22-May-2006

Merit

Count on The Hindu to sober things down a bit:
... if we understand merit as sheer innate ability, it is difficult to explain why it should seem to be an upper caste monopoly. Whatever people may believe privately, it is now beyond doubt that arguments for the genetic or natural inferiority of social groups are unacceptable. If so, how is it that, roughly speaking, one quarter of our population supplies three quarters of our elite professionals? The explanation has to lie in the social mechanisms through which innate ability is translated into certifiable skill and encashable competence. This points to intended or unintended systemic exclusions in the educational system, and to inequalities in the background resources that education presupposes.

It is their confidence in having monopolised the educational system and its prerequisites that sustains the upper caste demand to consider only merit and not caste. If educational opportunities were truly equalised, the upper castes' share in professional education would be roughly in proportion to their population share, that is, between one fourth and one third. This would not only be roughly one third of their present strength in higher education; it would also be much less than the 50 per cent share they are assured of even after implementation of OBC reservations!

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