Reality Check India

Frontline does its bit

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 23, 2008

The Frontline magazine (from the publishers of The Hindu) has a bunch of articles on the recent quota cases.

Equity in education

Interview with Mr P.S.Krishnan

You can get to the other articles from the above links.

We have visited all angles of the story in this blog in the past. 

The hopeless absurdity of the situation is summarized in the interview. (Emp mine)

There is no objection to it. But should we conduct a huge survey just because there is one rat in the palace? There is no doubt that most of the communities continue to be backward. I can straightaway say that no artisan community has ceased to be backward in the country. No service communities, such as barbers, dhobis, and so on, have ceased to be backward. No community of primary producers, or non-agriculturalists such as fisherfolk, has ceased to be backward. No indigent community, no beggar community, no nomadic or semi-nomadic community has made the grade.

Could there be a more severe indictment of the quota system ? The HRD advisor himself confirms what is common knowledge on the street.  What then, is the point of the system ? Why not measure its beneficiaries to ascertain for ourselves how bad this problem is ?

Those who filed the writ petitions have sufficient financial capacity to engage some of the top lawyers in the Supreme Court. They must also have the capacity to commission the study of one or two suspect communities by a credible social science organisation. What prevents them?

From the interview with Mr P.S.Krishnan

If you are after an impassionate analysis of the quota system, this is really ground zero of the whole issue.  I guess Frontline deserves some credit for asking this question outright (given its severe constraints in its home state).

It is quite absurd to suggest this line of private action for such an important government policy. The government made the lists, it is responsible for maintaining it.  Even making the giant assumption that it is technically feasible for a private party to conduct this kind of study – it wont happen. 

  • Data is not available about the utilization of the quota as well as open seats.  This is the key here. Readers of this blog will probably shoot me if I repeat this again.
  • No individual likes to take the unpleasant task of targeting a single community for removal like that without data.  Why ? Without a holistic approach, many would still remain – making the entire exercise futile.
  • If we fish for a quota bottom, will this work ? The top utilizers of the open category should leave the reserved category.   

Read the articles, if you are interested.

Just do not expect any mention of the herd of elephants in the room.



13 Responses

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  1. Jai_Choorakkot said, on April 24, 2008 at 4:39 am

    “Readers of this blog will probably shoot me if I repeat this again.”


  2. ravi srinivas said, on April 24, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    You should read his report on including some groups belonging to muslim
    community in the backward classes list, submitted to A.P govt. Based on that they included them.Now the issue is before the High Court. Google for it and you will find it.
    If you read the report you will understand how logical his thinking has been.
    Arun Shourie’s book ‘Falling Backwards’ does an analysis of induction and deduction in the judgments of Supreme Court on reservation issue. In the next edition Shourie can include Krishnan’s report and analyse that.
    Decision without data has been the dictum and Krishnan justifies that.

  3. realitycheck said, on April 25, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Welcome back.

    Still mad at me ?

  4. Jai_Choorakkot said, on April 25, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Oh I didnt really go away, just quit commenting.

    Re. the break: Let’s agree to disagree on what seemed to me to be very high standards for culpability and low thresholds for responsibility in an elected CM in controlling riots in his capital city, agree not to discuss what X govt may or may not be doing to bring relief to the riot accused — oops sorry victims.

    In short lets drop that subject?


  5. Cupid said, on April 28, 2008 at 4:58 am

    I think it is feasible to do a study with private funding though it is not possible to do it without government support. Witness the recent study on affirmative action by Bertrand et al. They obtained all the data and published an exhaustive study but have been forced to maintain confidentiality over the identity of the state it was conducted in. It shows how touchy the subject is and no one who assists in such a venture feels sufficiently secure in having done so.

    You are absolutely right that the state has a responsibility to take care of this aspect. But the last time around when the matter came up, there was no genuine review of the lists – as Mr.Krishnan pointed out, the matter was dispensed with based on the advice of the states. Besides, what prevents the backward class commissions from being legally empowered and provided the manpower to conduct the survey? Or for that matter, why cannot other government agencies like the census bureau that are involved in similar ventures on a larger scale could do the same. The National Family Health survey is conducted by private organisations under contract from the Center (the International Institute for Population Studies, Mumbai did it this time around). A similar method could be adopted to conduct a caste survey as well. The point is that if the government has the will, finding the way is not hard at all (Read the Editorial in EPW in the current issue upon this question).

    On the other question of whether the failure to meet the grade is an indictment of the quota system, the Bertrand study is good evidence that the system does indeed work – backward castes indeed gained from quotas and those who applied for seats as well as those who got in are for the most part economically worse off than the forward castes.

    I am not sure I follow what you mean by ‘quota bottom’. The way I see it, when the average score in an entrance exam for a particular caste (which includes quota and general category candidates from that caste) is no longer significantly different from the average score for the general category, it is time to take that caste off the list. Maybe it has already happened with some castes in TN though I cannot vouch for that. In the particular study by Bertrand et al, I do not believe that would have been a very likely outcome for most of the castes at least (the averages were significantly different).

  6. realitycheck said, on May 1, 2008 at 2:59 pm


    Thanks for the long comment.

