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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Meritocracy versus Mediocrity


ADITI PRASAD | New Delhi, September 9, 2012 12:29
Tags : votebank politics | sc/st quota in promotions | reservation in promotions |
reservation in promotionAs chance would have it, I was with a colleague who supports reservations for India’s dalits and tribals in all forms – education, jobs, private sector, public sector and the works – when news channels began pontificating about the government’s plan to introduce a bill in the Rajya Sabha to amend the Constitution in order to allow reservation in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in public services.
I reacted instantly, taking a swipe at the UPA bosses who I believed had come up with the bill at the last moment to deflect attention from the loud voices in both houses clamoring for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s head (and his job) over what is now widely called the Coalgate scam (much to the chagrin of Colgate-Palmolive company given that they have invested millions of dollars in building their toothpaste brand by the same name).But let me not digress.
So here I was unsuspectingly spewing venom on the powers that be and the Union Cabinet for clearing the decks for a proposition that would make the Indian bureaucracy even more inefficient than it already is, when my dear colleague (pursed lips and all) gave me his worst you-are-a-bitch look and began walking away. “What an elitist comment to make,” my offended colleague flung over his shoulders as he left the room.
Huh! How am I an elitist I wondered if I do not support reservations for promotions in public service? I agree that caste-based reservations, particularly for dalits and tribals have played a major role in correcting historical wrongs and giving the oppressed their rightful place in modern society and economy. Reservations in schools, colleges, professional courses, public and private sector jobs, et al are obviously clearing the way for the entry of the under privileged into the system but beyond that a.k.a. reservations for promotions is so obviously a blatant political posturing tool.
In fact, reservation for promotions in public services is a certified way of further reducing the productivity of India’s already inefficient bureaucracy. As per a recent report, Indian bureaucracy is arguably the worst in Asia with a 9.21 rating out of 10, behind Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. The report by Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy said in no uncertain terms that businessmen in India were more tempted to make under-the-table payments to overcome bureaucratic inertia and gain political favours.
So if caste becomes the base for promotions, I suspect it will become a double edged sword for breeding further inefficiency into the system. Assured of their promotions, the dalits and tribals will have no incentive to work; while the rest of the public servants would be de-motivated enough to shirk work, believing that they anyway had little chance of being given that coveted promotion.
If you have had a firsthand taste of the present lethargy and 'chalta hai' attitude of the Indian bureaucracy, imagine the situation if these old and tired wheels lapse into further disarray. In the garb of equality, reservation for promotions will eventually work against the very notion of equality, killing whatever little initiative and drive that still exists within the system.
Today, a few days after my disgruntled colleague walked out on me and my disparaging comments, I tentatively broached the subject with him again. I told him I had reconsidered my opinion on the subject and that as a future vanguard of dalit reservations, I propose that the two biggest religions of India - Bollywood and Cricket - must also have space for promotion of Dalits and Tribals to the highest pecking order. That we must topple one of the three Khans from superstardom and install a Dalit cine star (we’ll find one through a reality show inviting the best dalit acting talent in the country) in his place.
And while we are at it, if this dalit cine star’s film does not collect at least Rs. 100 crores at the box office in the first week, we will (a la Bal Thackeray) force multiplexes and cinema halls to continue running the iconic film until it fetches the magic figure.
As my colleague continued to stare incredulously at me, I launched into my plans for ensuring ‘equality’ in the Indian cricket team. After all, Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar and many other stalwarts of the Indian cricket are Brahmins. Who knows, maybe it’s a conspiracy against the unprivileged. Sure, there are a number of star cricketers emerging from smaller cities in recent times, but so what. I told him that the time was ripe for cricket selection boards to also have reservations for people from the under privileged communities, who will in turn select and foster star cricketers on the basis of their caste. Oh and remember the promotion. Our cricketer in the national team selected on the basis of his caste must be made captain within three years of his career debut.
And while we are at it, let us delete the word ‘merit’ from the Indian version of the Oxford English Dictionary, I told my friend as I finished with a flourish.
Errr... My colleague walked out on me again. I am thinking up some other way to make up with him. Any suggestions?
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Posted By: Kumar | Bangalore | September 11th 2012 | 18:09
Totally disagreeable arguments. Reservations in all possible sectors should continue as long as there is caste based identity. Caste based exploitation and oppression is a societal disability and society as a whole should take care of overcoming it. Society has created these gaps and the society itself has to fill it. Competition between unequals cannot be justified with the arguments like these. Of course, I am, for that matter none is I hope, not in favor of indefinite continuation of reservations. Reservation is one among several tools to speed up the processes of filling the gaps between so-called ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ castes. You agree that caste-based reservations, particularly for dalits and tribals have played a major role in correcting historical wrongs and giving the oppressed their rightful place in modern society and economy. Is this process over? If yes, I have nothing to argue with you. If no, then why don’t you suggest more areas for reservations, apart from the existing ones, to hasten the process of creating equal society? You argue how the reservations pave way for reducing the productivity of India’s already inefficient bureaucracy. What is the use of efficient bureaucracy and its high productivity if it is for 10 percent creamy layer of the society only and not for the vast majority of the marginalized sections? Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar... I would like to add more like Javagal Srinath, Sunil Joshi, Ravi Shastri, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Vinoo Mankad, Ajit Wadekar, G.R.Vishwanath, EAS Prassana, Ishant Sharma, Yashpal Sharma, Chethan Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar, B Chandrashekar, K Srikanth, L Sivaramakrishnan, Dilip Doshi, Rohit Sharma, Venkatesh Prasad, Ashok Malhotra, VVS Laxman, Murli Karthik, Sreeshashant, Dileep Sardesai, Sanjay Manjrekar, ML Jaisimha, Sudhakar Rao, TA Shekar and many many more etc... 4 percent Brahmins have 70 percent of representation. And the rest 30 percent is occupied by upper casts. Would it have happened if the society was not plagued with castism? All these stalwarts, or most of them, have enjoyed social and economical privileges right from their childhood. Unlike a dalit or tribal child who would be forced to strive in fields, factories and forests to feed his stomach and sometimes his family’s, Sachin got an opportunity to go to stadium for practice. I suggest reservation even in cricket team and beyond, though it sounds awkward! No matter whether our team wins or loses, at least the vast majority of the people see their representation at national level... I have a general perception: Most of the people who argue for reservation are from so-called lower castes or dalits and most of the people who argue against reservation are from so-called upper castes (But, I am not sure in this case). "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” And I agree with Karl Marx.

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017