Reality Check India

A broken system and its supporters

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 20, 2006

Most people are now coming around to the idea that data is critical to the OBC policy. The dramatic disparities in the OBC group  pits the most powerful and accomplished communities along with the really backward. There are Narikuravas ; the really backward who live under bridges – who are grouped with communities like Isai Vellalars and Vanniers.

The startling things about that Narikurava story is that Rajini claims that there is no one from his community who has had a professional education. So tell us what does the quota system do for his community ? When we are talking about a policy to help the unequals – how can one group castes who have not had a graduate with castes who not only have tons of graduates but who *own* colleges and schools ?

In the mean time the other india blog has this post up encouraging more for OBCs – while maintaing silence on the creamy layer issue and need for data. They are cutting quite a sorry figure.

Check this out :

To Other India – 

I think you are clutching at straws here. Satish Deshpande is clamouring for more data all along in his article (just like the rest of us). You should make the position of your blog very clear on this. Do you or do you not want a system that is based on data and one that is monitored ? Let us know what your position is.

He (Deshpande) warns of the Omnibus nature of the term “OBC”. The real issue is not whether or not the OBC group is backward as a *whole*, the real issue is whether each caste selected into the OBC group is socially and educationally backward.

If you consider statistics of 500 million OBCs as a whole – you are going to end up with meaningless numbers. You can add a hundred castes from the open competition into the OBC list and still not make a dent in the statistics. Conversely, you can incorrectly remove a hundred weak OBCs from the current list and still not make a dent. So what is the use of aggregate statistics over a sample twice the size of the USA ?

The best way is to start with each individual dominant caste – even if they are politically powerful – and check them for socio-educational backwardness markers. The best source of information is university application forms and admission records. If a community is represented “well enough” in open competition then sorry, it is time to compete and make way for the really backward.

Individual caste data is key and can no longer be ignored. It is time to constitute a third backward classes commission to carry out reclassification of castes into the OBC list in a scientific and transparent way.

Support the demand for a third backward classes commission for the benefit of the really backward – if you guys are really sincere.

Yeah and one more thing – Why do you guys maintain a death-like silence on the creamy layer issue ? Arent you interested in the people who live in the “jhuggi” shown in your masthead banner ?



22 Responses

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  1. Shivam said, on September 20, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    You say nothing about the Mohanty paper that the post is about, and the one line about Deshpande… Deshpande’s article is a few years old, and Mohanty has more data to back up what he’s saying.

  2. kuffir said, on September 21, 2006 at 5:45 am

    ‘Female sarpanch assaulted by upper caste men.’ . check this reality.

  3. Shivam said, on September 21, 2006 at 6:26 am

    Kuffir, female sarpanch assaulted by upper caste men? How’s that possible? Only powerful OBCs are oppressors. Upper castes are the twice born avatars of god!

  4. realitycheck said, on September 21, 2006 at 7:03 am

    Relax please. Upper caste are *no* angels. Nobody has any virtue based on birth. If the upper castes (i.e. those castes outside the castes defined as OBC by Mandal and state governments) had been virtuous we would not be in this position today.

    Every community whether elite, privileged, forward, backward-forward, forward-backward, backward, most backward, extremely backward, unbelievably backward – have their share of crooks, criminals, saints, unscrupulous, charlatans, fake godmen, good godmen, truth seekers, rhetoric seekers, propaganda artists, con-artists.

    Anyway, your story is about a Dalit sarpanch. I dont think anyone in their right mind will dispute the crimes committed on Dalits (SCs). There are reports published every year by the government. The SC/ST Atrocities Act does not seem to deter these crimes.

    This blog has always maintained the reservations to SCs are very much justified, quotas to STs are debatable, quotas to OBCs can be justified only if the beneficiaries can be selected based on current social studies data.

    As far the SC quota is concerned, it would be of great benefit if it were divided up into sub-quotas to one SC community does not steamroller the others.

  5. realitycheck said, on September 21, 2006 at 7:18 am


    Still reading the Mohanty paper, thanks for the material.

