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Implicit Quota

Lattars

Centrifugal Tendencies

S
ankaran Krishna’s essay ‘The Bomb, Biography and the Indian Middle Class’ establishes the class hiatus and the enclave spirit within Indian society (June 10, 2006). I have not read Ramanna’s autobiography, but am familiar with Amitav Ghosh’s Hungry Tide. I have no dispute with Sankaran Krishna’s thesis. However, I would wonder about generalisations applicable to the broad sweep of the middle class as popularly understood. With education and economic security some of the poorer classes move into the middle class. Pari passu with the movement from the lower to the middle, there is also the movement from the middle to the upper. Highly successful professionals, businessmen, politicians, art-culture personalities, etc, move upwards to become elite upper classwallahs, to whom, strictly speaking, Sankaran Krishna’s conclusions would apply.

The major issue, in my view, is the preponderance of centrifugal over centripetal tendencies in our society and the failure of our polity to change culture, ethics, morality, health, education, employment, food security et al so as to promote cohesiveness and dynamism. Assuming that Sankaran Krishna has dealt with the elitist upper class, it would be pertinent to know how the other classes and groups behave. Do they cohere in the society, or do they also constitute enclaves?

Nirad Chaudhuri’s Autobiography of an Unknown Indian was a kind of protest against the snobbishness, hypocrisy and unfairness of the governing elites. He fails in terms of Sankaran Krishna’s yardstick. He had to cut himself off from India and seek refuge in the sanctuaries of Oxford. Mahatma Gandhi alone practised what he preached. He mixed with his peers and subordinates without pride or prejudice. His attempt to create an Indian identity collapsed with the partition, and Hindutva emerged. Gandhi’s movement for social justice and equity had a more lasting effect. While not a follower of Gandhian economics, his humility, simplicity, lack of ostentatiousness, and uninhibited social mobility, all left an impression on me.

My identification as an Indian and not with my language or caste cut no ice with the establishment. My claim as a Delhiwallah was rejected and I was labelled as belonging to Madras presidency, no matter I did not know the place. The cohesive southern brahmin bureaucracy in the government did not recognise me since I did not claim to belong to them. My closeness to subordinates and their always standing by me alienated my peers and superiors. Nevertheless I succeeded by fighting my way. In the end one realises the futility of the struggle for an Indian identity when the whole system is based on caste/language/group identity. Without the niche, one could be abandoned as rootless. Studies of biographies of individuals belonging to different social and economic groups could throw more light on the issues raised here. However and regardless, a moral rearmament movement is imperative to tackle the issues raised.

S NANJUNDAN

New Delhi

Implicit Quota

I
was a member of the admissions committee for two years at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) during my tenure

(Continued on p 3124)

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Economic and Political Weekly July 8-15, 2006

Lattars

(Continued from p 2950)

there from 1977 to 1983. At least during those years, in the name of diversity and support to specific programmes such as agricultural management, IIMA had introduced an implicit quota in the admissions process. If the process were left entirely to the scores in the common admission test (CAT), perhaps most of the seats would have gone to the engineering students from the Indian Institutes of Technology. That would have left out students from other disciplines and skills, such as accounting, economics, production, such as farming, etc. The IIMA had explicitly agreed to not to take more than a certain percentage of engineers.

This should provide us a helpful perspective in the current debate about quotas in the IIMs. Most of the OBCs belong to the artisan caste (including many engaged in farming) and are perhaps more familiar with productionrelated skills than those from the upper castes. I am sure that the difference in the scores on the CAT between the top-level upper caste and OBC applicants is not more than 15 per cent. Therefore, the quality issue may be irrelevant.

The production skills acquired by OBCs through generations are critical in any industry and if we target such people for admissions it will not only help the social goal of uplifting them but it will also enrich the IIMs. There are several examples supporting what I am saying, but the best one is presented in the movie Swadesh. If this requires changing the curriculum of the IIMs, we should do so, just the way we had changed it to include case studies in the management of agriculture and the public sector.

CHANDRASHEKHAR G RANADE

Virginia, USA.

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