• Contact us
  • Latest Issue:

    Communal Polarisation Scales New Heigts - Editorial • Gujarat Model of Development - Kamal Nayan Kabra • On Writing India's China War - Neville Maxwell • From the Left Roots - S.G. Vombatkere • People's Agenda 2014 prepared by Indian Political Economy Association

    Home page > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > May 05, 2007 > The Myth of Inefficiency

    VOL XLV No 20

    The Myth of Inefficiency

    by Sheetal Sharma

    Celebrations began among anti-reservationists with the SC putting a stay on the decision to reserve 27 per cent of seats for OBCs in educational institutions—such as central universities, IIMs, IITs, AIIMS—funded, managed or under the aegis of the Central Government, in the coming session. The jubilant protestors voiced different opinions regarding victory of merit, efficiency, equality etc. Students, communities and even masses seem to have divided into ‘us’ and ‘they’, pro- and anti- reservationists, advocating or opposing the proposal to reserve 27 per cent of seats for the OBCs. However, arriving at an ideological stand for or against reservation is not as simple and straight forward as it seems. Self-styled ‘Youth For Equality’ and other reservationists shout at the pitch of their voice that they are not against reservation as such but basically against caste as criteria for reservation thus negating caste as a category to identify, define and establish backwardness. Although they too support reservation as an instrument for the upliftment of underprivileged but for those who on their own cannot access opportunities otherwise available to the so-called privileged classes/castes.

    The issue of merit has been vehemently used by the protestors to fuel the fire of agitation. Opponents of reservation tend to cite reservation as unjustified on account of being anti-merit. The issue thus centres around two distinct but interrelated concepts of merit and caste. Merit as per Oxford ALD is defined as that property of a good work which entitles the doer to receive a reward from him in whose service the work is done. Efficiency is defined as the ratio of the out- put to the input of any system; in other words the extent to which maximum output is achieved from a given input, or minimum input for a given output. Both the concepts of merit and efficiency are theoretically related to performance. With the above mentioned definitions in mind let us examine the nature of relationship between merit, efficiency and caste status.

    The majority of communities classified as OBC, belonged to the sudra varna in the traditional social hierarchy, formally came into existence when in 1953 the Kaka Kalelkar Commission was tasked with identifying the socially and educationally backward communities. Much of the credit for oft-repeated reference to the glorious past of India as ‘sone ki chidiya’ is due to the meritorious contribution made by various backward caste communities such as numerous service providers, farmers, artisans, craftsman, designers, sculptors, weavers, poets, painters and musicians, labeled as shudras. These caste categories were the cornerstones of self-sufficient village economies and the creators of marvellous forms of art, incredible monuments, temples and splendid artifacts in history whose magnificence has remained undiminished for hundreds of years and for which we are still known all over the world. The reminiscences of self-sufficient economies of Indian villages which survived on the occupational services provided by the backward caste categories itself narrates the story that how effective these castes have been in performing their duties and that they excelled in their respective occupations despite being discriminated. It would not be an exaggeration in stating that the backward castes have demonstrated their merit and efficiency beyond excellence for thousands of years propelling India to the envious crown of the world. Notwithstanding that India largely owes its glorious past to the community of service providers the society is labelling them as non-meritorious and inefficient. On the contrary if upper castes are so meritorious why did they fail in carrying out duties of their respective caste occupation? Contemporary mediocre presence of India at the world level is not unrelated to emergence of so- called forward castes to the fore through political and social institutions and relegation of backward castes to the background.

    o

    IN the entire debate of caste-based reservations efficiency and merit are wrongly related to the caste status. It is unrealistic to imagine a direct relationship between merit and caste status. We require an open and rational system to evaluate the issue of merit on the basis of achievement rather than mere ascription. There can be other genuine reasons to oppose caste-based reservations rather than merit and efficiency. In fact merit is a predominantly individually achieved trait rather than characteristic ascribed by birth. Given a chance anybody can achieve merit, and in fact based on the objective indicators of performance OBCs in terms of fulfilling their duties have proved themselves far more meritorious as compared to any other caste. Of all the varnas OBCs have been discharging their duties effectively and there is no ground on which we can question their efficiency and merit. It must be remembered that merit is not quantifiable. We have examples of highly incapable and inefficient performers from the so called meritorious upper castes. Still they believe and propagate the idea that merit and efficiency are ascribed by birth in a specific caste and cannot be achieved.

