Dividing India

Surendra Kaushik is a professor of finance at Pace University in New York. His article Do Not Reinforce Two Indias is worth a read. For the record:

The most damaging thing India is currently doing to stay poor and divided instead of realizing its great potential of being a superpower is its politics of creating a new caste system and enshrining it in its constitution. . .

Unfortunately, the current government in Delhi is trying to enshrine a caste-based quota system in the educational system of India where your categorization based on the caste you were born into in pre-Independent India will give you a certain quota in higher education. This is in addition to existing job quotas based on similar considerations, different standards of your qualifications and performance in tests as well as your current economic status. In other words, an attempt to bring about forced equality of result instantly.

It may be called creation of a new Soviet-type system of equal distribution based on your caste. One cannot imagine a worse selection of historically failed ideas and social and political systems based on them. This is something India should do without if it wants to be a powerhouse economy and a great society in the future. Equal opportunity in building human capital is what is needed, not forced equality of result through discriminatory quota systems for various castes and religions that would inflict much harm to the future of India.

A much better and positive alternative is to create educational opportunities for all regardless of caste and history. An educational system that gives a full range of choices where equality of opportunity in a merit-based system leads to realization of one’s potential. That is the vision of the future India deserves and not a divide-and-rule caste-based potential to break up India.

Pretty close to what I hold dear: equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Categories: Corruption, Education

24 replies

  1. all said and done. I think the reservations are social experiment( may be bad experiment). A study in real scientific rigour should make our opinion.

    It will be interesting if there is a study of this for a thesis or a good magazine article.


  2. its no accident that these calls denouncing caste based reservations come predominantly from upper caste people. although i am not a dalit, however, i support reservations wholeheartedly.

    opponents routinely postulate that reservation would bring down standards. they NEVER give any data/quote a known study to prove this theory of theirs. They have none.

    Prof kaushik should know that American universities have had quotas based on race for decades now and it is widely credited with reducing societal disparities significantly.Indeed some of the best known universities in the world are known to fiercely protect affirmative action based on race and background. Its possible that even Kaushik got through a US university purely based on the fact that he came from India (and hence preferred to bring in diversity of background).
    Kaushik and many thousand Indian students would , however, have no qualms accepting this quota ! : )

    a SC/ST doctor said very aptly in a television interview-” we doubtless get admitted to the medical course based on resevrations, but surely there are no reservations to pass our exams. How come thousands of doctors are successfully practising if they have not been properly trained”?

    Unfortunately, most upper castes are city slickers who have no notion of what kind of disadvantages dalits go through. So they can afford to be glib when they talk in the Milton Friedman way, juxtaposed within the context of edducation.It fits in with their
    market view of the world, which has no or little room for the disadvantaged.


  3. In regards to sarags comment on American
    Affirmative action.
    It has shown to be a failure.
    Hell most blacks in US universities are non americans(or born to non americans)
    You see more African,Jamaican,Haitian blacks taking advantage of it.
    not the orginal intention of those who wanted to help american blacks
    Read works of Thomas Sowell on this matter


  4. Guru, I am sure there would be other studies which show the initiatives to be a success. Blacks for one would definitely regard it as one!So success or failure would depend on who’s measuring it and what and how are they measuring.

    But that aside, my question on how upper caste Indians accept quota based admission in US universities, when they are so violently against the same here in India, still begs an answer.

    I guess they feel dis-advantaged coming from India, and so it would be ok to accept this. Of course, the same benefit cannot be given to dalits.

    My whole point is, if you are to apply Friedmans theories – of course it would seem nonsensical. But running a country is not only a analytical matter of economics applied to education. It is also about relieving injustice to the have nots and in doing so you might have to dis regard some cons of the system- although as i said, no one has yet proved authoritatively in India, how reservations have impacted quality. All evidence produced is anecdotal and biased.


  5. Sarang,
    From your two comments above:
    > my question on how upper caste Indians accept quota based admission in US universities, when they are so violently against the same here in India, still begs an answer.

    Firstly, Affirmative action(AA) is NOT a quota system. Numeric quotas are explicitly ruled out in the US. Secondly, the AA system is voluntary. Thirdly, the AA system is not about caste/class. AA guidelines do not specify which ‘castes’ can or cannot benefit. Fourth ,”upper caste” Indians in the USA have no locus standi in supporting or oppossing AA in the USA. They are Indians. Not Americans who should be the ones deciding about their country.

    >> they NEVER give any data/quote a known study to prove this theory of theirs. They have none.

    Pot calling the kettle black. For starters, may i ask on what data was the figure of 27% reservations decided upon?

    > possible that even Kaushik got through a US university purely based on the fact that he came from India (and hence preferred to bring in diversity of background).