    Based on a quick read, his biggest problem seems to be:

    1. Treating the OBCs as a monolithic group.

    2. Backwardness markers for OBCs can only be relative to the national average, not to the non-OBCs.

    For example: If the OBC MCPE is the same as the national average, then what does that mean ? It only means the very classification of OBCs is wrong because there are so many above the national average that they pull up the figures. Remember that everyone would be backward compared to the Parsees for example – so can we classify 99% of India as backward.

    This is the same issue with cut-off marks, if the OBCs as a group score as much as the open competition – what does that mean ? When it comes to social justice, a large delta in cutoff (like what exists with SCs) is a sure indicator that the system is pulling in people who would otherwise not get in.

    3. Inclusion of Muslims and Christians in the “forward/others category” even though in the south except Syrian Christians (kerala) every Christian and Muslim is covered under OBC. I believe the numbers involved in this error are so large that it will skew the results badly.

    More later.

  6. Confused said, on September 21, 2006 at 1:40 pm


    Well, atleast Shivam has an opinion about creamy layer, a pretty brilliant one. Sadly, I cannot reveal it as it was in a matter of private conversation.

    Ask him!

    And as RC pointed out, I can also find 10 artlces about OBC beating up Dalits. Its all about caste based power! Whoever is powerful in a particular area, uppercaste, OBC or anyone else would take advantage of it.

  7. realitycheck said, on September 21, 2006 at 5:45 pm


    >>was in a matter of private conversation>>

    That is the problem isnt it ? Most people even most MPs (Singhvi, Sibal, most of Congress, all of CPI-M, Moily) will probably readily admit in private that including the creamy layer is making a mockery of social justice.

    Most will also readily admit in private that the omnibus OBC category itself is compromised by the large scale inclusion of forward castes. Rajiv Gandhi was the last voice on it. Fortunately, his charisma and the family tag made him above OBC vote bank politics, so he could speak his mind. Today nobody can dare talk his/her mind about OBCs. If any MP asks for a survey or social data collection, chances are he will be expelled from the party.

    Remember that the creamy layer is not just “above average”, they represent people who make $6000 per year -in other words those who make the per capita of Malaysia in India !!

    In the Other India blog, there are tear jerking stories of night soil carriers – even their banner is of a wretched jugghi colony. Are they too naive to realize the very people on whom they script their tear jerkers will not benefit an iota from the proposed social justice policy ? Doesnt that concern them ? Maybe Anne should ask the night soil carrying person if anyone from their community is getting into medical colleges ?

    I understand it is their blog and they owe it to no one to make their position clear on any issue. Hey – cant blame a fella for trying !

  8. realitycheck said, on September 21, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Caveat to previous post –

    I understand and respect Shivams and everyones choice to keep their opinions private.

    My target was MPs who keep their views private. That sucks because they are not doing their duty. We bloggers do not matter. If they keep quiet – laws get passed without inquiry or debate or data.

    I can relate because I am blogging without using my real name for that very reason – wanting to give a perspective from an angle that only namelessness can provide.

    I do communicate to many blog visitors privately using my real name via email

  9. Shivam said, on September 21, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Well, I’ve been planning to write a post on why I do not support the creamy layer clause and do not agree with the Supreme Court. It’s primarily because of the idea of ‘representation’. Will write it when time permits me. Snowed under deadlines of silly stuff like profiles of owners of Delhi’s restaurants!

  10. suresh said, on September 21, 2006 at 9:13 pm

    A lack of representation per se is no argument for reservations and of course, following up the argument, for the “creamy” layer either. A lack of representation may point to problem regarding access; however, even here, one has to be careful. Presumably there are no OBCs, let alone upper castes doing the job of carrying human waste on their heads but no one will argue that there is a lack of access for this “job.” In the US and even the UK, the main sports are heavily dominated by African-Americans but no one will argue that this is because others are being denied access. The point is that a lack of representation does not necessarily connote a lack of access or deliberate discrimination.

