Reality Check India

UGC chief Thorat , creamy layer, and merit

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on June 29, 2006

Mr Thorat was the director of Delhi-based Indian Institute of Dalit Studies before being appointed as the UGC chairman in February this year. He strongly advocates quotas even with the creamy layer included. Even if this flies in the face of Supreme Court judgements. In Indra Sawhney II, eight out of nine judges emphatically stated that the creamy layer must be excluded. The apex court warned that if the creamy layer stayed put, it will not be social justice anymore, it would just be reverse discrimination. One of the judges eloquently said, “Reverse discrimination starts where affirmative action ends”.

It is important to remember that the constitution never talked about enforcing proportionate representation at all levels in Indian society. Quotas are a tool to give disadvantaged sections a leg up. Representation will automatically come with empowerment, primary education, and with strong anti-discrimination laws. Again for SC/STs direct quotas are allowed. So let us leave them out of this.

It is dismaying to read about such senior ministers talking about comparing Indian quotas with “Football World Cup” and now the UGC chairman even opposing the Mandal judgements on creamy layer.

In Indira Sawhney II, the judges clearly stated why the creamy layer must not remain in the OBC quotas. Note, this is especially important for states like TN because the OBCs in TN/KA include many forward castes due to political muscle power. The most dominant ones (the castes likely to benefit most from the proposed quotas) are so forward and powerful that they *own* 95% of professional colleges. How can you possibly have an all-india quota for OBCs that includes this group ? Where is the nationwide rationalization ?

The Supreme Courts observations in the Indira Sawhney II case.

“When governments unreasonably refuse to eliminate creamy layers from the backward classes or when governments to to include more and more castes in the list of backward classes without adequate data and inquiry, a stage will be reached soon when the whole system of reservation will become farcical and a negation of the constitutional provisions relating to reservations.”

Another one

“Whether creamy layer is excluded or whether forward castes get included in the list of backward classes, the position is the same, namely that there will be a breach not only of Article (14) but also of the basic structure of the constitution. The non-exclusion of the creamy layer or the inclusion of forward castes in the list of backward classes is illegal. Such an illegality offending the root of the constitution cannot be allowed to continue even by Constitutional amendment.”

Does Prof Thorat not know this ? Even a constitutional amendment cannot allow the creamy layers to benefit. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the case of TN, due to the dragging on of the legal cases, creamy layers have continued to benefit in the state for 16 years. This seems arbitrary, why should rich OBCs from KE/KA/AP be excluded  but in TN they are not ? Perhaps this is what they want in the centre too. Just play the judicial delays for what it is worth. This type of disingenuousness at the highest levels of policy making is depressing to say the least.

The tangential merit argument

This is getting more and more problematic, the merit argument has little to do with the quota system. However, everyone from Thorat to Moily to Chidambaram justifies the quotas because “merit is not affected”.

  1. They contend that merit is not affected by “admitting an OBC student who studied in a village school under great hardships with a few marks less than a rich upper caste student from the best schools”. Okayy, but is that really the case ? The open secret on all Indian campuses is that the majority of OBC students do not fit that profile. They have access to the same best schools (and sometimes even own those schools). Would it not affect merit if all things being equal you selected the student with the lower marks ? This is a common argument used today.
  2. What exactly is meant by “Merit is not affected” ? The heavens wont fall if an average student is selected in place of an excellent student. The entire frame of reference is shifted downwards. What has this got to do with the quota system ? The real issue is one of social justice. Is the “average student” who got in via the quota really the target group of the quota policy ? Is he/she really backward ? What generation beneficiary is that student ? All these are important and the most pertinent questions.
  3. Let us consider an example, let us assume that a university comes up with a grand scheme for admissions. It says that 10% quota is reserved for left-handers, another 10% for students who are going bald. They say that both left-handers and balding students face problems in life and require adequate representation. Bear with me for a second, yes this is ridiculous. Now, assume they go about town justifying their system because it does not affect merit. Of course we know there are enough left handers and balding students who are good enough. Yes, there will be a lot of right-handers and hairy students displaced, but since Merit is not affected it is ok. How do you respond to that line of thinking ? Today we talk about “merit” even though it has very little to do with the quota system. The need of the hour is to talk about social justice and the quota system itself. Most politicians would tend to divert attention to the “merit” argument so that we do not focus on the fact that the quota system itself is broken and not based on sociological data.

It is also dismaying to note that some ill informed persons are trying to compare South African anti-aparthied laws to OBC quotas. This is deplorable and insulting to the blacks of south africa. OBCs and South African blacks (or even African Americans) have nothing in common in terms of oppression or property ownership. Let us not try to confiscate oppression stories from all over the world (and from SC/STs of India) to justify OBC quotas. Please leave them alone.

