Social justice without PhDs
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It is amazing how eminently sensible politicians can come up with incredibly stupid policy formulations. There are of course many reasons why the OBC legislation does not make sense for India; and these range from first principles to implementation. The Supreme Court has stayed the quota — had it not, the practical problems in its implementation would have put the government in a more serious mess. The government should thank the Supreme Court. Really.
So what is the issue? In its desire to please all, the government promised that the OBC reservations would not be at the cost of merit. As a consequence, the government committed to increase the supply of educational opportunities (namely, greater number of seats). This, the reasoning went, would ensure that the OBCs would benefit from reservations, and the higher castes would not suffer. A wonderful political solution, some might think, but it is just not workable.
It is quite apparent to anyone who has gone to an Indian university that there is a lack of infrastructure, there is a lack of proper management, and there is a lack of quality teaching and teachers. None of these can be addressed within a year or two. Had it not been for the Supreme Court, the government would have got into trouble on two fronts — from OBC and forward caste students on not delivering on its promise, and from the judiciary for not being able to implement its own law. And this would have happened around general election time.
First take the case of infrastructure. It will take a few years to obtain the space, get the permissions, and finally contract out the building process. Many institutions are located in areas where they will get neither the land nor the ability to build on top of their existing facilities, either due to building bylaws or due to the current dated state of their building infrastructure. Such institutions will then need to expand into other areas. That in turn requires a larger administrative set-up, and increases costs more than proportionately.
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