Reality Check India

OBC Quota : Petitioners complete arguments

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 20, 2007

Update : Government’s position is also along expected lines. That the OBC count is certainly greater than 27% and that no one has approached the NCBC for removal of castes from the list.

The central question remains unanswered : For each caste in the OBC list, is there data available about its current condition ? 

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The “magic wand” of Indian political forces is being challenged in the Supreme Court. The petitioners have completed their arguments today.

Centre will present its side starting from Sep 25th.

I am kind of disappointed that petitioners did not seem to press the point of “presence of abilities“. How to treat a caste which is able to secure adequate not necessarily proportional seats in the open competition ?

The rest of the arguments drives home the lack of current data to identify the socially and educationally backward. This is pretty much what this blog has been saying all along. The presence of and recentness of data is crucial because we are trying to identify groups that ARE socially and educationally backward, not those who WERE socially and educationally backward.

The government’s case will be interesting. I wonder if they will try to use Ekalavya and Sambukha and Manusmriti to buttress their ten-thousand year old oppression case. We need all the scientists and sociologists at hand here to give their inputs in the real world. Events and characters in Treta Yuga can wait.

OBC admission figures in IIT

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 5, 2007

Even after a whole year of being in the limelight, the media has not been able to ignite an informed debate among the masses. We cant look even an inch past rhetoric and sweeping labels.

Consider this report on OBC admissions in IIT 2007. While this throws welcome light on the admission figures, it asks the wrong kind of questions. First the data :

The IITs had then asked students to declare in the examination hall whether they were OBCs or not. Of the 2.43 lakh students who took the JEE, 45,576 (18.75%) were OBCs.

..

The IITs had then asked students to declare in the examination hall whether they were OBCs or not. Of the 2.43 lakh students who took the JEE, 45,576 (18.75%) were OBCs.

Source : ET Report

Two things : (1) the OBCs whose representation in the candidate pool was 18.75% managed to secure 14% of the seats.  (2) the maximum number of OBCs who got in on merit were from the “Chennai region”. I am willing to bet that within the Chennai region, the overwhelming majority are from Hyderabad.

Then the story goes on to ask:

When there are so many OBC students who are doing well naturally, why set aside seats for them and demoralise them?’’ asked an OBC student who joined IIT Bombay. On the other hand, pro-reservationists declare that the fact that OBCs have done well even without any special treatment shows up the standard ‘no merit’ argument of anti-reservationists as false

What does this kind of data tell us about the OBC reservation policy ?

It tells us that the group of castes selected for inclusion in the OBC group are underrepresented as an aggregate in a certain institution. It also tells us that the within the group of castes, the ones from AP (perhaps the entire south) are doing quite well.

Anything else ?

What about the “quotas dilute merit” argument ?

Of all the arguments, this is one that must not be used by anyone who opposes the OBC quota. Nothing dilutes merit – because merit itself is a moving target. For example : you can give priority admissions to students whose names start with a vowel, or you can bar balding students from pursuing surgical disciplines. Will any of these affect merit ? Hairy students will gladly replace the bald ones in surgical disciplines, some may even go on to become great surgeons.

So what about the case in front of the court ?

I do not know if the court sees it this way, but my view is that we have constitutional issues in front of the court  – not simply the impugned OBC quota act. At the heart of the issue is the nature of the O.B.C group itself.

I have tried to get to the root question in 6 easy steps. Completely devoid of legal terms.

1. It is unlikely that anyone disputes the very existance of a group of citizens other than the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who are in need of social justice.

2. The form in which social justice is sought to be delivered is outright quotas to the target group.  This is a premise, so lets not dwell on the merits of outright quotas – or look at alternatives like Prof Yadavs JNU style affirmative action.

3. The preferred criteria along which the groups in (1), are to be identified are along caste lines.  The nine judge bench accepted the use of caste to identify classes of people other than SC/STs who need social justice in the form of quotas. This is one of the side effects of the Mandal judgement and maybe a larger bench can relook at this. For now, it holds the field. So lets move on.

4. A group of castes (other than SCs and STs) are selected and included in the group. It is then sought to administer social justice to this group in the form of quotas in education and jobs. We give a name to this group of castes and call it “Other Backward Castes (Classes)” or OBCs.