10 Responses

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  1. ShallowOcean said, on July 1, 2006 at 9:11 am

    Very thoughtful article on an extremely sad situation.

    In general also, your blog is quite informative and socially inclined.

    Carry on

  2. Sharan Sharma said, on July 2, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Hi RC,
    I do not know if you noticed the quote by comrade Yechury a few days ago:

    “In all courses of graduation and above, only 8.18 per cent of SCs and 2.9 per cent of STs are enrolled as against the 20 per cent reservations provided for them. Hence, the fear that extension of reservations to the OBCs will deprive the general category of students must be tempered with this reality.”

    I think they have got confused themselves!

    …and of course, the reservation madness continues – the Kerala assembly has passed a new quota law. The number of quota categories is unbelievable!

    Sign of things to come.

  3. realitycheck said, on July 3, 2006 at 5:21 am

    Comrade Yechury has no chance.

    The CPM politburo is very conscious of the fact that it is dominated by the so-called upper castes. SO if they took a middle of the road position, they would be instantly accused of having “upper caste elite prejudice”.

    So whether it is Yechury or Karat, they are going to get the “OBC-shaft” sooner or later.

  4. shivam said, on July 4, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    It is important to remember that the constitution never talked about enforcing proportionate representation at all levels in Indian society.

    The Cnsitution also said that it can be amended by the representatives of the people!

  5. realitycheck said, on July 4, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    >>The Cnsitution also said that it can be amended by the representatives of the people! >>

    I think you need to read up.

    You cant introduce an amendment that goes against the basic structure of the constitution. Equality is a basic structure in 16(4). For example, you cant have a constitutional amendment to remove the creamy layer clause (Indira Sawhney II). Similarly, you cant have a constitutinal amendment to do away with requirements to establish backwardness. You also cannot have a constitutional amendment to enforce plain caste-representative quotas (without regard for economic and social backwardness indicators).

    Powerful OBC communities have already pushed it to the limits by identifying themselves as backward without data to back it up.

    To play the OBC card in yet another brand new sphere of society needs a revision of the OBC caste list and fresh new data.

    The constitution and the supreme court is framed to prevent exactly this type of reckless abuse by the majority.

  6. Barbarindian said, on July 8, 2006 at 2:06 am

    The Cnsitution (sic) also said that it can be amended by the representatives of the people!

    The basic idea of a constitution is to have a set of principles. We are perhaps the only country which allows its constitution to be changed by the whims of political leaders. Will of people? You got to be kidding. If you take a real poll of poor people will they rather have a few thousand rich OBC kids go to IITs (at the cost of 9000 crores as of now) or have some basic amenities made available for them?

  7. realitycheck said, on July 8, 2006 at 4:53 am

    Tertiary education is definitely *not* one of Indias urgent problems.

    We have a drop-out rate as high as 75 percent in AP (higher for poor girls all over the south – the bastion of OBC quotas).

    65% of girls in Tamilnadu do drop out before 10th standard, 35% before 8th standard, and 20% before 5th standard.

    In Bihar 62% of all girls drop out before 5th standard !! Doesnt that shock anyone ?

    By spending 16000 Crores urgently on a divisive caste based quota, the nation is about to perpetrate one of the most cruel jokes on the really backward and poverty stricken masses.

    Read more here for how India fares in primary education 60 years after independence.

  8. Behind you said, on January 12, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    UGC and CSIR should Close the CSIR-UGC test of NET:
    (1) Since it alredy lost its previlage by removing the essential condition of LECTURSHIP CRITERIA in india.

  9. Behind you said, on January 12, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    UGC and CSIR should Close the CSIR-UGC test of NET:
    (1) Since it alredy lost its previlage by removing the essential condition of LECTURSHIP CRITERIA in india.

  10. Siddheswar said, on August 10, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Every backward caste person or a dalit has canvassed for unfair advantages. The reason is simple. genetically they know that they are at a massive disadvantage. Nomatter how hard they try, they just cann’t concentrate enough to spaend sufficient time to read and understand. They have not been doing well in their respective fields even after 50 years of independence. The only reason is that they have developed a backward mindset. they know that government will provide them with a job now or late whether they secure 30/100 or 70/100. Why then try hard?
    Tamilnadu is a a big example of everything unfair and immature. Think of a people who commit suicide when a politician dies. So unstable emotionally?? What more an we expect from the politicians of that state?

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