    I would like to note as a side issue that interpreting data in the social sciences is quite tricky. For instance, caste violence or even Hindu-Muslim violence has increased in recent years. What does it mean? The easy thing is to say that upper castes have become more intolerant. However, it could also be that the lower castes and Dalits are no longer as “deferential” as they used to be; in this case, the violence may actually denote a positive news in that it indicates a change in society for the better. Please observe that this argument has been made by no less a person than Syed Shahabuddin, no fan of Hindutva. Similarly, an increase in violence on Muslims may actually indicate that the muslims have grown out of the “partition guilt” and are no longer willing to take nonsense from Hindus. Whether this is or not the case cannot be simply answered by looking at raw numbers on Hindu-Muslim violence.

    Anyway, if the problem is indeed a lack of access, then the reasons will have to be identified and a way of increasing access found. The reasons for a lack of access is not always caste. In a recent article in the Indian Express, Madhu Kishwar argues that the main reason for a lack of access is good quality education in English – something all of us on this blog share. (Please – I am not arguing that caste is not a factor; merely that it may not be the only or even the main one.)

    Reservations are a very crude tool for correcting a lack of access. While they will ensure access to some extent, they also create problems which are well known. As with any other “subsidy”, reservations develop a logic of their own and can become self-perpetuating. The history of reservations in Tamil Nadu goes back to 1920 – and according to many, a shining example of the success of the reservation policy. Yet, the TN government, far from taking any action to substitute other policies for reservations wants only to expand the scope of reservations to the private sector! (Please note that I am not arguing that TN has achieved nirvana with regard to social empowerment. Merely that, if the reservation policy has been such a success, then perhaps it’s time to reduce the dependence on this policy and substitute other social empowerment policies like improving the quality of the public schools and so on.)

    Jayati Ghosh has argued that notwithstanding the problems with reservations, they still should be used because they are easy to implement. May be so, but the lack of a debate on the alternatives to reservations – both from the pro and anti camps – is disheartening and suggests that reservations have now developed a logic of their own and are no longer viewed as simply *one* possible tool to ensure social empowerment.

  11. realitycheck said, on September 22, 2006 at 3:35 am


    I think you covered it quite well.

    Will Shivam Vij agree to a representation based quota that gives the Vij community (fictional of course) access to 1 seat at AIIMS every 6 years ?

    I think I have pointed out in the past to Shivam that backwardness is the key – representation is not.

    If you have a system of enforced representation – that is not a social justice program, but a simple communal quota. This communal quota existed in the erstwhile Madras and Mysore states from 1920 until 1951. The Nehru government threw it out – but it lives on in another form. Read here for more details.

    If you want a system of representation to replace the current system you have to start from scratch because all the legal and constitutional scaffolding do not exist for such a system. Shivam does not just disagree with the Supreme Court, he disagrees with the constitution itself. The constitution only provides for a digression from Article 14 (right to equality) to help the Socially and Educationally *BACKWARD*

    I have alluded to this in my other posts. Indians’ lack of respect to the constitution just points to the fact that most Indians do not agree on the so called “ground rules” of society. The major planks of most parties are to amend the constitution one way or another. Can we last long as a country given such disregard for ground rules ? Only time will tell. But for a great man named Nana Palkhivala who laid down the “basic structure” doctrine in Keshavananda Barathi – the constitution would have probably been torn to tatters by now.

    To enforce a representation based quota you would have to :

    1. Enforce representation in land ownership, commerce, access to capital, everywhere not just education. Otherwise it will lead to movements like Naxalism.

    2. Enforce representation not just to broad caste groups like the OBC which is twice the size of the USA – but to individual castes within it.

    3. Must have a quota for the so called upper castes – TN had 16% quota for upper castes in the communal quota.

    Once a communal quota replaces a social justice program – the country is doomed. Every aspect of India will be divided along caste based fault lines which have no relationship to backwardness. No community will benefit because everyone will have a narrow quota.

  12. Suresh said, on September 22, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    “Must have a quota for the so called upper castes – TN had 16% quota for upper castes in the communal quota.”

    Laloo Prasad, at least, has no objections to this at all. Check out

    The surprising thing is that there has been no protest about this…the implications, as you note, are not good at all. The pity is that a serious issue like social justice has been reduced to a farce. For this, I think all – upper, lower, whatever – must share the blame.

  13. Shivam said, on September 22, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    Will Shivam Vij agree to a representation based quota that gives the Vij community (fictional of course) access to 1 seat at AIIMS every 6 years?

