Reality Check India

Tickets please

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 25, 2007

 

Act 2, Scene VII : Set in an Indian second class train compartment. The train had just left the station and is passing through a jungle area.

TC on Indian train to passengers : Everyone, tickets please !

A group of annoyed passengers : And just who might you be ? How can the fate of two thousand rail passengers be decided by just a couple of ticket collectors ?

Reality Check who happened to be on the same train : Relax guys, the TC is just enforcing the rules of the Indian railways. The rules say that every passenger must have a valid ticket in the correct class, for the correct date, for the correct train, and between the stations they board  and the station they alight. Please produce your tickets and enjoy your journey.

Irate passengers : Shut the eff up Mr Reality Check, no one is talking to you !

Shortly afterwards, a major commotion breaks out. Other passengers join in, someone pulls the chain so the entire train comes to a screeching halt. Since it has stopped in a lawless jungle area, there is a threat of Naxals hijacking the train. Some foreigners find the whole thing curious and start taking pictures.

At this point Reality Check decides to climb on to his berth and catch some sleep.  He has trouble sleeping with all the noise. He looks around and sees others in the berths sleeping soundly, completely unaffected by the din below. Feels a little jealous. 

– End of Scene –

OBC quota – UPA fails to make its case

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 23, 2007

The Supreme Court upheld the March 29th stay on the OBC quota today. See news here.  Also see coverage on the Lex blog. The governments petition was very weak. Some parts were amusing such as the contention that the general quota would not be affected.

Meanwhile, the DMK has called for an immediate summoning of both houses of Parliament.

Handle with care 

The UPA government should step back and assess the situation before approaching the CJI with a request for early hearing. This is critical because if you go in front of a constitution bench larger than Indira Sawhney without data then you might put the whole program in jeopardy.

The Congress led UPA government should realize that it is heading a government for all of India, not just Tamilnadu. Social justice in Tamilnadu has a truly different meaning, that simply cannot apply to the rest of India. Many aspects of Tamilnadu’s quota system including the 69% quantum as well as the non-exclusion of the creamy layer are subjudice.  Given this scenario, you cannot have their politicians set the bottomline in the defence.

At this juncture, true statesmanship demands that every one in the union cabinet is made aware of the exact nature of the group called Socially and Educationally Backward Classes. There is an unsurmountable burden of measurement built into the OBC benefits. This is very much unlike SC (Dalit) benefits.  Does this data exist ? Some bloggers claim it does, it seems a simple RTI can get this data out.  If this measurement data exists then great – what are we waiting for? This is the moment to present it in the court.

If this does not exist, then it means that the time has come to constitute the Third Backward Classes commission in the true spirit of social justice.

This time around the commission will work in the age of the internet and free information.

Around the Blogosphere

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 20, 2007

I guess most observers will have come to the conclusion that the desi  blogosphere is where the real news analysis happens. While the mainstream media gets its hair all tangled up in the “wedding of the millenium” coverage, we get to do the real analysis.

 

Rule by the beautiful

You have heard of democracy, plutocracy, and theocracy. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you lived in a nation that was ruled by the beautiful ? What would be the rules ? How would such a society conduct itself ?

Read on.

CNN-IBN had a program last night to discuss whether or not the media was obsessed with the wedding (Abi-Ash knot up for sale in the Indian media bazaar). In some parts of the world this is called eating your own vomit. Also see this story “Reporting or creating news“. Whats next, a one hour program that deals with the media obsession about too much obsession about a wedding.

I guess this is what happens, when you have a “bellacracy”. Thats a word I just made up to describe the Indian private news channels. It means the rule of the beautiful (in latin bella means beautiful). I chuckle every time the anchors faces light up when talking about parties and the awl important “ramp”.

I hereby propose Derek Zoolander for post of “Undisputed permanent chairperson of all Indian media”.

——— 

Ok, lets get to some unimportant things,

1. A new blog started by young supreme court lawyers called “Lex“. Check it out at http://lex.nationalinterest.in

2. Another excellent new blog “Law and Other Things” featuring lawyers including V.Venkatesan of the Hindu/Frontline. Check it out at http://lawandotherthings.blogspot.com . Thanks to Mr Venkatesan for putting the entire application for vacation of the government online. 

