OBC families that have grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. Should they be excluded from the quota because according to him just one generation seems to be enough to compete ?//

    Of course, that is what the OBC Creamy layer exclusion will do….

    My God… Don’t you know these simple facts !!!!

  18. realitycheck said, on June 15, 2006 at 4:36 pm


    First, you should allow people without blogger id to post in your blog.

    Second, there is no creamy layer removal proposal. I dont have a problem with what you proposed earlier (limiting to one generation).

    Third, the gurukuls taught bhajans and mantras – not cardiac surgery. If you want we can have quotas in gurukuls – I will be the first to support it.

  19. GS said, on June 16, 2006 at 3:30 am


    It’s not true that only upper caste people were allowed in Gurukuls and all educational organizations -The fact is education 300 years back was not a key to good wealth as it is now- So in fact people preferred other vocations like farming and trading. Education those days was hard work without material return-you got respect but not much wealth – All this changed when suddenly education became the key to jobs and success in the last 100 years. naturally being from educational background helped a community but the fact that they had it for generations was not because they oppressed others but becuase a lot of others did not choose to have it for the simple reason it was tedious without giving material comfort.

    It’s always easier to blame someone else (one community in Tamilnadu) for all ills and keep blaming them as oppressors- But please do some soul searching -Is it really possible for 5-10% of population that was not a warrior class – to hold sway over the rest?

  20. murali said, on June 17, 2006 at 11:39 am

    i want to make a point.reservations in central institutions was raked up first by v.p.singh and now by arjun singh.TN politicians,were not making a serious claim,though they made some noises now and then.only after announcements were made in delhi,did they get hysterical.even in 1990,only after vp singh let loose his maniacal idea,did ‘K’ get hysterical.even in IAS and other civil,enginnering services,TN candidates are getting an unfair advantage over other obcs.Though it should be pointed out,most engineering students are opting for private sector or study abroad.

  21. murali said, on June 17, 2006 at 11:59 am

    The villains of the tragedy are these so called ‘thakurs’.if they can be so cheap,is it any surprise that vulgar cads of our backyard will be far back.To be fair to thevars like Sri malaisamy(former TN Home Secretary),mudaliars like Sri Vasagam (ISRO Director),they have never raked up reservation in central institutions.They have supported MGR.This might seem anecdotal,but in a stratified (inherited from the past)society like ours,it was a tight rope walk by them.This should be noted,as they tried very hard to be fair.i am not a govt. official,but this is what one gleans from their public postures.The Thevar group close to sasikala is not anti should avoid simplistic comments about dalits and is also true,modern society cannot be run by gestures and intentions.

  22. Bruno said, on June 19, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    //First, you should allow people without blogger id to post in your blog.//

    Blogger ID is something that is not difficult to get (like GMAIL)

    Any one can register

    //Second, there is no creamy layer removal proposal. //

    This shows that you are really ignorant.

    This is the criteria they are following for the past 5 years for OBC

  23. realitycheck said, on June 20, 2006 at 3:21 am

    Actually I have read the entire NCBC website and I am aware of the creamy layer in other states.

    In TN, there is no removal of creamy layer. If you are a OBC in Kerala, you have to run from pillar to post to get a so-called “Non-Creamy Layer Certificate”. OBCs in TN have never heard of any such thing.

    As far as the national level is concerned (for jobs), TN excludes the salary for purposes of creamy layer calculation for government employees.

    We dont know what the TN govt policy will be for national level for education. That is the whole issue in front of us.

    Just yesterday, a pro-OBC quota group from Tamilnadu (DASE) appealed to the CPM to drop their demand for creamy layer removal.

    Thanks, I am not creating a ID just for commenting.

  24. Bruno said, on June 20, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    //In TN, there is no removal of creamy layer.//

    But it is there in Central Govt… This discussion is about the entire picture

    Ques : Why then are you misguiding the people regarding this
    (Answer : You have no valid points)

    WHy are you time and again criticising Arjun singh regarding Creamy Layer

  25. Bruno said, on June 20, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    //Thanks, I am not creating a ID just for commenting.//

    Since you don’t seem to have any valid / logical facts, there is of course no need

  26. Bruno said, on June 20, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    // As far as the national level is concerned (for jobs), TN excludes the salary for purposes of creamy layer calculation for government employees.//

    Can you give proof for this.

  27. realitycheck said, on June 20, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    >> Can you give proof for this. >>


    Scroll down to the section titled “Exemption for Government Employees”.

  28. Bruno said, on June 26, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    That is for the BC and MBC certificates that are VALID ONLY IN THE STATE

    THe present discussion is about the OBC Certificate that is valid for the central government

    For that Creamy Layer has to be excluded

    I can understand the desperation in the mind of the anti-reservation guys who mislead people by giving irrelevant data

    Please try to give correct examples

  29. realitycheck said, on June 27, 2006 at 3:18 am

    Did you read that link or not ? GOI means Govt of India.

    There is no such thing called “creamy layer certificate” for the state.

  30. Bruno said, on June 29, 2006 at 3:04 am

    Please understand basic facts

    OBC Certificate is the one that is valid for Central Institution

    For that, you the creamy layer exclusion is followed

    Is that clear

  31. Bruno said, on June 29, 2006 at 3:06 am

    There are other two criteria valid only inside Tamil Nadu (BC and MBC)

    For that No Creamy layer criteria is followed.

    The present contention is regarding the OBC reservation in Central Institutes and for that Creamy layers are excluded

    Please don’t confuse that

    And for your information

    The BC was split into MBC to prevent marginalisation (which you are arguing)

    That has been taken care in Tamil Nadu about 2 decades ago.

    In fact tamil Nadu has already answered these questions, which you now ask and the answers have yielded very good results

  32. Quote of the year « Reality Check India said, on November 26, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    […] Does anyone remember, the single point demand of the agitating students back in May was to conduct a socio-economic study of OBCs ? We had PC and others insist that a study was not necessary because life stories are sufficient for quotas for OBCs. […]

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