Reality Check India

Why scholarships based on sectarian considerations? Congress Party response

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 25, 2018

During Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s campaign tour in Karnataka a student in Mysuru asks him a point blank question

Why is Govt discriminating students on the basis of religion and caste to extend benefits.

The student was referring  to the unique discriminatory manner  in which the Indian Government hands out scholarship and other economic schemes.  The minorities have their own scholarship schemes running into thousands of crores (Pre Matric 980 cr, Post Matric 692 cr etc for a total of 2,453Cr – per 2018-19 Budget Demand note). To contrast the  sum total of all scholarships under the Human Resources Development available to all Indians without identity basis is the National Merit-Cum-Means scholarship with 292 Cr. My favorite crazy scheme which I keep mentioning on Twitter is the National Merit-Cum-Means scholarship under HRD is 292Cr but the Minority Affairs Merit-cum-Means is 522Cr !!  ( Source : India Budget Demand Notes 2018-19 )

Back to the question, Mr Rahul Gandhi was taken aback by this question and passed the ball to Mr Siddharamiah the CM of Karnataka.  Here is his response :

he said there’s always someone, even within a family, who is weaker than the other kid in some respects. We give some extra support to that kid and that is what the govt does too.

They clearly expect this question , so they have a canned response.  But this falls apart on basic examination – let’s open this box.

If you listen carefully, Mr Siddaramiah is not answering the girls question at all.  He is answering a different question “Why have scholarships at all to anyone?” That is not what the girl was asking. Her question is “Why give scholarships on identity basis ?” 

Imagine this response instead :

“there is always someone even within a family who is weaker than the other kid in some respects. Hence we give extra support to the first born male child and that is what the govt does too”

It is very important to call out these obfuscations wherever you see them.  The issue with the sectarian scholarship regime (unique in the world) is a simple one.

  • The disability that scholarships seek to remedy in most cases is lack of money.
  • You may say – “but these sectarian scholarships are for desperately poor < 1Lakh per year income “.  My friends, this makes it egregious and immoral. It is one thing to discriminate among the rich or middle class who have other opportunities. But if you have a group of wretched and then you select among them on basis of religion for selective rescue – imagine that.
  • What about social disability? you can ask. There were many proposals to have scholarships and other help instead of outright quota.  This was shot down saying –   social disabilities cannot be cured by economic benefits like scholarships but need quota in education and jobs and promotions.
  • But once you have granted social remedy in the form of a quota system. You cannot overlay a second unrelated benefit.  Scholarships and stipends on identity basis is nothing but an  economic remedy for a social disability.  The central question is “Why discriminate for scholarships Group-A-Girl versus Group-B-Girl  when their economic circumstances are the same?”
  • The standard response to criticism of creamy layer criterion  from social justice protectors in India is “it is not a poverty alleviation program”  –  well scholarships and other economic schemes are  certainly poverty alleviation programs, you cant have it both ways.
  • You can say we have other similar schemes for Group-Z, Group-Y with different moving weights to each group.  That is how we balance. What can you say to this?  When you make a virtue of  unprincipled monkey balancing acts and various payoffs to stay in power?

The solution is to remove all discriminatory identity-based economic schemes.  Especially when targeted at the really poor.  This is our #core2 agenda.