Interesting point: Many new schemes were introduced for SC/STs, no fresh identification has been made before those schemes. The same principles should apply for SEdBCs/OBCs also. Sec 22-vii (page 35) of the application.

3. Blogger Kufr has raised several points against this blog. Now, Kuffir is not your average rant machine. He is clearly well researched and writes very well on various topics. He has several points in his response.

a) First of all, I never received his comment. I dont moderate comments as he claims in his post. Sometimes, WordPress acts weird when there are too many links in a comment.

b) Coming to the essence of his argument,

from the earliest posts on your blog you’d started reducing the ‘most serious issue confronting us’, all of us in india who bother about such things, into a virtual war against the ‘mudaliars, pillais, gounders, naickers, thevars’. into a vast conspiracy to make ‘only one community’ pay for ‘the sins of all’.”

You are looking for an overall motive to attribute to this blog at a personal level. I dont blame you for that. Many want to discover that moment, “Aha! caught you, you were batting for thisorthat caste all along”.

I do not wage a virtual war against any community. Can we have a discussion about caste based benefits without mentioning any caste name ? How is it possible ? The same rule must then apply when talking about Brahmins, Rajputs, Jats, Reddys. Do I have data to prove specific communities are not backward ? No, that is the whole point. We want to establish backwardness based on contemporary and continuously updated data.  We want to go to a website and lookup how well social justice is working for a given group.

c) “and covering that up by assuming a mask of ‘objectivity’ and ‘ caste-neutrality'”

Unlike others, this blog supports OBC reservations from a perspective of social justice, not from a perspective of caste justice. I have even pointed out that OBCs can access 27% quotas even if they are 10% of the population. Have any of your friendly blogs said that ?

As far as concern for the upper castes goes, you are absolutely right, we are concerned about that too. Why not, we have to be broad based and take concerns of all sections into account. A poor brahmin / rajput kid is agreeing to a abridgement of his fundamental right to equality in the interest of social justice. We have every right to worry that this is worth it. We have every reason to measure its impact. We are also equally concerned about the impact on really backward classes.  Is this a fake concern of an upper caste anti reservationist ? It is your call to make.

d) I read your post in full. I fully understand your outrage and that of other like obcvoice. From the viewpoint of the really backward, it is hard to understand what the brouhaha about data is all about. You feel, quite justifiably, that a section is using a small detail like data to scuttle an entire program. So what if a hundred dominant castes are in the list, there are 3000 other castes who are really backward. From the viewpoint of some activists, based on their own social interactions, a 3-5% loss just means that 95-97% of the OBCs lists are valid. All the artisans, jugglers, potters, fishing communities obviously cant be held hostage to such a minor detail.

Even private banks operate with 10-20% deadbeat loans, why cant the government operate with a list that is only at best 5% compromised ?

Think about it, comments are welcome.

Curious ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 15, 2007

I received some emails from friends and not-so-friends wondering who the f** I was ?

First, I must admit to a certain level of uneasyness with anonymous blogging. Unfortunately, this is a necessity in a country where freedom of speech is allowed, as long as it is trivial.  Blogging is a medium that allows expression in this manner. I am damn well entitled to exploit that. In doing so, I have taken care not to slander or target any group or individuals. I have deleted several comments in bad taste. If I find some blogs annoying, I simply stay away from them. No visits, no comments, no links.

I am just an average Joe. I have no connections anywhere in the “system”. I have never even met an IAS officer, an MLA, an MP, a TV or Film actor. I cant even name a police constable to escape a challan.  Why anonymous ? Am I chicken ? No, I may be a fool, but I am not stupid.

The internet is my friend. I try to spend an hour every couple of days for this blog. I share what I find during my research on my favorite topics. My favourite topics are the quota system in India, the naxalite issue, and the tax holiday schemes. I have read everything from all online Economics and Political Weeklies to Marc Galanters works to every single one of relevant Supreme Court judgements on the judis.in website. Every time I read something interesting I blog about it here.

