Reality Check India

PIO University – what about PSLIs ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 24, 2007

PSLI = Persons Still Living in India 

When I started this blog, I resolved I would not fall into snarkiness.  However, I dont know if I can stay cool in the face of outrageous policies such as the SEZ – the most egregious spawn of which is the proposed PIO University.  See my earlier post on the PIO University.

Look what our president said the other day –

PIO University on the anvil – Kalam 

New Delhi, Feb. 23 (PTI): The Government is working on a proposal to establish a university for people of Indian-origin (PIO) in the country, President A P J Abdul Kalam said today.

The Government would take steps to encourage a “reverse brain drain” so that some of the brightest and talented children of the country return here, he said in his address to a joint sitting of Parliament marking the start of the budget session.

“We are now working on a proposal to establish a PIO University in India,” he said.

The President said that the government had paid special attention to the protection and welfare of overseas Indian workers, especially those in West Asia and the Gulf.

Source : The Hindu

PIO vs NRI ?

A PIO is a “person of indian origin” – he need not be an Indian citizen or even born in India.  If either of a kids parents, or grandparents, or even great grandparents were Indian – he is a PIO. See here for more. An NRI is an Indian citizen who is just abroad on a visa (temporary such as H1B or permanent such as a Green Card).  Let us be clear we are talking about PIOs here.

What about PSLI (Persons Still Living in India) ?

Do they have enough avenues for higher education ? Are we so developed and burdened with over capacity that we can patronize kids of other much advanced countries ? What is the obligation for India to meet the requirments of foreign citizens (okay brown foreigners) ?

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Whats the realitycheck here ?

Since this blog is all about opening up the kimono, lets figure out where the demand for this university is coming from.

Here is my guess, the powerful desi lobby in the USA wants avenues for pre-med education for kids who fail to make it to American schools. Some go to the Caribbean , but ideally they would like to send them to India. These “rich bhangra kids” can stretch their dollars in India, easily get admissions here (because they dont have to compete with the wretched locals), and while they are at it – they get a feel for “Indian culture”. After their nice little jaunt here, they can go back to find a position at a hospital in Chicago or Pittsburgh. A bonus is if they can find a nice Indian girls to hang out with while they are here (should be quite easy because foreign desis can easily dominate the party scene here).

Is the above scenario true ? Probably not ! I exagerrate. There are a lot of desis in the Gulf , Nigeria , Malaysia who are in construction, welding, and odd jobs.

Should the Indian government look after them ?

My answer is an emphatic NO !! This is a classic bait and switch tactic that is used by the government in the social sector (use beggars and low castes as poster material but frame policies to benefit the rich landlords).

1 >> The welders, construction workers, are mostly NRIs (rarely PIOs) 

2 >> The kids and even wife of these workers mostly live in India. You see, they are saving up as much as they can.

In any case, immigration of all these people is purely voluntary. Most of the PSLI kids (people still living in india) would give anything to study in schools with equivalent quality even in Malaysia, Doha, Dubai, Nigeria, etc.  The PIOs must factor education for kids before taking up foreign assignments. The government cannot pick up the slack for them, atleast not until the “PSLI” kids have enough higher education opportunities.

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Best and brightest , really ?

In his address to the joint session, Kalam claimed :

reverse brain drain” so that some of the brightest and talented children of the country return here

Reality Check to President Kalam :

Your PIO University will only be the last refuge for all desi kids who did not make it to *any* American/Canadian/UK med school.  You forget that Indian American kids are actually Americans. They live in America for a reason, their parents chose to live in a country that rocked !

One more thing, the reverse brain drain aint going to happen. The best and brightest PIO desis (from any country) still aspire to go to MIT, Johns Hopkins, or even to UC San Luis Obispo. The desparate ones who fail to make it would like to go to Anitlles, Bahamas, or other Caribbean med schools. Guess who will come to our PIO University ?

The PIO University is not going to encourage a “reverse brain drain” – it is only going to ensure a “reverse drain”.

