Reality Check India

Stop picking on Raje, its much bigger than her

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 31, 2007

Last night, I switched on the TV in the faint hope that some channel might, in a rare flash of clarity, throw some light on the real issues surrounding the continuing Gujjar protests in Rajasthan.  That was not to be.

All channels were lambasting the Rajasthan CM Vasundara Raje, without telling us how they expected her to pull off a miracle solution. CNN-IBN was the front runner. After failing to make an impression by attacking her for participating in fashion shows promoting handicrafts, this was their moment. No, their program fell flat on its face.  Read the transcript to judge the quality for yourself.

Can we blame the media ?

I sent emails to various media outlets many months back, asking them to highlight the burning need to involve data in the current discourse.  I gave them links,  data, and leads to do stories on the NSSO and other available data.  They were invited to use my social cartograms for their purpose without even giving me credit. All they had to do was cross check with their in-house or external social scientists and they would have a front page bestseller, with no effort on their part.  Are there no takers for this ?

If you are not going to talk about data, what is left ?

The central question that will torment this country in the days to come is this : “If X, who is so obviously doing well can get backward benefits, why can’t Y, who feels they are losing out ? ”

Try debating that without data establishing X’s and Y’s backwardness.

What kind of debate will emerge ? What happens when you actively try to avoid the obvious ? I think we can only have political gossip at best and fanning the flames at worst.

Forget Vasundara Raje, even Superman and Batman together cannot fix this problem.

To fix this problem, you must seek data – which is the truth. Truth will always set you free. (Isnt that our national motto ? Satyameva Jayate) Any takers for that today ?

Do we have it in us to seek answers to these questions ? Can we seek the truth and more importantly can we handle the truth ?

Reminds me of one of the all time great movie dialogs.


Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son,..
 “A Few Good Men – 1992

1. On what basis were the Jats and others conferred OBC status ? This leads to how does a community (a) get classified as OBC and (b) remain in that classification.

2. Was the OBC group in Rajasthan homogeneous prior to Jats getting OBC status ? Were communities benefiting roughly equally from the prior classification ?

3. Did the inclusion of Jats disturb the homogeneous group ? By how much ?

4. If the Gurjars and Meenas are roughly equally tribal, then what is the rationale for excluding Gurjars from the ST group ?

Of course, if you follow this thread – it will inevitably lead to the southern states. Jats can easily point to the dominant OBCs from the south (esp TN).  Soon its back to the basic quesiton. “If they are OBC, why cant we be ?”

Say, NO to life stories – and YES to hard and current data.

It is the last hope.

14 Gurjars dead for want of data

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 29, 2007

Today, 14 people including 13 Gurjars and 1 policeman died in police firing on an unruly mob of over 50,000 in Dausa district of Rajasthan. The reason behind the protests is this : Gurjars want to move from the OBC group to the ST group.

Lets scratch the surface,

The Gurjar community is up in arms once again and has called for roadblocks across Dausa, Tonk, Karauli, Jaipur and Ajmer demanding that their OBC status be changed to ST status. Gurjars have been demanding a change in status to avoid competing with Jats, who have been drawn into the OBC fold.

Source : Times Now

The problem is two fold,

1. Did the inclusion of Jats (and others)  in the OBC fold adversely affect the Gurjars ?

2. Were the Gurjars spatially and culturally isolated from the rest of India ? This is a must for ST status.

You will notice that I have deliberately ignored the most obvious question, “Are the Gurjars and Jats socially and educationally backward based on a contemporary measurement ?” I have concluded that this question, which should be most fundamental is now a polemic. Just asking this question is so inflammatory that is borders on slander. Anyway, that is an old story now for readers of this blog.

The sad truth is that in the absence of data this is the way to get social justice. The Gurjars simply have no other option. There is precedent in the south.

This caste violence may be new to the north, but we have see it all in TN. If you are shocked by the death of 13 Gurjars, I have a story to tell you.

In 1987, 23 young men had to lay down their lives in police firing demanding the 20% quota for Vanniers in Cudallore district.  TN also saw more than its share of  similar protests by the Vanniers like blocking highways and trains. The Gurjar protest is almost like a replay. This eventually culminated in a victory for PMK and its founder Dr Ramadoss, who spearheaded the campaign. The TN style victory may not be possible in other states, because the then DMK government was able to mollify the agitating Vanniers by taking a bite from the general category. [ EDIT : The above statement is not correct – In 1990, the BC quota was already at 50% and total quota at 69%. The Vannier agitation took a chunk out of the BC quota of 50%.  The SC/ST/Open Category was not affected. It is to be noted that both Ramdoss and Karunanidhis castes were classified as MBCs] Thanks to Dr Bruno for pointing this out (see comments)

Consider this :

What if the Gurjars demands are actually just ? What if data had been collected and it showed that they were indeed pushed out by inclusion of other powerful communities in the OBC list ?