In the beginning, there was the excitement of covering ground on a topic I knew little about. I didnt know the NCBC, the Mandal criteria, Indira Sawhney, Champakam, the Mysore and Madras communal G.O.s, the Kerala case, the NSSO, I did not know the names of any north Indian castes like Kurmi, Jat, Lodh, Bania, Gujars, Thakurs.  I had no idea Bengal and Assam had very little OBCs.   The list goes on. . . I am sure all of us on all sides of the OBC line now have a super heightened caste awareness.  While caste is a reality in India, it wasnt supposed to turn out like this.  You cant make something disappear by making it more real. 

Anyway, now there is little incentive for such academic pursuits.  Overall, I think this blog experiment has contributed in its own way to the discourse.

I have no illusions about taking on things larger than these simple things I see around  me. 

OBC Quota – centre ready with rebuttal

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 12, 2007

It seems the government is ready with its rebuttal to the Supreme Court. From the Indian Express report, the rebuttal does not appear to include any data. It is rather just a reiteration of how the centre views the whole concept of quotas for OBCs.

See Indian Express story here

The great unspoken

tc.jpg

First of all, there is a burden of data collection that cannot be passed off by the state to the individual citizen. This is tantamount to a shirking of duties and naturally leads to a suspicion that there is something to hide. As far as educational quotas are concerned, it becomes extremely important to establish the actual educational state of each caste in the lists.  This is as simple as pulling application and admission records from all state universities. We hope the government in goodwill collects and makes public atleast this data. Can castes who are able to compete effectively in the open category claim educational backwardness ? The Supreme Court is asking for this type of data.

The abilities test

Collecting data about the “absence of disabilities” is tough because it involves intangibles. A caste could claim that they still “feel” like they possess some inherent disabilities or “lack of confidence” to compete in the open. However, the “presence of abilities” can be easily extracted from admissions records from state universities. 

This Court has in several instances focused on the
question as to whether Articles 15(4) and 16(4) are a facet
of equality or a derogation from it.

 Equality of opportunity is not simply a matter of legal
equality. Its existence depends not merely on the absence
of disabilities but on the presence of abilities. Where,
therefore, there is inequality in fact, legal equality always
tends to accentuate it.

(See Dr. Pradeep Jain and Ors. v.
Union of India and Ors. (1984 (3) SCC 654).

Let us see each point in the Indian Express story,

Why are general students agitated ? Their share is not going down.

The Centre will also underline that the new OBC quota law protects the number of non-reserved category seats from any reduction. There is no fair ground for grievance on the part of general students that if there had been no reservation for OBCs, they would have been able to get 77.5% of the increased number of seats. If there were no reservation for OBCs, there would have been no such expansion at present, the reply is said to argued.
 

It doesnt matter if the number of seats are kept the same in 2006.  It is an issue of the unequal treatment of equals. In both the Nagaraj and Nair Service Society cases, the court inter-alia held the “compelling reasons” condition as a constitutional pre-requisite. The compelling reasons bar can be met by quantifiable data regarding backwardness and inadequacy of representation.

The Supreme Court asked the following question in the recent Thakur case

If the stand of learned Additional Solicitor General is accepted that the exercise was not intended to be undertaken immediately and the increase would be
staggered over a period of 3 years it could not be explained as to why a firm data base could not be evolved first, so  that the exercise could be undertaken thereafter 

Thakur and Ors case

The court is asking why a database cannot be first evolved ? If the database already exists then why cannot it be produced in the court.

No need for fresh identification

Norms to change OBC lists have already been laid down by the Supreme Court and the National Commission for Backward Classes. There is no need for any fresh identification.

Changes to the OBC lists such as fresh identification or removing castes is a separate issue from measurement. There is a need for fresh measurement because we are trying to play these benefits in a completely different area (in elite central institutions).

The argument made by other including V.Venkatesan and others is along the lines of “If these lists were good in Indira Sawhney I in 1990, why are they not good today ?”

Answer : No one says they are not good today. It is quite possible that these lists are still pristine and perfect. We might even adopt the exact same lists for IIT/IIM/AIIMs.

All the court is asking for is : SHOW US FRESH DATA TO BACKUP THIS ASSERTION.

