April 15, 2008Constitutioneducationequalityfreedomfundamental rightsIndiajudiciarypoliticsPublic Policyreservations

The OBC reservations verdict and the national interest

A step on the road towards equality, merit and a quest for excellence

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Excerpts from Mukul Asher’s DNA _op-ed piece on the Supreme Court verdict on OBC reservations*:_

The society’s need for competence and employable graduates has been balanced with provision of educational access to the OBCs.

The judgement of the Supreme Court (should) be respected in both letter and spirit. Those who are now trying to subvert the letter and spirit of the verdict should receive severe social and political disapproval.

India’s national interests are best served by ordering our society around equality, merit and a quest for excellence. The Supreme Court’s judgment should not be viewed as an end in itself, but rather as an intermediate step towards this goal.

For too long, the education policies have neglected the supply side of education in providing the much needed infrastructure; addressing rigidities in the educational institutions and regulations; and improving the quality of teachers and researchers at all levels of the education system.

The main constraints are not monetary resources, but what Bimal Jalan has termed the ruling mindset,” which does not adequately respect or respond to the needs of ordinary people in a way that improves the quality of life and reduces costs of everyday living.

Uncertainties generated by current higher education policies at the time of admission reflect incompetence of the policymakers and built-in rigidities in expanding supply of education.

The neglect of primary education, evidenced by a large number of schools with no school building, no blackboard, and no electricity; high student to teacher ratios (in many cases exceeding 100 students per teacher); and single teacher schools, etc have already cost the country, particularly the low income households, dear in accessing economic opportunities and upward socio-economic mobility. Such neglect is also evident at secondary and higher levels of education.

Focusing the energies of policymakers on improving this state of affairs will do far more for the aam aadmi than doggedly pursuing reservations for ever widening section of population.

The government has been asked to prepare and periodically update the list of economically and socially backward classes who should be included in the list of beneficiaries.

It is astonishing that until now no such list of intended and actual beneficiaries has been compiled and subjected to public scrutiny. The Right to Information Act should be vigorously applied to ensure that such a list is not only prepared but also subjected to public scrutiny and accountability.

Related Link:In WSJ Asia, Shruti Rajagopalan argues that the legal battle against reservations must continue.

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