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Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Reservation – Kudos to Indian Judiciary

The ganging up of the entire political class against the Supreme Court’s decision on private unaided colleges is symptomatic of the malady of populism that gravely afflicts India’s body-politic.On Tuesday, politicians across political lines in both houses of Parliament railed against the apex court decision that abolishes quotas for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs and STs) in private colleges. Last week, the court had ruled that reservations are not applicable in unaided private professional institutions, whether minority or non-minority. According to Hindustan Times (August 17, 2005), “Rajya Sabha members sought an immediate law to nullify the order; in Lok Sabha, members of various parties expressed concern over the impact of the court’s verdict; in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said her government would not ever hesitate to take over the state’s private engineering and medical colleges in the interest of social justice if the court’s order abolishing quotas not corrected.” So much for politicians’ respect for the judiciary. In a way, the political reaction is not surprising. In a country where Leftist theories and political correctness set the agenda for public debate, such petulance on the part of politicians is understandable. These folks are keen to expand the scope of reservations; they want to bring more communities and classes with the ambit of quotas; they are clamoring for reservations for SCs and STs in the private sector. In fact, it would have been surprising had they gracefully accepted the words of wisdom and caution from the apex court, for its decision was in the spirit of democracy and fairness. Our netas, however, think otherwise. As per the HT report, “Rajya Sabha members of all parties said the judgment went against the spirit of social justice and government must act promptly as admissions were already on. They said after the judgment, only the rich who could pay capitation fees would get admission.” The question is: what is wrong in the rich getting admission in private colleges? After all, it takes money start and run a private college; the entrepreneur who does is it is providing a service; so, why should the government burden him with a responsibility—helping the poor—that is its own? The same argument can be used against the idea of reservations in the private sector. It is also time to check out some of the basic concepts so cherished by our political class; social justice is one of them. Fredrick Hayek’s scholarly critique of social justice is surely beyond the ken of our netas; but they can surely do some empirical study and try to find out how, if at all, this concept has helped the poor. Experience and commonsense tell us that the condition of the poor is pretty bad in the states that are badly infested with social justice; Bihar is a prime example. Punjab, on the other hand, is least afflicted with this bug (though the self-appointed messiah of the poor, Kanshi Ram hails from this state). Yet, Punjab is not only prosperous but also attracts the poor from Bihar. Our politicians need to ponder over why the poor are running away from that social justice paradise. They also need to ponder over why the scope of free education should be expanded without restraints. Enough government money, which is actually taxpayers’ money, is spent on the poor. Those who want to study have enough opportunities to do that; and there have been a large number of examples how government schools and colleges have helped poor students rise in life. Populism and political correctness should not be allowed to ruin the education sector.

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