Well, then what kind of “fresh” data ? 

  • Convince the court on the “presence of abilities” point
  • Convince the court on the “unequal treatment of equals” point. (Failure to gain representation in open category despite trying )
  • Convince the court on the “equal treatment of unequals” point. This is THE most important point, overlooked by everyone. You have to prove that the bricklayer is not affected by the inclusion of highly educated communities or landlords.

The easiest data to convince the court is this  : Produce the caste wise distribution of quota benefits for the past 10 years. This can probably done in 10 minutes via a database search. Despite all the complaints of the general category, if it can be proved that all castes in the OBC group are benefiting evenly, then it can be argued that the OBC group is homogeneous and is working.

Let me borrow from Barbarindian, it does not stop at 49%.  We still have private educational institutions coming up, then we have private sector quotas, then religion based, and gender based. If the Supreme Court accepts the caste lists today based purely on the fact that it accepted them in 1990, then this is the new floor. The new floor does not stand on the legs of current data. Every other demand from Muslims, Christians, other dominant castes, will have to be evaluated from this new floor. Clearly a recipe for social mayhem.

In 2010, when the next round of quotas are litigated, the arguments will say that you accepted the lists in 2007, why are you not accepting the lists in 2010  ? Ad infinitum.

Mr Cho Ramaswamy on India Interacts

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 8, 2007

First some interesting links.

1. Check out Barbarindians’ analysis of available statistics.  You can see it is quite easy to arrive at a conclusion that is equal to a mathematical absurdity.

2. The UPA government (led by the Congress party) has halted admissions to all  IIT/IIMs/ and premier medical colleges until further notice. Yes, all admissions including the general category, SC (Dalits) and ST.  Why block all admissions, when there are no legal problems with general category seats ?  Why block the legally valid SC/ST quota students ? The court in its stay has clearly specified that the order did not impact the existing SC/ST reservations in any way.

See Mr Cho Ramaswamy’s forthright views on reservation on the excellent India Interacts website. (Click on link below)

http://www.indiainteracts.com/videos/2007/04/07/Mr-Cho-Ramaswamys-Remarks-On-Reservation/

(How can I put the video inside a box on this blog ? It doesnt seem to work with the WordPress software.)

There are other videos on the India Interacts site, check them out as well.

http://indiainteracts.com/video/index.php

Thanks to Mr N Murugan IAS for bringing us these videos.

Census talk

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 6, 2007

There are a lot of people who have a wrong idea about what a caste census will look like. 

Read this article in Tehelka written by our old friend. “Census call gains ground

I skipped the comments of all politicians. I was stunned to find even Yogendra Yadav is totally clueless on this issue.

Speaking to Tehelka on the caste-based census, psephologist Yogendra Yadav had said: “We don’t need to count the exact number of Brahmins, Patels, Yadavs and Mahars in each village. All we need to do is to enumerate the OBCs, just like the scs and the sts.” He was also of the view that the social profile of students in higher educational institutions and organised jobs was needed to know what proportion of these were occupied by privileged castes.

Emp mine

Mr Yadav, you cannot enumerate the OBCs, just like the SCs and STs. This betrays your flawed understanding of the fundamental differences between the OBCs, SCs, and STs. 

1. SCs are given benefits based on their caste only. A given caste is either a caste is SC or it is not. Plain and simple. The oppression faced by the SCs today and yesterday are of a qualitatively different nature. 

2. OBCs are given benefits based on social and educational backwardness. So, it is necessary to measure each individual caste against specific criteria for backwardness (for example the NCBC educational or social guidelines).

What will a census that asks each person “Are you an OBC ?” achieve? What kind of data will the field officers return ?

It will return absurd results as pointed out by NSSO 61st round. 74% of Tamils will say “Yes” and 6% of Bengalis will say “Yes”. Give or take a few. No one disputes that the overall proportion of OBCs is greater than 27%. Even if it just 10%, they are eligible for 27% quota with a big IF. Each caste so selected must be socially and educationally backward compared to the rest of the population. 

