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An Action Plan for Extending a Helping Hand Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by mohini singh, India May 3, 2006
Education , Human Rights   Opinions
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The Indian Government proposes to reserve up to 50 % seats in educational institutions in India for the disadvantaged sections of society. It is proposed that educational institutions like IIT's and IIM's, which have carved out respected names for themselves on the world stage, should admit a certain percentage of students on criteria other than merit. This proposal is aimed at righting the wrongs done for centuries to such disadvantaged sections.

I feel that the proposal needs further discussion and debate because of its far reaching repercussions. I also feel that apart from debating this issue, all of us can contribute our time and effort to making a small difference to at least one such disadvantaged person in any manner that will help that person to cope better with that disadvantage. These contributions need not be cash but by extending a helping hand to that disadvantaged person in the form of time or energy.

At the very outset, let me admit that in principle, I am not opposed to such reservations. It is an undisputed fact that for centuries, certain sections of our society have been placed at an unfair disadvantage due to ancient and outmoded ways of thinking that had a vested interest in denying equal rights to such sections of our society. This fact is well accepted and documented by our history books. In fact, even the anti-reservationists do not seriously deny such facts. Hence, we do owe it to ourselves and to India, to right such widely accepted wrongs and injustices.

But where I feel that we are going astray is not in righting these wrongs of history but in our adoption of the means to rectify these injustices. If the purpose is praiseworthy, so should be the means to achieve that goal. It is here that I take exception with those who are all for hasty action in their misplaced zeal to speed up the process.

Many countries trying to rectify such wrongs. In the USA, for example, Affirmative Action has been in force for quite some time, to achieve the similar goals of helping the disadvantaged sections of society. But this is different from the proposed reservations in Indian educational institutions. In the USA, there are no job or educational quotas as such. But minorities and disadvantaged groups are identified and financial help is extended to such groups. In Malaysia, the government has adopted a mix of such measures as job reservation, human resource development, and financial aid.

I recently read in yesterday’s (May 2,2006) edition of The Business Line that the Finance Minister, Sh.P.C.Chidambaran, has supported the proposed move of reservation in premier educational institutions like the IIT’s and IIM’s by stating that this would not lead to any dilution of quality. He also referred to the educational institutions in South India to support his statement in favour of such quotas.

I also read another article in The Times Of India dated April 28, 2006 by a former World Bank consultant that those people who opposed reservations in educational institutions did not appear to have done their homework because even without such quotas, only 2 Indian IIT’s and one IIM figured in the world class list compiled by Chinese researchers recently,so where was the issue of any possible dilution of quality, as feared by them? He also referred to the widespread corruption in the Indian civil services and sale of seats in educational institutions to support his argument that the system needed fresh inputs and such quotas could fit the bill. In any case, things could only get better and not worse, after such reservations are implemented.

The above paragraphs are only a summary of the pros and cons of the proposal of the Indian government which has already kicked up a storm of emotions and aroused passions all over India. I believe that we need to debate and consider the issue without letting our emotions cloud the issue. I must confess that I too have a vested interest in this matter since educational quotas will make it that much harder for all general category candidates (like me) to get admission in premier institutes like the IIM’s and IIT’s. However, I strongly refuse to let my emotions dictate my mind, and am trying my best to view the issue in proper perspective.

Reservations may appear to be necessary given the undeniable fact of denial of proper opportunity to disadvantaged sections of our society for many centuries. The wrongs done to such sections need to be rectified. We need to discuss and debate this issue before making any hasty decisions. In order to right a wrong, we should not commit another wrong.

I believe it is up to all of us, especially the young people who are most affected by such proposals, to discuss the issue with our heads and not our hearts. Hence, this topic is being thrown open for discussion through the Digital Divide Network on-line community, which I have created through the discussion forum: Each One, Help One. The concept behind this community is to discuss and debate this issue and also to help the disadvantaged sections of our society in a small way by each one of us contributing not money but our time and effort to help at least one disadvantaged person in a small way. For instance, I am personally helping to tutor one such disadvantaged child through school. There are any number of ways of helping out and making a difference in a small way. After all, a journey starts with one small step...

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mohini singh

I like writing articles and involving myself in community activities. For example,I have created an on-line community at DigitalDivide Network so as to channel such activity into socail action. I am also a member of the World Bank sponsored Global Youth Assembly.

yajuwendra Anilsingh Dixit | Aug 28th, 2006
a good article indeed , issue need to be looked on with different looking glasses and here is a real nice effort by the author .

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