5. For whatever reason, data is not considered critical to validate the inclusion of castes in this group. Lets waive even this per-caste data requirement and see where this leads us to. Please dont bring up RTI as a solution here. The Supreme Court is seeking this kind of data, so the the government already has the ultimate RTI in front of it.

6. Let us assume that somehow there exists a caste X in this group. One that is capable of competing in the open competition. Not necessarily in all exams and in all disciplines, but it demonstrates a clear “presence of abilities”. For example : the caste X produces many toppers in board exams, takes a good (not necessarily proportionate) share of medical seats, has good political representation and so forth.

It is immaterial how caste X got to this enviable position. It could be  hard work, good community leadership, misclassificaton, or even due to the success of the reservation system. What matters is that at this time caste X shows the presence of abilities !

This leads us to two central questions that must be answered by the court.

1. Does a caste X as described above even exist ?  Does the non availability of current data impact our ability to predict the existance of this caste ? 

2. If a caste X as described above exists, what is the consitutionality of mandating a continued quota to this caste ?  How does this impact (1) OBC caste Y who may not have the abilities of caste X and (2) how does this impact caste Z who is excluded from the OBC list.

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.

Karnataka Professional Education Act 2006 and impact on communities

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 19, 2013

The Congress government in Karnataka has recently notified the Karnataka Professional Education Act 2006 (PDF – as notified sourced from COMED-K). Tragically, this is receiving little or no commentary in the media despite its groundbreaking nature. In this blog, I hope to throw some light on why you need to pay attention to this.

First a little background.

In India, professional colleges typically refer to the three disciplines of Medical, Dental, and Engineering. When it comes to private professional colleges, there is a long history to the tug of war between government regulation and autonomy of the management of these colleges. In 2005, most issues came to a settlement after  a lengthy legal fumble with the 7-Judge bench deciding P.A Inamdar vs State of Maharashtra.  In that judgment, it was clarified that the state could not impose its reservation policy on private education – both minority and non-minority. The political class could not stomach that as regulating access to a small pie of educational opportunities is a powerful tool to distribute benefits to this or that faction.  The Congress led UPA-1 govt under the then HRD Minister Mr Arjun Singh moved the 104th Amendment bill that was passed and eventually became the 93rd Amendment to the constitution.

The 93rd Amendment added the following to Article 15.

“(5) Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30.”.

Source: Amendments

Let me break it down. The non-minorities were offered parity with the minorities  under TMA Pai, then Inamdar under Article 19 (1) (g) which says “anyone can conduct any profession, trade, or business”. The 93rd amendment cancels all three judgments (Pai, Islamic Academy, Inamdar) and once again restores  minority institutions to a higher pedestal by severely curtailing protections under Art 19 (1) (g).  The 93rd Amendment was challenged along with the OBC Quota in Ashok Kumar Thakur vs Union of India in 2007. The court held that the 93rd amendment was not in conflict with the Basic Structure  insofar as it applies to Govt educational institutions. It did not strike down the part where it applied to private unaided institutions and instead punted it for a future court. It was understood that the 93rd Amendment could be reopened for challenge once a state actually passes a law.

This month Karnataka notified exactly such a law.

The Karnataka Professional Education Regulation Act 2006

The substantive parts of this act are :

  1. No govt quota seats in any private institution.
  2. Unaided Non-Minority must provide 50% quota along Karnataka government lines. SC / ST / OBC (5 subgroups)
  3. Unaided Minority need not provide SC/ST/OBC quota but must ensure 66% of seats are allocated to that minority group that runs the college
  4. No upper limit to fees. Each college can set fees according to its location, infrastructure, quality etc. A 2-Judge panel will nail complaints of exorbitant fees.
  5. A 15% NRI ( or NRI sponsor quota) is allowed even encouraged for purposes of cross subsidization
  6. Only two entrance tests are envisioned. CET for govt colleges and COMED-K which is an all India test for private colleges. Things are still up in the air as minority colleges want their own test. But this is the rough formula.

To understand the impact of this – you need to understand how the system works today. Roughly this is the arrangement in place for the past few years.

  • Private colleges surrender a number of seats to the government – approx 40% – this is called the government quota
  • The govt fills the 40% using the usual scheme of 50% quota from the merit list from a government exam.
  • This 40% is highly subsidized – as they only pay fees as applicable in government colleges.
  • In the balance 60% – the management can do anything they want under conditions of transparency. They are allowed a 15% NRI quota with typically high fees to make up for the Govt quota + the management quota.