    There are a couple of points taken up by ‘The Youth for Equality’. First, they claim that ‘all castes are equal’ which means they believe in existence of natural order rather than social order. Secondly, reservation for backward classes would have an effect on merit. If the first statement on equality is to be considered true then how would merit get affected? According to the law of transitivity (if a=b and b=c then a=c), if all castes are equal, they should be equally meritorious. If the second statement is to be considered true then in the light of the above mentioned logic, contradicting themselves the YFE loses the ideological ground, that is, ‘standing for equality’. On one hand despite clear cut evidences of discrimination they claim equality, and on the other hand tag the backward classes as non-meritorious. Thus either the YFE stop proclaiming that ‘all castes are equal’ or that ‘reservation would affect merit’. They cannot advocate inherently ambiguous statements. relationship between merit and caste status. We require an open and rational system to evaluate the issue of merit on the basis of achievement rather than mere ascription. There can be other genuine reasons to oppose caste-based reservations rather than merit and efficiency. In fact merit is a predominantly individually achieved trait rather than characteristic ascribed by birth. Given a chance anybody can achieve merit, and in fact based on the objective indicators of performance OBCs in terms of fulfilling their duties have proved themselves far more meritorious as compared to any other caste. Of all the varnas OBCs have been discharging their duties effectively and there is no ground on which we can question their efficiency and merit. It must be remembered that merit is not quantifiable. We have examples of highly incapable and inefficient performers from the so called meritorious upper castes. Still they believe and propagate the idea that merit and efficiency are ascribed by birth in a specific caste and cannot be achieved.

    There are a couple of points taken up by ‘The Youth for Equality’. First, they claim that ‘all castes are equal’ which means they believe in existence of natural order rather than social order. Secondly, reservation for backward classes would have an effect on merit. If the first statement on equality is to be considered true then how would merit get affected? According to the law of transitivity (if a=b and b=c then a=c), if all castes are equal, they should be equally meritorious. If the second statement is to be considered true then in the light of the above mentioned logic, contradicting themselves the YFE loses the ideological ground, that is, ‘standing for equality’. On one hand despite clear cut evidences of discrimination they claim equality, and on the other hand tag the backward classes as non-meritorious. Thus either the YFE stop proclaiming that ‘all castes are equal’ or that ‘reservation would affect merit’. They cannot advocate inherently ambiguous statements.

    Moreover, going by the simple reason of ‘direct proportionality’ applied in reserving 22 per cent and 7.5 per cent seats for SCs and STs respectively, where is the problem in reserving 27 per cent seats for classes numbering more than 50 per cent of the total population. Yes, we lack reliable data regarding the current percentage of OBCs in total population. As per the 1931 census, the OBC population was established as 52 per cent. Since the 1931 caste census, no caste census has taken place. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data, after the 55th Round (1999-2000), started providing information on OBCs among various religious groups. OBC Hindus, according to the NSSO figures, had risen from 38.3 per cent in the 55th Round to 43 per cent in the 61st Round (2004-05). OBCs among Muslims rose from 31.7 per cent in the 55th round to 41.7 per cent by the 61st Round. Furthermore, after eight decades of exponential growth of population in India the OBC population cannot be less than 27 per cent. Sequentially education/training precedes employment. When there is already reservation in jobs why is there opposition to reservations at the level of education and training? In fact reservation in education should have been implemented prior to reservation in jobs. If at all, there should be more opposition to reservation in jobs which is directly related to income and earning rather than to education and training. By reserving 27 per cent seats in educational institutions we are providing equal chance and opportunity to backward castes. By reserving seats for OBCs in educational institutions we would have better educated and trained workforce for future to come.

    Anti-reservationists in their propagation for equality base themselves centrally on the premise that all castes and humans are inherently equal. Therefore caste should not be the criteria for affirmative action. All castes and humans are inherently equal. Well said and is true as well. However, the reality doesn’t seem to be even remotely close to that. The difference between theory and practice is galore. What has been said has not been practised throughout the course of Indian social history. Had that been the case all castes/ social categories should have automatically got equivalent representation. Till date a socio-psychological weight is attached to socialisation in a particular caste and community. The future is uncertain; uncertainty on account of the right of opportunities we give to various sections through means of affirmative action such as reservation. The backward caste communities can free themselves from the shackles of age-old discrimination only through educational or occupational achievements. The backward castes have been denied any attempt to rise socially; thus it is our obligation to ensure social justice and social equality using means of affirmative action.

    Copyright Mainstream Weekly | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0