First take care of PSLI – then worry about PIOs. Last time I checked, the United States, UK, EU, Middle East, Malaysia are taking really good care of Indians. So much so, our Indians break into a sweat at the thought of losing their citizenship.

Prove me wrong

If the government is sincere and if it wants to help welders in Selangor, Al Burj, or Nigeria – then they should do the following:

  • Bar kids from America, Canada, and all EU countries.
  • Make it a NRI university instead of a PIO university. Remember, an NRI is an Indian Citizen so at least there is an Indian getting educated.
  • If you want to admit foreign nationals (PIOs) – then make it a truly international university. We have a better chance of attracting talented westerners than talented desis. Do not discriminate on the basis of brown skin colour.
  • Admit minimum 80% locals ( I think Mr Vayalar Ravi said earlier that only 20-25% would be for “native dwellers”). Turn it around.
  • Lets face it – the whole deal is about Medical education. Let us have a PIO University without a Medical School. Does anyone want to bet how many would enroll ?

At the moment however, I am putting my money of the rich-bhangra-punk-desi-american kid from Virginia who failed to make it either in the US or in the Caribbean.

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Two more weeks for data

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 20, 2007

The centre today got two more weeks to file its reply to petitions challenging the recent OBC quota. The last time a petition came up before the bench, the SC had granted two more weeks which would have expired a week back. See this post.

The petitioners said the law notified on January 4 was invalid, as it had not excluded the `creamy layer’ for purposes of reservation. People who were politically powerful were responsible for the enactment of the law without any scientific data to provide for 27 per cent quota for the OBCs. Some petitioners also challenged the validity of the 93rd Constitution Amendment, which enabled the Centre and the States to enact laws to provide for quotas. It abrogated and abridged the basic structure of the Constitution, transgressing the concept of equality embodied in Articles 14, 15 and 16. They sought quashing of the impugned law and an interim stay on its operation.

Source : The Hindu

How much more time does the centre need ? The parliamentary committee on OBC quota itself has said that there was no data about OBCs (See here).  What can come of extending these two week extensions ?

What data are we talking about ?

Some dravidian activists claim that even the worst estimates (the National Health Survey) peg the OBC count at 33%. That is 6% more than the 27% quota. Isnt this data enough ?

Answer is NO. The data we are talking about is not aggregate OBC counts.

The data is :

1. How does a given caste get to be classified as OBC and remain to be so ?

2. Where is the caste wise data for OBC beneficiaries ? Which OBC castes are benefiting the most from their classification ?

3. Even more fundamental : What is an OBC ? Yes, we know it is Socially and Educationally backward castes (SEBC). If that is the case, then what is an SEBC ? According to the definition, a caste must be socially AND educationally backward to get membership into the OBC group.  Is this being interpreted as socially OR educationally backward ? What is the definition of each one of those ?

A lot of folks might ask at this point. Shit, this kind of data is so messed up. It might enhance caste feelings and arouse jealousy among castes. Why measure each individual caste ? Why not just measure OBCs as a whole ? This way the OBC brotherhood remains intact.

The connecting thread  

This brings us to the most important question of all in the OBC quota issue. The issue of “connecting thread” between the individual OBC castes.

I will write a post about the “connecting thread” test for group affirmative action policy. In the meantime, ask yourself how strong is the connecting thread between a black american from Philly <-> black american from Chicago, between a Bhumiputera from Keluang <->  Bhumiputera from Penang, between various tribes of south africa.

Contrast with the connecting thread for OBCs. Will a real OBC (likely to be genuinely backward due to lack of political encroachment) say from Jammu, Bengal, Assam, be empowered if a dominant “OBC” from TN gets a medical seat in AIIMS ? Also , within a same state – will a gypsy (truly backward) feel empowered if a landlord OBC gets an IAS job ?

Only current social-educational profiles for each caste can ensure that the connecting thread remains strong. If the connecting thread is weak, then the entire rationale for group quota collapses.

Forced to take a break !

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 14, 2007

Sorry for the break folks.