Impact on poor

First thing to note is Karnataka is no exception to other states. Quality government college capacity is severely lacking. In the old scheme, the effective govt capacity was Govt Colleges + Sum of all 40% seats in all private colleges. To quantify the mismatch consider the fact that Karnataka as 42 Private Medical colleges and only 11 Government ones.  On the Engineering side there are roughly 200 private colleges and only 12 Govt colleges.  So if you are a poor student in Karnataka today – the number of seats you can aim for  based on affordability  is dramatically reduced.  What they’ve done is replaced a regime of affordable seats and converting it into a “social justice” quota.   It goes without saying that from next year, private colleges will hike all fees to even out the disparities that have now disappeared.

Impact on Karnataka OBC/SC/ST

After this new law, OBC/SC/ST candidates will be  able to exclusively access a huge number of extra seats – albeit at a higher cost.  Under the new regime – all private non-minority colleges must reserve 50% of total capacity to OBC/SC/ST students from Karnataka. Note that in the previous regime 40% was taken by the govt and given in the ration 20% under quota to OBC/SC/ST from Karnataka and remaining to open category from Karnataka.   After this act the number of seats more than doubles ( from 20% of total private non-minority capacity to 50% of private capacity) .  The government is also refunding all fees for certain categories. So overall,  this new scheme  is a win for reserved categories who can afford these seats.

Impact on Karnataka Unreserved category

This group will be hit hardest. In my view, the impact can be so severe that a legal challenge to the entire scheme is called for. Let me explain. In the old scheme, under the 40% Govt quota – Karnataka based open category students could compete with each other for 20%.

Under the new scheme, Karnataka OBC/SC/ST have dramatically increased their share from 20% to 50% where they compete only with other Karnataka students of the respective category.  However, the Karnataka Open Category is left in the lurch – they are clubbed with the remaining 50% who have to compete in an All India Exam like COMED-K with highly trained students from states like AP.   To this add the 15% NRI quota – which further reduces the pie that is up for grabs to 35%.

Now if you are a unreserved poor students – the hit will be severe and the only seats affordable and accessible to you are the seats in government colleges.   In addition to this, the unreserved category students aren’t necessarily topping the exams either.  If youve  been reading this blog you’d know these arent classifications based on monitoring or presence of disabilities. I’ve documented the extreme case of 2013 Tamilnadu Medical Admissions here.

Impact on Minorities

Under the new act, private minority colleges must reserve 66% of all seats to students from their group. This is an extremely welcome decision which will hopefully reverberate all over.  Both linguistic and religious minority institutions today are asserting protections under Art 30 without any connection to serving their communities.  Other than this, they are under no obligation for providing any other kind of quota. One institute that might be impacted is Manipal University which, under this law could be forced to admit 66% Konkani native speakers !!  I’ve always maintained that the whole Article 30 protection regime needs a principled look. It is unacceptable that speakers of Tamil or Telugu are able to run normal secular colleges from a higher platform.  We are still waiting for a court with chops to undertake this most important exercise.

NRI Quota

Those who follow me on twitter @realitycheckind know that I consider this to be the most abominable form of quota ever. Under the NRI or NRI Sponsored Quota – if a brother/sister/father/uncle/aunt is able to foot your bill from overseas – you leapfrog over an ocean of native Indians who have no such luck. The quota is not minor but rather 15% of total intake.  If it is cross subsidy you seek than it should be open to all rich kids not just who are lucky enough not to be working in India. The NRI quota has no place in a civilized country and must be abolished.

What happens when we actually catch em ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 15, 2006

Do you remember the ’98 Coimbatore blasts ? Probably not, huh ?

I dont blame you because you’ve probably moved on and everyone has bounced back. There is just one major difference though. Read on. 

You see, unlike in other places, Tamilnadu/Kerala police actually *caught* the entire group who planned and perpetrated the ghastly act. 60 people lost their lives and 250 were severely injured. It was an assassination attempt on LK Advani, it exploded 14 minutes before he came to the stage.

An outstanding operation by the Tamilnadu police

We must recognize the excellent capabilities of our police force. The Coimbatore blasts investigations also started off with the usual platitudes, but the results were quite different. Read below.

Tamilnadu Crime Branch’s Special Investigation Team, named 166 people. Out of them, 145 people are now in judicial custody, eight were killed in subsequent blasts and police operations. Of the total accused, 11 were taken into custody from Kerala, three from Andhra Pradesh, two from Karnataka and one from Calcutta.