Does it mean the census is useless ? No, it is useful in evaluating proportion when correlating with admissions and employment records. Let us say, OBC castes X and Y are easily able to secure 5% of open category seats each for the past few years. To normalize it, you need to know what are the relative populations of the two groups. 

It seems AP and KA are working on tabulating this data.  

The Andhra Pradesh government is already considering a proposal by the state Backward Classes Commission for conducting a survey of OBCs and their socio-economic conditions in the state whereas the Karnataka government is already conducting one. These state surveys, which are acquiring data not just on caste numbers but demographic characteristics would provide all the details required by the Mandal criteria for identifying OBCs on the basis of ‘social and economic backwardness’.

Finally, this is what the court is asking for. Finish your homeworks before August and present your case strongly and vacate the stay. You can submit that only those states that complete this task can be eligible for quotas. This way the entire OBC quota is not held hostage.

Everything is wrong with us

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 5, 2007

While the hotel is burning, it is hard to keep track of guests who are taking off with the furniture.Just made that up

New SEZ policy  

 

No, this is not an April Fools joke. The new SEZ policy imposes a maximum size restriction of 5000 hectares. Anywhere else in the world, the government would have imposed a minimum size of 5000 hectares.

This would mean trouble for the only three SEZs that make sense – Reliance, Mahindra, and DLF. All the piddly 10 or 20 or 50 acre SEZs are set to get approval and can start operations.

Where is basic scholarship ?

First a simple question.  Assume the SEZ policy works exactly as designed and we solve the land acquisition issues to the delight of the farmers.  For example we make every displaced farmer a crorepati and send them on a vacation trip to the Carribean. Bear with the exagerration for a moment. What national  purpose would a 300 or so SEZs of 10-50 acres each achieve ? A small compounded zone with artificial landscaping, fake palm trees, korean grass, mini golf course, few luxury apartments and a dirt road leading up to it.  Is that it ?

The IMF and ADB have both slammed the SEZ policy. Is anyone answering their questions ?  Here is Kamal Naths response to the IMFs questions in the style of a fictional discussion.

IMF : Clearly, when you have economic zones of the size of ten hectares being set up, it is not clear that all these benefits of infrastructure, regulation, and so on, can in fact be implemented in those ten hectares (link)

Kamal Nath : “Somebody from the IMF was preaching us. I have said that the IMF, sitting in Washington, need not try and give me wisdom on what SEZ is all about. I don’t want to be preached by the IMF at all,” he said, adding that ground realities and track record of such zones in various countries should be studied before a view is expressed.  (link)

Reality Check : Thanks for expressing yourself. Now please answer the IMF’s question. What is the purpose of a 10, 20, or even 100 acre SEZ ? You are not going to have a Jebel Ali or Shenzen there. A few tea shops, a couple of IT parks, a hundred Tata Indica taxis, a few aparments, and a couple of malls.  Get the picture ?

P. Chidambaram (from Shenzhen) : “We recognise that SEZs are a useful tool for industrial development, especially in areas where infrastructure is lacking. Where infrastructure already exist, it is perhaps not necessary to create SEZs,” India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram said after inaugurating the first full-fledged branch of Bank of India here. (link)

Reality Check : When you talk about areas in India that are lacking in infrastructure, it is like talking about people with good hair in Tirupati. 

Anyway, Mr PC we know how you actually feel about the SEZ policy and tax holidays. We are with you on this one, but you should speak up now or hold your peace forever.

Previous posts on this topic :

Illogical to ask for OBC Data ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 4, 2007

Mr V. Venkatesan has a post up at Law and Other Things. He mentions a set of four points that leads him to conclude that the stay was unjustified. I am not sure if this is the same V. Venkatesan who is the legal correspondent for The Hindu and Frontline newspaper.

Some useful links first.

Let us see his points one by one.

The court prima facie assumes that inclusion of castes in the OBC list has been mechanical, and done without adequate relevant data. This is a wrong assumption. The inclusion of castes has been going on for many years in various States, on a variety of criteria. The Mandal Commission followed its own criteria, (not on the basis of 1931 census) including representation from the claimant castes, field visits by the Members, and the States’ lists.