Worse still, what if there exists hundreds of other smaller communities who do not have the numbers to stage a protest of this scale ? Is it their fate to sell pots and clay statues beside highways and to live like nomads in tents ?

We are waiting for you, Honble Supreme Court. You must tell us unambiguously what the group “OBC” means.  Where are the checks ?

Another commission brews its soup

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 24, 2007

This time it is called the Ranganath Mishra Commission. 

It recommends a 15% minority quota –

”We have said that 10 per cent of jobs should be earmarked for Muslim minorities and another 5 per cent for Christians in non minority institutions,” said Tahir Mehmood, Member, Rangnath Commission

Source : NDTV

 and extension of SC status to Muslim and Christian religions. This is a long standing demand of missionaries.

Contending that caste is a social concept in India and does not have any religious basis, the commission is understood to have said that appropriate action should be taken to completely delink the scheduled caste status from religion and make it fully religion-neutral like that of scheduled tribes

Source : FE

Tamil Muslims want exclusive quota,

The 69 percent reservation in educational institutions by the Tamil Nadu government has been challenged in the court. “We appeal that urgent measures be initiated by the UPA government to ensure that the jurisdiction of courts from adjudicating on this issue is taken away,” it said.

The government has decided to implement certain recommendations of the Justice Rajendar Sachar Committee including one that says the backwardness among Muslims is more or less at the same level of backwardness of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India

Source : New Kerala

The Tamil Muslims conveniently forget to mention that the same Sachar report has  put the literacy rate of Muslims in TN (82.9%)  way above the hindus (72%)  and way-way above the SCs (62%).  There may be no case for reservation here, but I understand their situation. See end of post.

So, everyone wants to get ST benefits without being spatially and culturally isolated for centuries.

So, everyone wants to get hindu SC (Dalit) benefits without ever having to undergo the oppression, access restrictions, and untouchability.

So, some want exclusive minority benefits and occupy space on  the non-minority platform too. If there are special muslim and christian medical colleges, why not give preference to “dalit – like” students in those colleges ?

If an exclusive 15% minority quota is implemented in all colleges, then what is the rationale for minority educational institutions ?

Where is this extra 15% going to come from ? From Dalits ? From OBCs ? From Merit Category ?

I again reiterate that this is a direct fallout of the OBC quota-without-data issue. What will you say to Christians and Dalits who point out that if landlords and communities who have enjoyed three generations of reservation can have it , why cant we ?

Competitive backwardness in action. It is just getting started.

National parties fight to the finish

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 16, 2007

I just got back from a trip. Regular blogging will start now.

The most accurate poll observer award

The Reality Check poll observer award goes to (drumroll) Chandrabhan Prasad. Forget all the CNN-IBN, NDTV, Zee, exit pollsters. Look at what he predicted a week before counting started. See his article “Age of OBC Isolation” in the Daily Pioneer

After a three week long sojourn in UP, I can make yet another risk-free prediction – OBCs are going to face a political isolation in the Hindi heartland.

Strange as it may appear, the OBC claiming Mandal legacy or the legacy of social justice in particular are not at all wanted. Any party advocating the Mandal will face a sure marginalisation. The Congress had better watch this.

My take on the current UP caste combo

The UP election results have put some smiles on the faces of brahmins and other upper castes. Is the unlikely Dalit / Brahmin partnership going to be a trend ? Historically, the Dalit / Brahmin interaction has been minimal. Now, for the first time, circumstances have pushed them onto a common platform. Do we see a great opportunity here to sound the death knell for the caste system ? Is this the way to snatch the social initiative from vested interests and secular casteists ? I think this is a golden opportunity. The brahmins must come forward in UP and take steps to enhance the ritual status of Dalits as a first step. The bonds must strengthen further.  Lets see.

Effect of narrowing interests – death to national parties

I have mentioned Mancur Olsen several times in this blog (just search using the box on the right).  His landmark book “The Rise and Decline of Nations” seems to be playing out in India in live action. In this book there is this theory. When there are two choices – one which works for the whole and another that works exclusively for your group. The choice is clear. It is a no contest. Working for the whole is too much work, for a disproportionately small share of the benefits.  It is like asking for primary education for all.