    You mean you’re just ‘guessing’. Please! Admmissions in the US don’t work like this!
    Incidentally, you don’t need Indians to bring in diversity in an American university. Universities are flooded with Indians. Especially the graduate programs. Top departments run on the strength of their international students – Indians and Chinese. It’s the Americans who get left out here!

    Another reality check – most Indian students who come to the US do so after taking HUGE loans and face a very difficult life here. This is especially true of undergraduate and Masters-level education where funding is hard to come by.

    >Of course, the same benefit cannot be given to dalits.
    You seem to keep referring to ‘dalits’. Reservations have two aspects – the dalit aspect and the OBC aspect. Separate. Should not club the two.

    > most upper castes are city slickers who have no notion of what kind of disadvantages dalits go through.

    So, in other words, more than 50% of the upper castes live in cities. Is that it? You seem to have this notion that ‘upper castes’ are these rich folk. What is this based on? You need to go to TN, see the living standards of an average Chettiar businessman (kids benefitting from reservations) and compare that to a brahmin priest eking out a daly-wage kind of livelihood (kids don’t benefit from reservations).


  6. Sarang,

    I think you answered your own poser:
    “its no accident that these calls denouncing caste based reservations come predominantly from upper caste people.”

    and in your next comment you say:
    “my question on how upper caste Indians accept quota based admission in US universities, when they are so violently against the same here in India, still begs an answer.”

    Why on earth will a person whose community is entitled to reservations, oppose them? What could be the motivation?


  7. Ahh… thanks for the link, Atanu: a nice read. What do you think can lead to a realisation of this mistake (besides 50 more years of deepening rifts leading to final doom) ?


  8. Sarang,

    1. Actually affirmative action (it is not quota as others have pointed before me)in US univ works against “Upper caste” Indians.

    2. You ask for data, when someone gives the data you dismiss it, be brave just admit you dont care for data.

    3. Actually its for you to prove with data that reservations work, why do we need them even after 60 years.

    4. By the way, upper caste protests because they are being discriminated against, what do you want them to do, bend over and grease up ??


  9. i understand AA is not like a quota and does not specify castes. But the objective is the same. AA does not benefit whites! It is understood it is meant for blacks, hispanics and so on. The fact that they have not decided %’s is neither here nor there. Informally all universities have targets on how much diversity they want and they stick to it, year after year and proudly advertise that they do. So the fact that we have defined quotas is good NOT bad.

    You can keep arguing basis of quotasand other details and i can join you. But the bigger picture is more important and no ones contested that!

    This bigger picture is that quotas HAVE existed in the usa for decade and us universities have not sufferred for it.So if upper caste indians feel stds will sufffer, dont go to usa in droves to study !

    Dont forget: ALL representatives in parliament have UNANIMOUSLY passed quota bills, since THEY know who is the majority-its the disadvantaged and NOT upper caste city slickers , like you and me. So if you have a problem with quotas, you would need to abolish and defeat ALL parties, something you can scarcely do. Or better still, migrate to the USA, where again, you wont be able to escape them : )


  10. Reservations are equivalent to subsidies or concessions business houses in India such as Infosys,TCS,Wipro etc avail from government in corporate taxes, real estate, customs duties, sales taxes, land registration charges, electricity and water charges and in environmental pollution.

    We should note that India’s Bollywood has not produced a film that could win a oscar award till date.

    We all know how pathetic India’s performance is in olympic games.

    India’s software industry has not created a world-class product till date.

    You should note that none of these fields have reservations.


  11. Sarang
    as an American of Indian origin whose my anecdotal evidence so far is that most Indian Americans don’t want any race/caste based quota….
    This could have been effected by my choice of libertarian Friedman loving friends, except I didn’t make that choice All of my friends are libertarian free sex vegan food enjoying types…


  12. guru, if most of them dont want the quota, i guess indian/americans shoudnt take the benefit of it. But they do, right? Well I guess they are forced into it, by some unseen force. Just like Upper caste Indians who oppose quotas NOT because of concern of standards and such like- but because it affects their selfish interests. So they expect their maid servants child and their child to compete in the same race!
    Its all entertaining but hardly convincing.