The fact that the inclusion has been going on in various states for many years does not materially affect the contention that the inclusion of such castes is mechanical.  It is true that the Mandal list was accepted in Indira Sawhney, it does not follow that it will be the case for ever. Almost all judges in Indira Sawhney stressed the absolute requirement for data and that judicial challenge is available as a remedy. The court reposed faith in the government that a proper application of mind would take place with these lists.

the existence of circumstances relevant to the formation of opinions is a  sine qua non. If the opinion suffers from the vice of non-application of mind or formulation of collateral grounds or beyond the scope of statute, or irrelevant and extraneous material, then that opinion is challengeable

Jus. Pandian in Indira Sawhney

On behalf of himself and three others, Jeevan Reddy, J. pointed out (para 798 SCC) that opinion in regard to backwardness and
inadequate representation must be based on relevant material.

Why doesnt private citizen X approach the NCBC instead of the courts ?

Simple answer, the judicial review option is available. Complex answer, it is impossible for a private individual or group to collect such daunting social data that would result in a successful appeal against over-inclusion.

Mr Venkatasan asks,

Instead of asking the Government this question, the Court must have asked the petitioners, to show that specific inclusions of castes in the OBC list were without any data, and this was not seriously examined by the NCBC, when they complained to it. The petitioners are apparently lazy to carry out such an exercise themselves, and therefore, suggested a fresh survey.

Emp Added

So lets get this straight. Does anyone really think private citizens have the power to carry out a large scale sociological survey to establish social and educational backwardness ? Do you really think YFE can survey the literacy rate of targeted social groups (castes) , the graduation rate , land ownership, etc ? Do you think anyone is going to selectively target caste XYZ for such an examination ? 

Anyway, the NCBC was to review its list every 10 years. Come 2003 ..

The Court does not want to admit that such an acceptable mechanism already exists in the form of the NCBC, which is entrusted with the task of revision, if necessary. The NCBC only found this revision exercise premature in 2003.

I have heard this one before. While we may accept that revision of caste list is premature – but why not measure ? Measurement need not be followed by revision.  For the government measuring is as easy as counting successful job applicants caste certificates – and tabulating which castes are better poised to avail such benefits.

If the government comes up with fresh evidence, and the Court upholds the Act, will it then compensate the OBCs who lost one academic year, because of its faulty stay of S.6 of the Act?

Absolutely not. For the same reason 16 years of meritorious open category as well as economically poor OBC students will not be compensated if the Supreme Court strikes down the state of Tamilnadus creamy layer inclusion. The OBCs only have conditional admission today. It is conditional on the instrument that enabled such admission in the first place passing constitutional tests.

My point in raising the issue of governance coming to a standstill is to show how illogical the requirement of data collection is. Will anyone suggest data collection to show that the SCs and STs continue to be deprived or that the castes listed as SCs and STs still fulfil the criteria for their inclusion?

Emp added

Just search for SC on this blog to get about 10 answers to that question. It is not necessary to collect SC/ST data, it may be desirable but not necessary. SCs are not given benefits on the basis of their social and educational backwardness. Assuming you collected SC data, and found that some SC groups were doing really well. It would still mean nothing because that SC group’s benefits are not contingent on it being backward in any way. The constitution does not grant SEBCs parity with SCs.

The reservations were first introduced in 1902 and 1921 respectively in princely states of Kolhapur and Mysore, in response to the local movements against existing caste based monopoly. Those princely states did not go about collecting data, but responded immediately to the demands, in order to prevent social unrest.

I am not sure if you are correct.  See Justice L.C. Miller committee (1918-1920  Mysore) and O.H.B Starke Committee (1928 – Bombay).  See https://realitycheck.wordpress.com/2006/06/02/hard-data-is-our-best-friend-1/

The case will be heard on merits when the government submits data. Until then, this stay is welcome.

There must be a realization that such data cannot be hidden.  What happens the next time around ? The next time is going to be – OBC quota in private colleges. The United States makes available state/county wise breakup of African American/Hispanic/ Asian professionals, doctors, and students to monitor their affirmative action program. Why cant we atleast publish national level figures ? Is the working of our primary social justice program a national secret ?