I dont have internet access at the moment. For you smart alecs, I am typing this post from a friends computer.

Quick views on a couple of news items:

The Cauvery dispute : Is this a water issue or a conflict resolution issue ?

The water to be released to TN has actually been scaled down from 205TMC in the interim award to 192TMC.  13TMC is a big big deal, it can irrigate 40K acres. So, why is the media not highliting this ?

There are major bureaucratic hurdles to be overcome before KA will release the due share. It is the responsibility of the TN government to apply pressure to ensure that these bureaucratic hurdles are overcome.

1) After the final award, each party has 3 months to file a review petition. Note, this is not an appeal, just a request to review the award. It looks like both TN and KA will file a review petition.

2) There is no timeframe after the review petitions are filed for the tribunal to announce its final and binding award. The timeframe could be several years ?

3) After the final award, there is a step called “gazette notification”, also called “gazetting”.  Only after the gazette notification, will the actual employees at the dam site open the sluice gates.  This notification has to be done by the central government led by the UPA. The KA government is now trying hard to stop the central government from notifying the award. The gazette notification is the critical step, it was after the notification that major riots broke out in Bangalore in Dec 1991.

Is the award fair ?

That is a separate issue. I have no idea because I do not have access nor the expertise to judge the arguments placed by the two governments. I believe the arguments placed by both states before the tribunal are not for public consumption. The important point is that if two parties agree to subject themselves to a conflict resolution mechanism – they must be willing to accept its conclusions.  One argument of KA seems to be that, “KA is forced to share the spoils of the SW monsoon (192TMC) but TN gets to keep all of NE monsoon”. Where can you start dissecting this argument  ? God has not created west flowing rivers from TN. KA must be free to build new projects to exploit its SW monsoon, but it cannot do these projects in such a way that it impacts the volume of flow into TN.

There is unfortunately a perception in TN that it has somehow gained by this final award. 13 TMC less is not a gain. At any rate, the government must push the UPA to gazette this order atleast.

There is more to this issue that I will write some time in the future. The issue dates back to the  construction of a remarkable dam called Grand Anaicut by the king Karikala Cholan 2000 years back that paved the way for massive development of agriculture in the Cauvery Delta. This forms the basis for the historic claims of the delta farmers.

The true test of the TN government is whether is can protect the rights of these farmers in the face of a immature media and brinkmanship by Karnataka politicians.

Its only a few TMCFT !

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 6, 2007

I was watching various news channels yesterday. I have some strong views on the Cauvery water dispute. However, I wont trouble you folks with it, atleast not now.

At the moment, I have only one request for the young reporters and anchors like Vidya Shankar Aiyer, Vishnu Som, etc. Please understand HOW MUCH 1 TMC of water actually is.  I see a lot of you using the word casually, such as “its only a 13 TMC”, “its only a few TMC”.  One TMC is not like a few thousand tankers of water, it is more like 2.3 million  tankers of water.

TMC Ft – stands for Thousand Million Cubic Feet (1 Cubic Ft = 28 liters) 

1 TMC Ft of water less means 3000-4000 acres of crop wither (not just 400 as claimed on IBN’s story).

Fill the KRS reservoir to the brim, then drain it – that equals 49 TMCFT. Repeat four times, that is around 192 TMCFT.

Fill up Mettur dam to the brim, then drain it – that equals 93 TMCFT.

A few TMC more or less is a “really really really” big deal. Especially in drought years.

Thank you,

Economic quota for upper castes

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 4, 2007

The UPA government (led by the Congress) recently passed the 27% OBC quota bill. This was a slap in the face of the poor (because the quota was extended to creamy layers) , this was also a slap in the face of marginalized castes from J&K/ Bengal/Assam/all over India (because no data was presented nor sought about actual backwardness of dominant castes who have claimed OBC membership).

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Ok, lets get to the point. Recently, the UPA in an effort to cut its losses extended a commission to look into a quota for the “poorer sections”.