  13. Sarang
    I dont know what you are talking about.
    There is no quota for indian americans in US.
    And Most people’s Self interest is in maintaing good standard.
    If i attended a university which had good reputation, it is in my self interest that university allways has good reputation.
    This means that if in future they drop their standards in admission and start admitting students of low caliber….
    Eventualy it would hurt my career too as i would be associated with them.
    In us any one can attend community college
    but who in his right mind in a competitive environment want that honor….
    Most of the dumb idiots from my highschool who had no gumption attended community college before dropping out.
    I have never met an unmotivated stanford undergrad in my life.
    Those are 2 extreemes.
    regarding maid services child competing
    in the same race.
    Hell no.
    The honest truth is that that child unless he has had a solid primary foundation cant compete with anyone who will be pursuing a a degree by the time he gets in the highschool age.
    It is unfair to destroy university and its reputation by letting unqualified entrants.
    Why should you suffer tommorow when your doctor was not the best candidate but some one who wasnt even qualified to enter medical school….
    And that is what happens when you dont look at merit.
    A better approach is to improve primary education accross for every one especialy the maids children.
    This way by the time they are in highschool they wont be as far behind.
    They still would be but thats another matter.
    they would be behind, Cause of many social factors. My maid in india had her 1st child when she was 15.
    How is her kid supposed to have an intelligent conversation with her about anything.
    The parents themselves dont know much…
    So they cant compete with kids who are born in a more intellectualy stimulating environment, where they see there dad reading newspaper and understanding global issues, or where the parents take interest in seing child solve problems of abstract nature which the maid herself cant solve…
    And to suggest that because of this difference we should allow some of the maid’s children to be doctors even when they would be incompetent is lunacy.


  14. Sarang,

    Frankly speaking, are you a bloody idiot ?


  15. guru, even today we have reservation in medical schools. hundreds of students are admitted to medical school on reservations. The maids kid might get IN due to reservation, but the EXAMS are the same. They receivee NO special consideration there. In anything, they get hell from the upper caste faculty, who harrass them no end in the orals (i know this first hand from my many doctor friends- who incidentally, many of whom are upper caste).So there is no question of incompetency and patients/ or any other professional service suffering due to reservations!


  16. “They receivee NO special consideration there”..the assumptions being.. A) Maid is a lowercaste B) All uppercastes are economically superior than the maid

    During all these discussions this guy has never furnished, forget about a logic even a single data. Only some idiotic assupmtions of his own. Whenever someone confronted him with data he diverted to some more idiotic ramblings. Look at his way of argumets: “I am sure there would be other studies which show the initiatives to be a success”, and he never cites a single one.

    This sarang guy is one of the two most stupid persson I came across in the internet ( the other being a poster in BW forum).


  17. Sarang
    you have a bad case of cognitive dissonance.
    There is a serious case of incompetency for indian professionals.
    I know of atleast 2 universities which were 2nd tier when i was in india and are now in gutters.
    The reasons had to do with the caliber of students and teachers both due to the fantastic work by the meritless.

    regarding exams being the same, yeah what about it?
    The entrance exam is essentialy not the same. there are those who are getting in.
    When i was in school there was a divison system in india, and the 1st divison was a dubious honor at 60%….what that meant was barely passed.
    Now if you are saying that a person who barely passed is just as good
    next time when your company needs employees or you need medical care or any professional services..I suggest you see a saibaba follower who also
    graduated at the bottom of his class regardless of his admissions background for you arent going to look for merit.


  18. Hey folks
    what about the idea that India since its a sports disadvantage country gets some extra boost in the Olympics.
    The US and now china just have too many medals,
    The Olympics should be designed such that in some competition say 30% US and China should not be allowed to and India and Bangladesh should be allowed.
    This way the overall medal distribution will be more equitable.
    And of course we can later argue that they were all running in the same race(without looking who were not let in).


  19. >> The maids kid might get IN due to reservation, but the EXAMS are the same. >>

    No the maids kid has little chance, because there is no handicap provided to her economic situation. In fact, stories of kids of lorry drivers, maids, brick workers making it to professional colleges are so rare that they make the local papers. The quota system is simply not for them.

    Since OBCs are not classified based on economic criteria. The kids of the house where the maid works will steam roller the maids kids in the exams.

    You are making the cardinal error of confusing poverty with classification as OBC.


  20. A person who passes is allowed to serve in that profession regardless of his back ground. That logic works even for upper class people. Isnt a brahmin who has just passed allowed to practice? Then why single out back ward castes?Strange logic! There must be hundreds of thousands of upper castes who were mediocre in studies but successfuly serving in their profession!

    What about upper class elites, who have the money (mostly upper class, since predominantly , backward caste people are also economically backward- and btw, thats why the analogy to the ‘maid’ above- i fully understand that maids can be from upper class , as well!) who resort to capitation fees and get through these courses by paying money? isnt this reservation by another name? no body talks about this downgrading stds though! strange.