    Good question. Thing is, the Vijs are Punjabi Khatrees, Partition ‘refugges’. As anyone in Delhi will tell you, Punjabis not only dominate Delhi but flamboyant Punjabi culture dominates not just Delhi but north Indian culture as a whole, not to say Bollywood. Within Punjabis, the Khatree caste is very dominant. Punjabi Khatrees have enough resources, contacts (often amongst themselves), power, money to do well. This is primarily because the caste system did not keep them out of education for centuries, like it did to Dalits and Shudras. ‘Representation’ should happen naturally, but in the case of Dalits and Shudras affirmative action is required as they have been traditionally excluded and continue to be excluded from what we call ‘the mainstream’.

  14. suresh said, on September 22, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    `Representation’ should happen naturally but in the case of Dalits and Shudras affirmative action is required as they have been traditionally excluded and continue to be excluded from what we call ‘the mainstream’.

    There is no question about this; the argument is about the form of affirmative action. It is very easy – with the best of intentions – to create a system which ends up creating more problems than it solves. Our entire “licence-permit” raj is an illustration of this phenomenon.

    At least so far as I am concerned, the problem is a lack of debate regarding alternatives. As I mentioned earlier, the system has got to a point where people are interested in preserving it for its own sake rather than as a means towards an end.

    I also think that the debate regarding reservations has become bitter because there is a gross undersupply of quality education. Thus, the competition for the few “good” universities becomes intense. The thing to do is to expand the availability of good higher education and in this regard, we would do well to allow great private sector participation. Of course, this will not be allowed because “we cannot run education as a business.” This attitude, unfortunately, worsens the situation.

  15. Polite Indian said, on September 22, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    The thing to do is to expand the availability of good higher education and in this regard, we would do well to allow great private sector participation. Of course, this will not be allowed because “we cannot run education as a business.” This attitude, unfortunately, worsens the situation.

    This is so true. Someone I know wanted to open a school in India and was unaware of the fact that it had to be a non-profit organization that can run the school. After he found that, he was having second thoughts.

    If we just open up education to private parties(for profit) we should see a lot more schools/colleges coming up.

    BTW, within the 27% reserved for OBCs is it not possible to come with a gradation scheme to measure the backwardness amongst OBCs? I mean, for example, by awarding handicap points based on certain criterias like caste, annual income, family background and so on and so forth. This might instill some degree of fairness amongst the treatment of different OBCs.

    In addition the creamy layer criteria should be applied beforehand.

  16. realitycheck said, on September 23, 2006 at 5:24 am


    I was only referring to a ‘fictional’ community called Vij. Dont take it personally.

    I am sure you are aware of the consequences of a forced “caste representation based quota” will have on all communities in all walks of life.

    Should we curtail the absolute Christian dominance in elite boarding schools – by snatching away 10-15 schools and handing them over to the hindus and muslims ?

    Can we curtail the Gujarathi dominance on Dalal street by forcibly appointing people from Orissa to their board of directors ?

    What about representation in prisons ? Why are there so many poor people and so few rich people in prison ? How about arresting a handful of rich kids from Kailash or Bandra on minor charges every month to fill the quota ?

    Shivam – as you can see – representation can be only used as a rough measure of fairness or to judge a communities affnity to take up certain businesses or careers. To enforce it forcibly is an idea that will lead to disaster.

    What we have right now is correct – the ground rules call for a fair society with equal rights to every citizen (not to every group). We have made certain deviations from the right to equality to address *backward* sections. The word ‘backward’ is the key.

    If Yadavs or Gowdas or Ezhavas or whatever cease to be backward (based on whatever definition of backward is agreed upon), then sorry its time to compete baby. The task has been accomplished for that group. It is time for the benefits to be applied to really backward (like the tear jerking night soil carrier in your blog).

  17. Barbarindian said, on September 23, 2006 at 9:37 am

    When the affirmative actions were first introduced, they were meant to counter possible discriminations. Over time they have become a tool abused by politicians. In India, there is practically zero discrimination in our heavy entrance test based formats as opposed to say the US where even for Engineering schools you need to write essays and pass interviews. We had something good going here.

