Reality Check India

Forever third world. Looming threats to free agent hood

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 26, 2009

We don’t make any bones about the basic nature of Indian democracy. Elections are nothing but another chance to say ‘hurrah’ for your closest benefit protector. This is what keeps all issues like sewage on the roads or inflation off the voters minds.

If you have been reading this blog you already know my theory about the ‘Free Agent Voter‘. The Congress party is about to embark on two major initiatives to compact the population of free agents even further.

  1. The Right to Education Act : How on earth can you oppose something as noble as the right to education, you are sure to ask ?
  2. The inclusion of religious quota and the inclusion of Christians and Muslims in the SC list.

Lets look at the Right to Education Act in this post.

First of all, opposing the Right to Education Act does not mean opposing the Right to Education. The real problem with the RTE is that it will compact the free agents to insignificance while thrusting an extremely suboptimal education policy down the nations taxpayers throats. It will also consolidate existing locked in groups using the adhesive of communal suspicion. Let me elaborate.

The most insidious aspect of the bill is the 25% quota system. Actually, not just that, but that the government gets to select who benefits from this 25% quota. Actually, not just that, but that the government gets to select who benefits without any burden of data.

Sounds familiar ? Yes, this is nothing but the quota system in disguise. This time it is for non minority schools, may include economic and disabled sub quota, and is pegged for the moment at 25%.  None of this is of course cut in iron. Once the basic premise of 25% is accepted, there is very little ground to oppose hiking it to 26%, 30%, or even 50%.  The reimbursement model is simply unworkable and at best will be a massive taxpayer burden with no accountability from either the government or school managements. It will lead to several moral hazards “Why should taxpayer X who sends his kids to a Rs 400/mo school subsidize select student Y to go to a Rs 2000/mo school ?”. How does a popular school select from a large pool of “voucher holders” ? An entrance exam ? Should the open category poor or OBC poor be selected against the economic sub quota ? The questions go on – and the final answer is of course, who ever has the recommendation letter  from people powerful enough to influence the SMCs (School Management Committees) . This is always the equilibrium of arbitrary policy and the sweet spot of Indian politicians.

Wait, Isn’t this about poor students ?

Yeah at first it could be, but a soap bubble soon assumes a spherical shape even if it looks like a pear as it leaves the straw.  The act includes several categories ranging from poor to handicapped to  SC/ST/Socially Backward all lumped together in a completely ill thought out manner.

There can only be one ‘primary staging group’ for social justice. There can be other derived or sub groups, but never two primary groups.  You cant have fluid identification (like economic status) and tribal identification (like caste/religioin) both as primary staging groups.  Sooner or later it will degenerate into sub quotas very much like our higher education and public employment policy so that we have separate quotas for each group.

What about St Xaviers (or insert favourite school here) ?

Minority schools will be exempt from this program. At best it will just be a matter of showing that these schools have admitted poor students from their own community. See proposals here.  It might even be a win-win for them because they can get government reimbursement for their not so popular school branches but retain control of the really good ones.

How does this impact free agent voter population ?

Very bad news here for India. Everyone knows arbitrary policy purely at the pleasure of individuals and life stories can easily cut the other way. Hence it is better to be on the safe side.

From the standpoint of minorities. The mere fact that their leaders have managed to keep the corrupt Indian state off their back will be a remarkable achievement. Their touchstone will be the plight of the other non-minority schools nearby now under a new permit raj of the so called school management committees (SMCs), which too will degenerate in due time into tribal representation.  All this creates a grand incentive for the minorities to support the safest choice that protects this insulating layer.

From the standpoint of Hindus. This is where it gets interesting. Schools who enjoy a strong tribal political base (read run by politically strong castes) have little to fear from the status quo but much to fear from the destruction of it.  Therefore, the natural reaction is to rally behind the electoral choice that best protects this status quo. This usually takes the form of a few caste leaders with connections who can secure a place at the resource allocation table. However, this is an uneasy calm because these leaders could develop vested interests themselves in short order.

Schools run by Hindu non linguistic politically weaker communities will serve as demonstration of what awaits the other locked-in groups if they attempt to defect. The management of these schools will have to keep their phone lines ready to humor the smallest politician or neighborhood big shot who will have their own favourite disadvantaged. The nimble ones may quickly offer seats to the kins of politicians and insulate themselves a bit, but even that will be short lived because the demands never stop.

So what are you saying, ditch this program  ?

Ignore for a minute that it does not matter what I say. I fully support government involvement directly in education. In other words, cut this crap and just open new government schools like it is done everywhere else. Instead of educating 1 poor child in a Delhi Public School, educate 100 in a new government school. Go ahead, construct 8 story school blocks in urban areas.

You can then use the coercive powers of the state to attract the resources need to run these schools. This is the path a true socialist state would have taken. However, if you really want to pursue a voucher system, first put in place two things.

  • Identification of beneficiaries must automatically come with the burden of data.
  • The voucher must be valid at all schools. No exemptions based on tribal identity.

It wont happen. This strikes at the very root of our contemporary political setup. Instead, our netas will use this to peddle yet another round of divide and rule in disguise. Our media will distract the issue by putting on air hysterical supporters of merit and letting them make a fool of themselves. Mission accomplished.