    I note that nobody has still answered me as to how the U.S universities have not strangely suffered even though they have been ‘reserving’ (psoitive affirmation) for blacks and other minorities since 60’s-70’s. This is the same place where Indian upper classes run to get educated. Wonder why dont protest against the USA govt. for decline in stds due to admission of blacks in those universities! : )


  21. When i was in school in india ~10% of class was due to reservation and that group had had the most dropouts in my 2nd tier university. (REC if u care)
    I know that they werent prepared to handle the material even if they were passionate about it.
    there were 3 kinds of droupouts
    at that time one’s who couldnt handle the material/ They did often invent all kind of reasons …a good deal of them did become political activist, but i know the reality was they were grasping for whatever, 2nd type which honestly recognized their limitation and the systems.
    have you seen a 40 year old going back to finish their degrees in india…
    they realized that they couldnt learn
    at there pace in india and gave up.
    (these people were most wronged in my not so humble opinion for if they were allowed to work at their own pace they probably would have wrapped a 5 year degree in 7 years…)
    the third group were girls who got married(no they didnt meet any one they liked) their families freaked out cause the girl was all alone in a male dominated place.
    If qualified folks were let in dropouts would be fewer.
    Since education is not charged appropriately in india, its a bad system.

    And what are you talking about indian americans not protesting agaisnt AA in US?
    Yes they are in minority, but most indian americans have been ignoring politics
    but there have been a alot of indian americans against quotas(dinesh d’souza comes to mind…I disagree with him but mostly cause he’s a dumbass who knows that his audience is buffoons) but plenty of smarter folks like jagdish bhagwati are against it too.
    PS it includes Somewhat lefties like christopher hitchens too(some one who favors giving free access to education to those who qualify, universal healthcare)
    he is characterized as a bit of a warmonger these days but thats just anti americanism

    Returning to your point….There simply isnt any basis in reality why the government of india should not spend more money in primary education and let competition decide who goes to university.
    I mean india would be better off if it established analogs of us private Universities like stanfords,mit.
    I have seen indian blowhards prop up iit’s and what not but its no where close,
    hell droupouts in us have accomplished more
    since the days of edison.
    There is something to be noticed
    its not about one thing in particular but the whole….
    Any ways make your judgements
    I dont live in india, dont plan to come back there for more than a week till 2047 when i will retire and see what i can do (Depends on how much money i have then).


  22. Well Sarang I only share my name with you,
    not your thought pattern

    But what kind of logic is isnt a brahmin who passed allowed to practice….
    practice what?

    The point was that people with low marks are let in colleges where they get low marks again and they are the ones who demand that they still be given jobs.

    A hypothetical brahmin with low marks wont be given any preference in government sector jobs while a low marks graduate from
    a scheduled caste will be.

    It is also very interesting that you did not consider facts like poverty at all.
    Brahmins including some of my ancestors were cooks who made a marginal living.

    Where is the merit there?
    Let people with high marks come in
    Select those with high marks.
    If google starts hiring african americans who passed colleges without regard to their marks, rankings and other skills they wouldnt be able to go anywhere.
    Should John Hopkins or harvard medical school accept those with low marks in graduate programs?
    India does not have good quality teaching because its a highly politicised system.

    The good ones were simply good students who learned despite the system and ran away to US/Europe/or even shitty singapore.
    The brain drain is a real problem, but the reason simply is put the brain to use doing what.
    I went to IIT…The only reason i was able to get in was because my parents cared,
    I wasnt malnourished, and I was driven.
    I wasnt tought anything great anywhere by any teacher. Mostly my parents made sure that an early age i became adept at taking tests quite efficiently.
    When i look at the level of comprehension at most undergrads at John Hopkins where i studied in US I find that they were better prepared for challenges of real life.

    The solution is not reservation, but uplifment of primary education.

    In the long run that is a bigger challenge india faces.

    IIT is blown out of proportion.
    So is the whole indian professional scene.
    it hasnt had any great innovation.

    add to that the over reliance on government in every facet of life including education.

    India should simply get out of licensing schools and university and let the schools
    and universities themselves decide what should be taught and who should be educated.

    There are enough market forces here to ensure that both high quality medium quality and also poor quality schools will come into existence.

    even the poor quality will be better than todays poor quality

    There can be a government subsidized loans for all candidates.


  23. Sarang said:

    “But that aside, my question on how upper caste Indians accept quota based admission in US universities, when they are so violently against the same here in India, still begs an answer.

    I guess they feel dis-advantaged coming from India, and so it would be ok to accept this. Of course, the same benefit cannot be given to dalits.”

    Sarang, it looks like you never cared to find out how admissions to US universities work out. The diversity factor that you mentioned actually works against Indians since there are so many qualified Indians applying for so few spots. Upper caste Indians that came to the US were at the receiving end of caste based discrimination back in India and a diversity based discrimination in the US. They have not entered the US system because of any preferential quota but in spite of an AA that works against them. Just as they are doing the same in India not because of any preferential quota offered to them but inspite of a system that works against them.



  1. India » Blog Archive » Bush signs nuclear deal with India while nuclear North Korea looks …
%d bloggers like this: