Reality Check India

Quota for undeserving? Here’s a reality check

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 6, 2006

First thanks to Indian Express for using the phrase “reality check” in the title of the story. We can never have too much of that !

Just 4% gap between SC topper and last-ranked successful general candidate in AIIMS; SC topper in IIT scores nearly double the last general qualifier

See article in the Sunday Express

This merit vs quota argument is getting shriller by the day. Either we Indians are too naive or incapable of second order thinking. Whatever be the case, merit only has a very minor role to play in the quota system. The quota system starts and ends with social justice. Let us see.

  1. The article starts off with a confrontational tone “Quota for undeserving ?” and proceeds to list that the gap between the last ranked OC and SC is only 4%.
  2. The article is factually wrong. It assumes that seat allocation is like this (OC=34, SC=7,ST=4). This is not how the quota system works.
  3. It should read
    1. OC must compete for 34 with all
    2. SCs must compete for 34 with all and for 7 only with other SCs
    3. STs can compete for 34 with all and for 4 only with other STs
  4. This distinction is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT when OBCs are brought into the picture. Remember that it is estimated that 22% OBCs get into IITs even without a quota. So under the new scheme after 54% expansion (where OC seats are not reduced) for AIIMS we have the following
    1. OC must compete for the same 34 seats will all including the same OBCs who are already getting in around 22% without quotas
    2. OBCs must compete for 34 seats with all, and for 19 seats only with other OBCs. The entire benefit Rs 16,000 crores goes to this group.
    3. SCs must compete for 34 seats with all, and 9 seats only with other SCs (Increase of 2-3 seats )
    4. STs must compete for 34 seats with all, and 6- 7 seats only with other STs (An increase of 1-2 seats)

So the question arises – who is an “undeserving”  candidate ?

  • Is a SC person who scored 60 % undeserving of a seat in AIIMS ?
  • What if that person lifted gunny bags of rice in the day and studied at night ? I know it is a rhetorical question – but an important one since we are talking about social justice.

If Article 14 was supreme and we made no exceptions, than a person  scoring 82.49 is undeserving of a seat because the cut-off is 82.5 ! Yes, it is that ruthlessly simple. In a contest, everything comes down to a single test or a set of tests. So “Undeserving” is rather easy to define in this case.

Now, due to historical reasons – we have made departures from Article 14 (the right to equality). One such departure is that for the SCs. This report fallaciously assumes that people are up in arms against SC/ST quotas. There is widespread consensus in favour of the SC/ST quota. Most people feel that :

  • A SC who scores 79% and gets into AIIMS is more deserving than an OC who misses out by scoring 82.4%. 
  • It is also true that a first-time SC beneficiary who scores 65% is much more deserving than a third generation SC who scores 70%, despite having access to best schools and childhood facilities.
  • It is also true that a SC who scores 64% from a caste that has had no doctors is *way* more deserving that a SC from a caste which corners most benefits.

Even in the face of such injustice within the SC group we say, “Let some influential families or groups build up among the SCs over a period of time”. So , we allow rich SCs (remember there are 100+ SCs in Lok Sabha) to repeatedly garner the benefits.

I think the nation is quite at peace with this, even though this is having a great distorting influence on sidelined SC communities. Only time will tell how those sidelined communities will react. If social justice is not monitored and micro managed to reach the real targets, it may boomerang into movements such as extreme left wing movements such as Maoism and Naxalism. Anyway, that is a topic for another day !

Now let us come back to the issue, that of cut-off marks and “undeserving candidates”

  • In TN and KA the cut off marks between the OBCs and OCs are very close (max 2-3%). Does it imply quotas are working ? Hell no ! Quotas work only when it is proven that they are helping sons and daughters of lorry drivers, hotel servers, sweepers, and first time beneficiaries.
  • On the contrary, if the difference between the cutoff marks are 10-15% – yet if the really backward are brought into the education fold. It would mean a great victory for the quota system.
  • So, what do the close cut-off marks indicate in TN and KA ? Surely they must mean something, no ? Yes, they just indicate that there are quite a few smart OBCs. It just proves that smartness is not genetic, which we all know and do not dispute. We certainly do not need to spend 16000 crores to reinforce this phenomenon ! 
  • If the cut off marks are very close, then they question the very rationale of quotas (which is a temporary diversion from Article 14).
  • The lurking danger: If you have very similar cut off marks and yet have numerical quotas in place, it means we have crossed the line of affirmative action and moved into the land of reverse discrimination. It is the clearest signal that we have reached the point where it is imperative to revisit the OBC lists or accept a vicious form of reverse discrimination as state policy.

To wrap up, we have to be careful with catch-words like “undeserving”. While talking about a social justice program , a deserving candidate is one who is a member of the target group of the said program. An undeserving candidate , is one who is not a member of the target group.

As simple as that.

7 Responses

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  1. Barbarindian said, on August 7, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Looks like the creamy layer exclusion will not be enforced:

  2. Polite Indian said, on August 7, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    In India the social injustice comprises of two parts
    1. Social InJustice based on caste
    2. Social Injustice based on economic condition.

    The reservations would not solve the first case. At best they can attempt to solve the second case. They can provide what I would like to call as “economic justice” in the Indian context. If that is the case why base the “economic justice” on caste? Why not on the economic criteria? After all we are aiming for economic justice. Isn’t it?

    Fighting the caste based injustice is different and reservations based on caste are definitely not the way to achieve it. They in fact hurt the very case.

    Can you think of any reason other than political why the creamy layer exclusion will not be enforced?

  3. Barbarindian said, on August 8, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    That’s an interesting way to put it. So, we can define the success of any social welfare scheme that attempts to provide justice by the extent to which the measures reach the victims.

    I have to say the educational quota hardly ever reaches the real victims of injustices of either kind.

  4. Barbarindian said, on August 9, 2006 at 3:23 am

    Another larking danger: when the last applicant secures upwards of 95% marks, it may mean that the entrance test could be a total farce. In that type of situation, the noise can penalize truly meritorious candidates heavily. In other words, it is not that much different than a lottery.

  5. Polite Indian said, on August 9, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Another thing to note is that the creamy layer exclusion will hurt the general category students more than the not.
    Read my blog about it at

  6. Polite Indian said, on August 9, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    Read my blog at

    It talks about how the exclusion of creamy layer hurts the GC more and how the OBCs are being selfish in asking for the inclusion of creamy layer.

  7. Polite Indian said, on August 9, 2006 at 6:33 pm

    Sorry for posting the link twice. It seemed at first that the post didn’t go through

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