I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Socially and Educationally Backward Classes

Following on from the hype on reservations, I wanted to find out who the OBCs are. The 2001 census or the 1991 census did not give me any facts or figures on OBCs (presumably since the definition of the OBCs is subject to change). In contrast, SC ST data is readily available.

Thankfully, the Press Information Bureau of the GOI came to my help. It defines OBCs as "The Backward Classes are those castes and communities that are notified as socially and educationally backward classes by the State and the Central governments from time to time." These classes, according to Mandal Commission, account for 52% of the Indian population. I am unsure as to whether anyone has revisited the calculations in the last 25 years.

However, now that the time has come to implement changes and turn IITs/ IIMs and other central universities into instruments of social justice, I want to add a few other socially and educationally backward classes to the OBC list.

1) Geeks: While we can also make a argument for them being educationally backward, it is but sure that they are socially backward. They can't have a conversation with women, DU-types (for those living in Delhi), normal people and their parents (last one, we can excuse). Plus, they find jokes like these funny:
"Indian Gods/ Goddesses and responsibilities:
Brahma - Systems Installation
Vishnu - Systems Administration & Support
Shiva - DBA (Crash Specialist)"

2) Upcoming Actresses: Most of them leave their homes at tender ages of seventeen, thus, don't complete their education. Having to face the likes of Aman Varma and Shakti Kapoor early on doesn't do much for their social skills either. Often seen making statements like, "In Red Swastika I play a psychotic killer. She kills people in the most gruesome manner but has no regrets over it. In this film there's a sequence that I am sure will make headlines. It's the film's USP too. I am shown taking a shower and my back is naked from top to bottom. I am going to be shot from behind and I expect some part of my side profile to be visible as well. But it's going to have an aesthetic appeal. The audience won't find it vulgar or obscene."

3) Foreign tourists: They come in seduced by 'Incredible India'. They land up in either Delhi or Mumbai, yearning to reach one of Goa/ Agra/ Rajasthan or Kerala. When they reach there, they realise what was missing from their lives. Then they open their mouths to speak and find no one who would understand their language or accent or both. Unless they want to sell them something. They hang about in bars trying to soak in the nightlife, but do not find any women as Indian women do not hang out in bars. Even worse, some of them find Indian men and/ or Indipop. It is then that their social backwardness hits them.

4) Most Indian cricketers: As opposed to other sports where sportsmen do not get chances/ sponsorships and thus are forced to complete their education and get a job, Indian cricketers who make it to their national team early (Yuvraj, Raina, Bhajji, Sachin... actually everyone except for the ones from Karnataka) remain educationally backward. Some of them like Sehwag also accumulate social skills at the same rate as Inzaman ul Haq and remain socially backward.

Indian writers in regional languages: Most of them do not have the privilege of studying in St. Stephen's, the only college which matters in literary circles and thus are marked educationally backward for life. Their degree of social backwardness is not revealed as they can't afford book-launches by Aamir Khan and thus, their degree of comfort when dealing with fans or journalists is never tested.

6) Comics characters: Sabu (constantly ill-treated, acts as a slave to the upper-caste Chacha Chaudhuri), Raka (similar story, except that he also lacks social skills), Motu-Patlu (idiots, basically), Chotu-Lambu (ditto), Doga (he talks to dogs), Bheriya (not only is he backward, he's also subject to historical wrongs), Nagraj (what are his educational qualifications?), Mowgli.... Come to think of it, even characters like Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Bruce Banner and others with social issues can be given OBC status.

7) Bloggers: Lastly but not leastly, who are more socially backward than bloggers? Fed up of being unheard in the real world, they have disappeared behind webpages, are more concerned about registering hits than having real friends and keep themselves anonymous behind trying-to-be-witty profile pages. They are also educationally backward, having not been through prestigious institutions like the Indian Institute of Ponytain Maintenance.

Other groups under consideration include characters brought to life by Shah Rukh Khan (Baazigar, DDLJ, Anjaam), friends of Pramod Navalkar and Indian weightlifters.

Please treat this as a work-in-progress list and add any other groups that you would deem fit. The beauty of the OBC definition is that everyone can turn into an OBC, if the government (we, the people) deems fit.


Not that it matters, but I will not claim that affirmative action or reservations are wrong as a concept. If it is used to redress the inequities in opportunity, then it can serve as a means to unlock talent and create value quicker than the markets can (let's say, over one generation, instead of two-three generations).

Reservations can also perhaps serve to create a level playing field in institutions which implicitly and subtly restrict entry to outsiders (for example, case can be made for reservations in Government-run organisations where an interview panel (let's say made of Brahmins) makes a decision on who will join, and where performance management systems are not strong enough to ensure that the best man, purely based on merit, will join). Ultimately however, a better solution is to create a better performance management systems in these institutions.

However, just plain reservations in premier institutes like IITs, AIIMS and IIMs (and NIFT!) is nothing but a political move. It doesn't address the real inequities of opportunity (as these institutions anyway are open to all) and hence, does not create as much value as it destroys. If we are not comfortable using a hospital's emergency services or the nuclear power institutions as instruments of social justice, then why should we try and create such social justice in an IIT or an IIM? Instead as Ram Vilas Paswan suggests (malicious though his intents are), really create reservations in schools (even public ones) and be done with it.