A commission to recommend affirmative action for the poor among the upper caste is being revitalised and Major General S R Sinho, who has been heading the Commission for Economically Poorer Sections, is being given a fresh lease of life by an apologetic government – an extension for one year.

Source : IBNLIVE

Presumably, at the centre of this issue may be a desire to avoid (a) an actionable and measurable definition of Socially and Educationally Backward and (b) evaluating each caste that seeks OBC membership against the said definition. 

Economic reservation has no sanction under law. It will be struck down by the courts as PV Narasimha Rao found out when he proposed a 10% economic quota. Economic criteria can only be used as a filter to prevent abuse of an social program (i.e. creamy layer). It is highly undesirable except under one special case.

When does an economic quota makes sense ?

There is only one scenario in which a case can be made for quota for poor among the upper castes.  Only if we all collectively agree that the current social justice program (quota system) is a complete failure and is not retreivable. If the misuse is so high – and our institutions are so powerless against it – then we need a safety net for the poor among upper castes.  But then, we also need a safety net for the poor among OBCs and SCs and STs. So an economic quota will work only if:

A subquota is given under all quotas (ST,SC,OBC,Open) for people below the poverty line. We cant have a poor kurava having to fight with a rich yadav, when a poor brahmin does not have to fight with a rich “anybody”. These anomalies have to be sorted out.

What is the purpose ?

Another way of approaching the question is to ask, “What is the purpose of a quota for the poor ?”. Assuming we are able to implement it flawlessly, what goal would it achieve ?

We want a casteless society not a moneyless society.  Dont confuse it with outlawing castes. We want to remove caste as a determining factor in the lives of those for whom it continues to be a determining factor.  I emphasize the importance of the bold letters.

So, to ask for a economic quota is to admit massive failure to identify those groups for whom caste continues to be a hindrance. I can list a many such groups who are lumped with way more advanced groups and therefore continue to pick rags, or lay pavement, or break stones, or lift night soil. Unfortunately, these groups serve merely as poster boys for social justice.

Let me quote from a case in Kerala ( 1976 NM Thomas Vs State of Kerala). A forward community lower division clerk Mr. N.M. Thomas was denied a promotion after passing an mandatory exam. He remained a lower division clert but several SC and ST were promoted to upper division clerks even though they did not clear the exams. Mr Thomas moved the court which led to this judgement. Please read for excellent insight into the workings of social justice as envisioned in the constitution.

This judgement, which was a landmark one at that time, has some clear words about classification (bold text is my interpretation)

The classification, however, must be a reasonable one and must fulfil the following conditions:
(i) it must have a rational basis; (cant be based on 5000 year old life stories or Dronacharya stories)
(ii) it must have a close nexus with the object sought to be achieved; (if the object is to remove caste inequality for those groups for whom it continues to be, you cant have an economic quota)
(iii)it should not select any person for hostile discrimination at the cost of others. (you cant have an anti-brahmin, or anti-bania quota)

The challenge

I believe this move is being spearheaded by Rajasthani groups. After the classification of Jats as OBCs, this is probably a concession for the others who are unjustly left out. To make it legal, you have to push:

  • Constitutional amendment to Art 15(4) add the word “economically” to social and economic backward
  • Constitutional amendment to exceed the 50% ceiling. This will be likely to be struck down because  it violates basic structure of the constituion namely equality before law and equal protection under law guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. Quotas can only be the exception to equality. Equality cannot be the exception (as in the case of TN).

But, why a 50% quota limit if 95% of a state is backward ?

I have answered it here. It is acceptable for 95% of a state to be Scheduled Tribes (such as Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Arunachal etc). The STs do not have to be backward to be classfied as one. They merely have to live in an area that is spatially and culturally isolated.

However, if a state if 95% backward, then it must be passed before the constitutional bench that the remaining 5% have such a stranglehold on forces of production, social, and educational, that they are capable of pushing the remaining 95% into backwardness.

Interesting article:

http://www.iosworld.org/lecture_series_on_indian_constit%20by%20pp%20rao.htm at a lecture series on the Indian Constitution.

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