In the July 2009 Pragati, you can find my article on the politics of reservations.
Whenever supporters of reservations have to make the case for extending reservations for another 10 years, they are faced with a dilemma. If they admit that reservations have achieved their goal, then why do they want them extended? And if they admit that they have not achieved their goal, then why are they persisting with a failed policy for over 60 years? The generally accepted solution to this is to claim that reservations have had some effect, and the policy would be even more effective if it had been properly implemented, and for that they need to extend reservations in time and scope. This is what I meant when I compared reservations to Yossarian’s liver in Catch-22 – if doctors can confirm that it is a disease, they would have to treat it. If they pronounce him cured, they would have to discharge him. Because the problem was invariably in between, Yossarian could stay indefinitely in hospital.
Here, I would like to respond to some points that were made by Anubhav Agarwal, who made these points as twitter replies. The points here have been edited for readability:
- Won’t it be an ambitious generalization to assume no trickle down effect inspite of caste fragmentation?
- Also, how many of the target castes would be able to afford private education?
- On reservations in the private sector, please have a look at this article
- One last point: Doesn’t the failure of reservations include failure of many other policies?
I never said that there has been no trickle down effect. I said that when you consider the enormous costs. The biggest cost is that reservations provide an incentive for politicians to take control of resources so that they can ration them out. If education were cheap or if jobs were freely available, why would Mayawati’s voters see her as the saviour? So, she has an incentive to pursue policies that restricts opportunities available to the poor, so that she can be seen as fighting to bring those opportunities to them.
James Tooley has done research on this topic in Hyderabad. He has found that even the poorest parents send their children to unrecognized private schools in preference to government schools, even when they are available. He has also measured outcomes and found that children who go to these schools did better in terms of actual outcomes (as in learning of the three Rs, etc.) than those who went to government schools did. Private education is expensive only because the government imposes so many regulations on them that they are unable to function legally. Unrecognized private schools are filling this gap and providing cheap and good education to the poor. Fortunately, our government has swung into action with the “Right to Education Bill”, which will enable them to close down those private schools.
I will, but the biggest beneficiaries of reservations in the private sector will not be the scheduled or backward castes. It will be the labour inspectors who will now have even greater opportunity to inspect employment records, collect bribes and make life hell for the companies. The additional costs imposed will make it even more difficult for private companies to operate, resulting in even fewer employment opportunities, thus achieving Mayawati’s dream.
Yes indeed, see above.