Blogger Mr. D said...

True, it's amazing how our goverment comes up the most inappropriate 'issues' to tackle. Tackle basic primary education, I say. Or even deforestation. In stead they do this, and also investigate nonsense like why Carol Gracias' top slipped off.

Monday, April 10, 2006 4:51:00 AM

Anonymous nishant said...

a real laugha of a post...

Monday, April 10, 2006 5:37:00 AM

Blogger maverick said...

we are like this only! swalpa adjust maadi! :)

Monday, April 10, 2006 7:10:00 AM

Blogger ponytail said...

OBCs constitute 52% of India's population and it is proposed to give them 27% reservation - so if ability is evenly distributed in the Indian population across all castes and communities - and if all OBCs seek seats in the 27% reservation quota - and all SC/STs seek seats in the 22.5% quota - we should see greater competition among the 52% of OBCs for those 27% seats than in the general quota which will have 50.5% seats for less than 50% of the population. The general quota should soon see lots of lousy candidates with lower cutoffs in the IIMs! So where does that leave ISB - they will get those OBCs who could not get in their quota in IIM.

Monday, April 10, 2006 11:23:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dibyo, agree with you. 'Issues' reminds me of you know who.

Nishant, thanks.

Maverick, who's we? And who do I adjust with?

Ponytail, yes. And the surfeit of potential students will make Arindam not release another ad in the papers.

Monday, April 10, 2006 11:53:00 AM

Anonymous Mowgli said...

I would have laughed except its not funny. This would be a right place for a 'Education is too serious a matter to be left to HRD ministry' quote (I still struggle to understand why these quotes on war, nuclear weapons etc etc are so popular.. anyway)

The way media and govt. talks abt IITs .. it appears as if a) funds and renaming is all it takes to create an IIT b) seats can be indefinitely increased in IITs

What makes IITs premier is indeed funds and autonomy .. AND SIGNIFICANTLY premier faculty. And statistics show that faculty base in IITs is dwindling and similar quality replacements hard to get. Unfortunately, govt. and/or civil society is not interested in solving for the problem of attracting good faculty to Indian institutes.

Be that as it may, these reservations will only cause further quality dilution (avg SC/ST CGPA is lower than avg. CGPA) and further repel ppl interested in teaching sharp students.

I believe we are witnessing the demise of one of independent India's finest creations. Long live Mandal and Arjun Singh!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 1:33:00 AM

Anonymous Mowgli said...

Btw, I have assumed in my comment that JEE/CGPA is a measure of sharpness .. whether the assumption is valid or not is a separate debate in itself.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 1:49:00 AM

Blogger Dinesh said...

LOL...Had a good laugh!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 2:54:00 AM

Anonymous Mowgli said...

Sorry for rambling .. but if anything what's needed is a scheme which ensures access to preparatory material (for JEE) to economically weaker sections of society .. since there cud be an argument that there is an entry barrier to JEE preparation ..

maybe reservation for EBC at Bansal classes Kota

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 2:58:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dinesh, thanks.

Mowgli, great thoughts on Kota. I completely agree with you. As far as JEE/ CGPA is concerned, I am not even sure that all IITs are a proxy for sharpness. (you know the average of IIT... )

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 11:51:00 PM

Blogger Zulfi said...

Well I am surprised to say the least, how comprehensive the reservation benfits the hindus( bania, jats, yadavs, THESE ARE SOME OBC) at the expense of non-hindus. This is certainly the sorry state of India. I don't find any other country which discriminates people on religion basis like India, where 50% reservation is availble for followers of one religion. To top it, if a SC/ST convert to Islam or Christianty this benefit is taken off from him.
No more to say .
Sare Jahan se Achcha Hindustan hamara ............Once upton a time

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 2:14:00 AM

Blogger Zulfi said...

Well I am surprised to say the least, how comprehensive the reservation benfits the hindus( bania, jats, yadavs, THESE ARE SOME OBC) at the expense of non-hindus. This is certainly the sorry state of India. I don't find any other country which discriminates people on religion basis like India, where 50% reservation is availble for followers of one religion. To top it, if a SC/ST convert to Islam or Christianty this benefit is taken off from him.
No more to say .
Sare Jahan se Achcha Hindustan hamara ............Once upton a time

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 2:18:00 AM

Anonymous sv_1 said...

I read all the messages posted on this blog regarding reservation,definitely Arjun Singh's announcement is a political move to gain vote. As all of you wrote reservation system should be eliminated, but friends it raises a big question on our educational system. Students who come from villages & small towns with little income, they cannot study in high fee convents and they can't compete the students who study in Public Schools, so wouldn't its unjust for them. I think reservation should be eliminated but before it Govt should close all private schools and provide a common educational system where same kind of education will be available for everyone.This kind of steps can provide a level playing field to all classes of society.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 1:48:00 PM

Blogger Memoryking said...

Read your blog.Liked it a lot.Here is mine http://www.emotionalzombie.blogspot.com/
"You say, if a student knows a seat is reserved for him he is not going to work towards it. Ask yourself- If a person knows Education is subsidized for his kids, food items are subsidized for him, is he going to work? Isn’t it harming the Economy? Isn’t the highly subsidized education we avail a classic example of social injustice? "

Thursday, June 22, 2006 1:03:00 AM


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