    >> They obtained all the data and published an exhaustive study but have been forced to maintain confidentiality over the identity of the state it was conducted in. >>

    There is a fundamental flaw in the kind of studies conducted by this group. The quota system in India is a group based quota – so studies that focus on aggregates tell us very little about the system. You could include the stereotypical Tamil brahmin in the OBC list and not make a dent in the aggregate figures. However, that would be a strict no-no.

    To prove its effectiveness – the progress of each caste that is selected into the group must be monitored.

    There needs to be a study on the effects of including a group with demonstrated presence of abilities. If a OBC group gets good representation in the open quota, will be overwhelm the reserved quota ? What is the effect of such inclusion on the groups named by Mr Krishnan above ?

    >> it is time to take that caste off the list. ybe it has already happened with some castes in TN though I cannot vouch for that. >>

    Nope. No caste is off the list. This is what I refer to by “showing the bottom”. At the moment it is bottomless. This ruling waves aside strict scrutiny, so chances of a judicially forced review appears remote.

    How can a state dispense special benefits to 96% of its population ? What if the other 4% have negligible control or representation in all walks of public life including education ? What if the special benefits percolate only to a few leaving the needy high and dry ?

    To come back to my favourite elephant in the room :

    Why must the whole of India spend 17000 crores for a scheme where 73% of Tamils are eligible and where only 8% of Bengalis are ? (Figures based on NSSO 61st round).

    Outright weird knots like the above have a way of unravelling.

  7. Cupid said, on May 2, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I agree with your point that the progress of particular castes, not groups is what is needed (I made that point in the previous comment when I referred to exam scores).
    In the Bertrand study, Figure 1 maps out the entrance exam scores of each group – upper caste groups, lower castes and SCs and the cut-off score for each category. It is clear from the distribution that upper castes scored above the 490 mark (out of 900) in far greater numbers than either of the other two groups. In fact the upper caste scores above this mark is greater than the lower caste scores above the 419 mark (which was the quota cut off percentage). If a forward caste had been included (such as TN brahmins) or if there were certain castes amongst the backward groups that were way ahead of others and on par with the upper castes, you would expect that fact to show up on the curve. There may well be a few given that the number above the 490 mark is not zero but it is also possible that that is a collection of a small number of the smartest students from different castes in that group, i.e., the outcome of aggregate analysis. But it seems to me from this that in any case, most castes are unlikely to meet that mark. P.S.Krishnan is probably not wide off the mark.

    One clarification: When I said ‘maybe it had already happened in TN’, I meant that some castes may already be at the level of forward castes, not that they have been struck off the list (I am aware that no caste in India has ever been struck off the list).

    I do not understand your 73% Tamils / 8% Bengalis analogy. As for the question whether special benefits percolate to a few leaving the needy high and dry, I think put up a post providing numbers tha suggested that OBC representation in the government services is dismally low.

  8. realitycheck said, on May 3, 2008 at 3:46 am

    I will readily concede that in some states the OBC classification is valid.

    The best possible conclusion from the Bertrand study is that the classification is valid within the undisclosed state.

    Kufr.blogspot refers to public employment statistics. Job quotas (and promotion quotas) are intervention based. Only new hires have to follow quotas. If they dont – this is indeed a serious indictment of the system.

    I think in a country like India, it is important that all castes must have a cut of government sinecures. This is needed to avoid a situation in Kenya.

    In any case, Kufr.blogspot’s posts have an anguished tone presumably due to the fact that he is familiar with the situation in a depressed area like Telengana. He appears surprised at the claims that OBCs own Mercedes Benzs more than any one else. You wont find any Tamil (or even Malayalee/Kannadiga) express surprise at it. Admittedly, the absolute numbers of such cases are small , however it tells you the necessity of a creamy layer parameter to prevent a farcical situation. Even then the claim of a gypsy caste Benz owner is different from a large landowner caste Benz owner.

    At a minimum, those who desire to grow a national consensus about the validity of the quota – must come to terms with extreme cases like Tamilnadu.

    >> do not understand your 73% Tamils / 8% Bengalis analogy. >>

    Only around 8% of Bengalis are OBC, but 73% of Tamils are. This limits their access to the 17000 crore national program for which everyone contributes.

    Stats here :

  9. anon said, on May 11, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Justice has been rendered to Dr.Venugopal.The foul deeds of TRBaalu have been exposed.

    Dr.Manmohan Singh deserves credit for showing up these buffoons/crooks.

  10. Cupid said, on May 17, 2008 at 3:30 am

    Actually, the Venugopal decision is not a good one. There are fundamental problems in its reasoning. The decision is weak on principle but it has been welcomed because people are happy with its outcome, i.e., the restoration of Venugopal to his job.

  11. Ashok said, on June 1, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Well .. at 65 shou

  12. Ashok said, on June 1, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Venugopal must be ashamed to go to court seeking extension of work when his boss was not happy with him. Man he was 65 and still greedy when there are several talented people waiting for emplyment.

  13. realitycheck said, on June 2, 2008 at 4:09 am

    >> Venugopal must be ashamed to go to court seeking extension of work when his boss was not happy with him >>

    Are you serious ?

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