The TN police broke the back of Al Umma (a terrorist group that was beginning to form in the Kerala TN border area).

Leaders of the banned Al-Umma, S A Basha, Tajudden and Mohammed Ansari were thrown behind bars

More than that, they even caught the alleged mastermind of the attack Abdul Nasser Madhani. Madhani is the alleged link between these local terrorists and Pakistans ISI. This blast investigation is another feather in the cap of the Tamilnadu police.

Does it get any better than this ?  

I say no. Blast happened ! Eventually almost all the accused were either killed or thrown behind bars. The mastermind too was apprehended and jailed. The entire crew is caught and waiting for justice. But..wait this is where it gets interesting.

Resolution in Gods own country !

Do you know what the Kerala Legislature did on March 15th 2006 ?

It passed a resolution demanding the immediate release of Abdul Nasser Madhani, the prime accussed !! To pass this resolution it convened a special assembly session on Holi. Unbelievable. This resolution was supported by all parties except the BJP which had no presence  ! Amazing considering that the case is still sub judice.

  • What if the courts find him guilty, would the Kerala Legislature roll back the resolution ?
  • What signals has the Kerala legislature sent to potential terrorists ?
  • What signals does this send to the brave police officers who have done such an excellent job ?
  • What if he is released on parole as per their resolution and he carries out even more spectacular attacks ? Will these MLAs take responsibility ?
  • Will the CPI-M and Congress explain to the nation why they moved this resolution ? Where are you Mr Karat ? If this dude does any more damage people might come after your aaa.

Both the communists and congress parties used Madhanis posters to attract Muslim votes, thereby making him a political tool. Links http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1450019.cms  and http://www.outlookindia.com/pti_news.asp?id=371150 and http://www.newstodaynet.com/2006sud/06mar/2003ss1.htm

After winning the elections in May this year, one of the first things Kerala CM Achutanandan did was to fly to Chennai and meet the new TN CM Karunanidhi. He requested the CM to set Madhani on bail, or atleast provide him medical treatment. Two days after the Mumbai blast, the main accused in the Coimbatore blasts thanks the Kerala CM and TN CM for taking personal interest in his health, because of the Ayurvedic treatment given to him by a VIP doctor.

As instructed by the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments, Islamic terrorist and main accused of Combatore bomb blast Abdul Nasser Madani will get special treatment by well known Ayurvedic specialist Dr. K.G. Ravindran.  

42 years old Dr. Ravindran was earlier treated VVIPs’ like former President K.R. Narayanan, R. Venkettaraman, former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao & A.B. Vajpayee. Film actors Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and singer Yasudas were among treated by Dr. Ravindran

Source : http://www.haindavakeralam.org/PageModule.aspx?PageID=1345&SKIN=B

It gets even worse

Madhanis wife was allowed to visit him in prison and spend several hours with him and other accused. This despite the fact that there is an arrest warrant pending against her. Thanks to Jayalalithaa for making this public. See http://www.chennaionline.com/colnews/newsitem.asp?NEWSID={803DEE4F-2072-4AB6-9F29-9FF8709969D0}&CATEGORYNAME=CHN

So friends, even if this investigation goes perfectly and we catch the main guys, what do you think the political class is going to do ? Where are our checks and balances when it comes to dealing with this type of behaviour ? Does any elected legislature pass a resolution favouring the main accused in a terrorist attack (while the case is still subjudice) ? Anywhere in the world.

Go ahead think about it.

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Links:

An article by a former IAS officer ripping apart the Kerala legislature for its actions.

http://www.newstodaynet.com/2006sud/06mar/2003ss1.htm

Information about which MLA actually proposed the resolution

http://www.hvk.org/articles/0406/49.html

Tehelka on how the Communists and Congress are using him to win Muslim votes. Turn on your filters while reading this Tehelka report though !

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main18.asp?filename=Ne070806Anyone_recognise.asp

Top CPI-M leader Hamza (MP) visits prime accused in jail (What did they talk about) Look at what this other politician Siraj is saying.

When asked about Mr Hamza’s visit to Coimbatore Central Jail, Mr Siraj said, “Madani has a personal relationship with the MP”. Hamza is a CPI-M MP in the lok sabha.

WTF ??