Bonus links :

Picture of victims of data less social justice used to promote a completely unrelated policy, that of a disabled sub-quota. This one is a classic.

Headline finesse “Migrant kids to have better access to education“. Actually migrant kids are no better off, they have to fight with stationary  kids based on how their tribal identity is currently classified.

Another template article on substantive equality written without  Microsoft Excel running on any computer in a 5 km radius.

5 Responses

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  1. Incognito said, on December 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

    >>>“The real danger lies in the fact that you cant fight human individual self interest. We have no choice but to evolve the state to a level where the creation of, the protection of, and the promise of such interests are minimized. The way to do this is to subject these to a scrutiny regime. “- from the post “The middle class myth”.

    This is the crux- “you cant fight human individual self interest

    So long as that is accepted as inviolate, steps to ‘evolve the state’ through any scrutiny regime is likely to be circumvented. As proven through 2G spectrum, satyam, stock market scams which all happened despite regulatory authorities and scrutiny regimes.
    The circumvention of rules and regulatory authorities like Election Commision that occur in political sphere is much more than that.

    The reason is the first sentance. That is internalized as gospel truth and impressed upon the youth.

    So long as that thought is nurtured in society, things will go to worse. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Origin of this thought is due to two causes- one, the theory that humans are merely evolved animals. two, as a justification for every selfish act- “Oh, its only human nature, you know”.

    On the contrary, bharatiya samskriti shows the opposite side. Sri Rama, Raja Harischandra, Sibi, are all examples of humans who gave more weightage to other than self-interest. In Mahabharata Sri Krishna advises to actualise karma transcending personal identities and without seeking fruits of action. Thinking beyond narrow self-interest is central to bharatiya samskriti as reflected in ideas such as- lokah samastaH sukhino bhavantu, vasudeiva kutumbakam, sarvesham swastir bhavatu…., sarve bhavantu sukhinaH….., so on. Every purana talks about sublimating self-interest for universe. And vedas motivate people to realize brahma.

    It is this wealth of living values that have been discarded blindly to accept the indoctrination- “you cant fight human individual self interest“, and to suffer as a result.

    A person having clear stream of pure water flowing through his compund, going to drink from the muddy puddle on the road because he has internalized that it is the muddy water that is drinkable, and constantly taking medication for the resulting sicknesses. That is the modern day indian.

    The theory that free agent voters, if in majority, will rescue the system is a myth, a pain killer that provides temporary intellectual relief but does not treat the disease.

    So long as the indoctrination regarding ‘human individual self-interest’ go on, so long as people are made to internalize that propaganda, used by imperialists as shield for their selfish acts, no change need be expected that will not be circumvented by the another Raja or Raju.


  2. rc said, on December 27, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    >>So long as that is accepted as inviolate, steps to ‘evolve the state’ through any scrutiny regime is likely to be circumvented. As proven through 2G spectrum, satyam, stock market scams which all happened despite regulatory authorities and scrutiny regimes.

    You cant stop thieves from stealing, you can only make their cost higher. That is the point of the scrutiny regime.

    However, the kind of scrutiny I am talking about it not the kind to prevent corruption. It will however make the cost of being corrupt higher. How ? Because the political leadership will be increasingly voted in by free agents who can defect on this issue.

  3. Incognito said, on December 28, 2009 at 12:35 am

    “You cant stop thieves from stealing,

    Sudhakara was indoctrinated to act for his and his family’s selfish interests. He continued to do so until he was given a different viewpoint.
    Thereafter he went on to become maharshi Valmiki and wrote the adi kavya Ramayana, that tells the story of how dharma is upheld at diverse stages of life – giving a perspective to life that is the opposite of what Sudhakara was indoctrinated with.
    He also chastised a hunter who killed two love birds in their act of love, for the inconsideration towards other beings and the selfishness that governed the act of killing.

    The earlier part of sudhakara’s life shows the effect of indoctrination and the latter part, the possibilities of human growth when the indoctrination is removed.

    The preconception- “you cant fight human individual self interest” is a shackle that is necessary to be thrown away if success is to be realized in the endeavour to change societal attitudes towards corruption.

    “you can only make their cost higher. That is the point of the scrutiny regime.

    What is seen is that there are takers for higher risk. People are willing to pay the higher cost as long as they consider it inevitable and integral to their human nature. So long as “you cant fight human individual self interest” is considered inviolate, people will be driven to pay the higher cost.

    However, a change in perception, in the viewpoint towards life and its purpose, can produce the desired change as in the case of Sudhakara. That is the only lasting change possible. Otherwise it will be the case of putting more locks on the barn door after the horse has bolted.

    >>>“the political leadership will be increasingly voted in by free agents who can defect on this issue.

    As said in the post, the parties are trying to reduce the population of free agent voters. This occurs because the parties as well as the voters are indoctrinated with taking care of ‘human individual self interest’ first and foremost.

    Those who see this happening and desiring to bring about a change cannot achieve anything if they paralyse themselves with “you cant fight human individual self interest” propaganda.


  4. Incognito said, on March 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

    More on this-

  5. […] readers are probably going, “Here he goes again with his free agent theory“.  I do feel dirty for taking on an idea promoted by a man of such high intellect with such […]

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