    The quotas as we have it are the most regressive step a country has ever taken. Our polity is getting fragmented. We see more and more regional parties forming, each claiming a new saga of victimhood for its electorate.

    If representation is a goal, I would say rich OBC/dalits are the most over-represented group in our country.

  18. realitycheck said, on September 23, 2006 at 11:13 am

    >> but in the case of Dalits and Shudras affirmative action is required as they have been traditionally excluded and continue to be excluded from what we call ‘the mainstream’ >>

    Mainstream what ? Elaborate please.

    The mainstream industry ? – come down to the South or Maharashtra, I will show you who dominates the mainstream industry in almost all industrial belts.

    The mainstream media ? – no need to tell you that OBCs own the # 1 media company in india (Sun TV network). Plenty of print publications are also owned by OBCs or Christians or Muslims. All this talk about low representation is bull crap.

    The mainstream agriculture ? – Many so called upper castes dont even know what a hectare of land looks like. You can visit coffee estates in Shimoga district, Idukki and Wayanad districts, colonial mansions, impeccably maintained convent stone buildings, any guesses who owns them ?

    The mainstream education ? – Christians are the clear winners here. Why dont you take a trip to Garhwal himalayas and take a look at the boarding schools there (montfort, sherwood, woodstock, etc) ? Most Christians (except an elite Kerala group) are classified as OBC.

    The mainstream politics ? – Nuff said. Karnataka has had 5 CMs from one OBC caste and 6 from another. TN (extreme case) has only 2 MLAs in a house of 236 that is not from a backward class. I dont think you disagree here.

    Beware of catch phrases. Every claim to backwardness must be subject to examination.

  19. realitycheck said, on September 23, 2006 at 11:28 am

    >>We see more and more regional parties forming, each claiming a new saga of victimhood for its electorate.>>

    Bang on target. The real danger of this quota is the sure demise of both the Congress and the BJP.

    Issues of national importance no not matter to caste based regional parties. That is why universal primary education is pushed to the back – but caste based quotas are being implemented on a war footing.

    Smaller parties which exist only to extract special privileges for a group are against policies that benefit everyone equally. They are anti ‘the-whole’.

    This applies to the commies too – who exist only to protect the interests of organized labour. Everyone knows organized labour is the cream of Indian workers, still these parties will oppose any reform in Labour Laws that will benefit everyone.

    I might sound like a scratchy record but read the book – “Rise and Decline of Nations” by Mancur Olsen, the Nobel Prize winning economist. It feels like he is predicting the course of India. Surreal.

  20. realitycheck said, on September 27, 2006 at 5:09 am

    >>Punjabi Khatrees have enough resources, contacts (often amongst themselves), power, money to do well. This is primarily because the caste system did not keep them out of education for centuries, like it did to Dalits and Shudras. >>

    Ah, you could argue for inclusion of Punjabi Khatrees in the OBC list. We have been told, just having economic and political power does not mean the community is socially forward. After all, they have not yet won Nobel prizes like the Bongs and Tamils – so they could be classified as educationally backward. There are equivalents of Khatrees in Tamilnadu and Karnataka that are classified as backward. Look at Tamil,Kannada, and Kerala movies. Are they not dominated by OBCs ?

    Of course, I am just joking – but someone could come up with the above arguments.

    In the absence of socio-economic data, anything goes.

  21. Barbarindian said, on September 29, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    “….. so they could be classified as educationally backward”

    As a matter of fact, Dr. Bruno, the prolific commenter, suggested the same thing. His idea was that wealth should not be the sole criterion for creamy layer exclusion. For instance children of wealthy yet uneducated land-owners would definitely be at a disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts who have professionally educated parents.

    As you drill down more and more into the logic of quotas you will realize how absurd it starts to get.

  22. Ridhi said, on May 6, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    I think that reservation is still needed…we are fighting decades and decades of deprivation… not justified to condemn it as a whole…it is the implementation (as usual) that’s making a well intentioned provision go haywire. Any more information or opinions on Narikuravas…I’m very interested. Got a short documentary and a website on them in the pipeline…any resources and articles on them (other than the ones reporting them being caught in carious natural reserves for poaching) please do send over. Thank you

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