Friday, May 03, 2013

Caste based Reservations - affirmative action

I firmly believe in equality and offering help to underserved communities to improve. I can relate to simple example in setting of school. My friend was not able to understand geometry concept in class VIII. He was finding it tough to visualize on how to start solving a problem. He didn’t have access to guides or books other than text book. He needed extra guidance and someone to explain him concepts at his pace. He didn’t ask for extra marks or grace since he cannot buy extra books. He was poor but not begging for marks or grades. I helped him by explaining the approaches to start solving the problem. Note that I am saying approach and not solve questions for him. He turned out to do good and become an engineer later in life. He being poor didn’t demand quota to pass class VIII. He needed support.
Reading article today in economists (link) about affirmative action made me realize that caste based, color based quota is prevalent in many countries. Every country is seeing failure of the system but in not ready to make amends. South Africa, Malaysia, US, India are referred in the article. In US the new information for me was that reservations are ethnicity based and depend on university to university. In name of diversity companies are forced to appoint someone in C-suite roles who may not be fit based on capability. Imagine if I put a person to run operations of a company just because he is from particular ethnicity. If he not capable of managing the team or running the company, he will fail along with the company. Failed companies, failed economies and failed country – this is where the non-skill, caste based reservation will lead us to.
Caste based reservations which in euphemism way can be called affirmative action, in my mind, doesn’t solve the problem. If I start offering lunch and dinner to a beggar, will it improve his condition? Yes in short term he will get two meals a day. He will not try to earn his living and will continue to live on charity. He will have stomach full and nothing to do and so will be idle mind waiting to be wasted. He may end up getting pulled into unsocial activities and become menace to society. If on other hand he is asked to do some work and then earn the food, he will make contribution to economy and try to make his life better.
In competitive world, competition should always be fair. The under privileged may be offered help to prepare for competition. The offerings should begin from childhood. In school give the under privileged text books and may be after school coaching at community expense (through government funding but that’s really community money). For graduate courses if the selection is based on entrance, then let under-privileged get extra coaching again at community expense for preparing for entrance. Does anyone think every person can have same brain power or muscle power? If I am average in studies and made to join a class of over-achievers, I will develop insecurity and that will be a seed to ruin the life. If I show that I am in same category as over-achievers than I can survive in the class, no matter what my caste, religion or economic status is.
Are government offices efficient? No one not even government can claim that they run efficiently. Imagine a person who nearly failed in accounts, cannot understand assets and liabilities and is made to join government accounting department. I am pretty sure he will not be happy with the work and will spoil the office image. He may be happy to get perks for doing nothing but then in economic terms, its wastage of resource. It will be like feeding an elephant that is of no use to us.
If you give food to a man, you feed him once, if you teach him to earn food, you feed him for lifetime. Why can’t politicians whom we elect understand this? Are we electing the right people?

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