The OBC quota issue represents the latest form of narrowing of interests. Instead of working for the whole (which in this context would mean a more sociologically solid data based approach to social justice) – you just promise things to certain groups.

The BJP, Congress, and Communists want to play this game. They want to emulate the Laloos, Karunanidhis, Mulayams.  I dont blame them for it. After all, which politician doesnt want this kind of captive vote bank.

Unfortunately, they dont realize that this doesnt play well with their national stature. Even if Arjun Singh bends himself out of shape in getting the quota – the Congress will still lose its deposits if it contests alone in TN. A Yadav will still vote for Laloo or Mulayam. Why ? Because the voter knows that these guys are going to work almost exclusively for their group (caste).

I see gloomy times ahead for the two parties. There is almost nothing they can do now. They started the deathmatch between themselves. It is just that both of them are going to be buried.

Symbiosis takes historic voluntary steps

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 4, 2007

Rashmi has a great post on her blog “Youth Curry” regarding the voluntary 27% phased OBC quota implemented by Symbiosis.

Nowhere on the Symbiosis website do I see a mention of SCs and STs. If one must begin to ’empower India’s masses’ on the basis of caste then surely you can’t start with OBCs.

Read more

I would love to hear their management counter her post.

Exam difficulty control knob

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 2, 2007

Recently, there was a discussion at Abi’s blog about the JEEs alleged bias against women. 

So, everyone went off and came back with statistics that hammered home the fact that very few girls are in the IITs / BITS (post BITSAT)/ etc. Even the west is not an exception it seems. What do these facts tell you about the selection machines ? Not much, really. If you want to prove bias in the JEE, this is the wrong kind of data.

The JEE selection machine cannot distinguish between women and men, unlike the IIM selection machine which can; due to the group discussions and interviews. Given this, how does one go about proving bias in the JEE ? It is possible, but not easy. You have to show that the questions asked in the JEE are somehow more likely to be answered correctly by men. In doing so, you have to factor out effects of differential preparation and coaching. If you dont, you will only show that the JEE is biased against “uncoached girls”.

Allow me to drive home this point further. If we use the same yardstick of checking the output of the JEE selection machine as an indicator of bias, it would seem like the exam is heavily biased against Mallus !! (Out of 979 candidates from the south in a recent year – 769 were from AP compared to just 32 from Kerala). There were probably more girls from AP than from any gender from Kerala or TN or Karnataka.    (See an earlier post on this) Can we then claim that the JEE is biased in favour of APites ? Yes, but you have to prove it. You could start by examining whether the JEE has questions that give the AP student an unfair edge. For example : are there questions on Chiranjeevi films ? It may sound frivolous – but if you want to assert bias in the JEE – you have to pick up this line. After all, all exams are biased in favour of those who prepare for it.

Anyway, this blog post is not about the JEE.  It is about the easyness of exams and its impact on representation.


Consider a mythical exam toughness knob.

Establish the boundary conditions first.

1. What is the toughest possible exam (level 10) ? 

2. What is the easiest possible exam (level 1) ?

Think about it. 

Here are my answers. Forgive my pretentious tone (if you havent already gotten used to it by now).

The toughest exam is one in which no amount of preparation will give you even a tiny bit of advantage.  The best example is surprise! “a lottery”.

The easiest exam is one in where you will gain a huge advantage with the minimum amount of work. The key is the “minimum amount of work” part. If there was no work at all then it would be akin to a lottery because everyone will do no work.

Now consider a population of candidates with different individual characteristics (Sex, Economic Background, Caste, State, Rural/Urban, School board, etc).

Now, play with the toughness knob and look at the output of the exams. Is each individual characteristic represented in the same proportion in the output as in the input ?

Ironically, both extremes will throw up comparable representation figures among all variables.  A lottery is cleaner than a ridiculously easy exam because it does not have a bunching problem (tie breaker).

If we want to measure representation – we have to measure all the free variables. Otherwise, the exercise is flawed or the exercise shows interest in the results. For example, if we miraculously solve only the gender “bias” – then we will just have ten new ones. Would it be ok if the new JEE was biased against lower-caste women ? What about men from a poor rural background from TN state board ? The complexities are mind boggling.

This is why we must be very careful not to pass on the task of correcting societies’ real or perceived  ills on to an hapless entrance exam. We have reservations for that.