Friday, April 07, 2006

Reservations: Is Merit Being Compromised

Is merit being compromised
Sudhir P Badami
Civil & Structural Consulting Engineer, from IIT Bombay, A Concerned Citizen working actively for Solutions to Urban Challenges such as Transportation, Noise, Disaster Mitigation and Social Harmony
7 April 2006
Gilbert Buildings, 1 Babulnath 2nd Cross Lane Mumbai 400 007 India
badami 98 216 85072

When the Minister of Human Resource Development issues a statement raising the reservation quota of SC, ST and OBCs to 49.5 % from 22.5% in all Central Government educational institutions, including IITs and IIMs, is he compromising merit?

Let us examine the mode of admissions to these centres of excellence. As regard IITs, there is the most competitive Joint Entrance Examination for the under-graduate level entry. This year about 3,50,000 aspirants are reported to be appearing for the JEE this week. This is between 50 to 75% more over the figure of about 2,00,000 appearing in the JEE in the past few years. It is a direct fall out of the syllabus being made on par with 12th standard all India. There have been more students feeling confident enough to compete, many of whom I am sure, would not be attending preparatory coaching classes.

With all the preparation for the entrance examination, let it not be forgotten that it is like a one day cricket match. There is always some one doing better than you on a particular day and we are talking of a quarter of marks which can shift your rank significantly. If you are lucky that day, you might be one of the 3,500 (1 % of 3,50,000) getting the admission call. If you look at the statistics, top 10% (35,000) of 3,50,000 are almost on par, but only 1% (3,500) get admitted to IITs.

Now let us examine the number of SC, ST and OBC (in short the reservation category) candidates. It would not be wrong to expect about 2% (7,000) of students belonging to the reservation category, falling within the 10% (35,000) bright students segment? Some may be within the top 3500 but generally most would be in the lower segment of 10% bright students because of various sociological reasons. Since we do know that by and large the top 10% aspirants are on par in their capabilities and the JEE is like an ODI, it is quite in order if the constitutionally stipulated limit of 50% is met with. There will be no compromise on the standard of students selected.

Now look at the effect. These bright students joining IITs. They go further to either do research or MBA or enter job market. Whichever line they pursue, the brand IIT gets them into position of responsibility and the IIT culture of meeting challenges gets them going. The very reason of IITs been made residential schools is to not let any student get entangled with domestic and other sociological problems during the academic terms. Situations such as these enable emergence of Babasaheb Ambedkars, Narendra Jadhavs and B L Mungekars.

I am sure similar logic holds for IIMs and other centres of excellence. There is no need for students to feel deprived of opportunities if competent bright students get the best education and through such reservation, also correct the sociological aberrations our society has been suffering from over millennia.


At 12:37 AM, Blogger aditya said...

i think i will not agree with you . as you have said nearly 25(7000) students will be there in the top 10% .so where is the need for reservation for them . let them be dependent on there on own merit, why give them an edge over the others in a so called one day match

At 2:45 AM, Blogger Sudhir Badami said...

How would you like picking by lots (random numbers)from the top 10% of aspirants to IITs appearing in the JEE? OR have a series of three tests spread over three weeks and take (a) the best score to form the merit list or (b) take aggregate score to form the merit list.

The premise is of course that top 10% are on par in terms of merit.

Since sociologically the SC, ST OBC are disadvantaged, if they do not come within the 3,500 seats available, the reservation criteria, or shall I say Law, comes in force.

One may call it politically motivated initiative, but then in a democracy the transformation takes place through legislation and the legislators are elected representatives of people.

Important point is by adhereing to the manner of admitting mentioned in the original blog, are we compromising merit and I would say no.

At 3:01 AM, Blogger Varun Singh said...

Sir, I don't think you've seen the performance records for the students coming through SC/ST quota in IITs. Most of the struggle to complete the credit points required to get a degree, many have to leave with out a degree. They are no way at par with the rest of the class. Now, if half of the class is to be filled with people coming from the back door entry, wouldn't that affect the outcome too?

Moreover, the reason behind this is the collapsed primary & secondary education system in the rural India. If the ministry wants to really give education a chance, it has to be done from the grass roots level. If they would strengthen the primary & secondary schooling structure, it would automatically make rural students more competent. As of now, majority of student in IITs are from a urban, middle-class background.

By this reservation, worst hit will be the brand names, IIT & IIM. I believe these names are as good as the students they produce every year. Now if half of the class is going to be sub-standard, isn't it going to dilute the brand name also?

Its sad that you can't see the petty vote bank politics behind all this bill. If at all reservation should be there, it should be given at the basis of economical status & not on the caste/tribe. I've seen many examples where rich people from SC/ST enjoy the benefits (at the cost of some deserving candidates).

Government has to get its priorities right. At one hand, they are saying they need more quality engineers/managers and thus going to open more IITs/IIMs. And on the other hand they are reducing the output of "quality" students by 50%!

Please find my views here -

At 5:54 AM, Blogger kashyap said...

Through mathmetical calculations is trying to prove the case in govt's favour. For e.g., you says
"It would not be wrong to expect about 2% (7,000) of students belonging to the reservation category, falling within the 10% (35,000) bright students segment? Some may be within the top 3500 but generally most would be in the lower segment of 10% bright students because of various sociological reasons."

Now how can "sociological reasons" stop someone from getting merit? I will agree with him if the "sociological reasons" are related to poor econimic situation as such people cant afford coaching classes or good books to prepare for entrance exams. How can otherwise, there be reasons for not performing when all have the same mind? Isnt this double standards?
Also if you are saying reservation is fine, why can't someone fight for the seats that go wasted from the reserved quota as they are not filled up? Should not these be given to open merit students? Read today's article on Daily pioneer ""
By classifying the students are reserved/backward class and "merit" class, you are differentiating between students on the basis of caste. Thi is not what is expected from gurus.

At 12:31 AM, Blogger t)mind said...

By this reservation, worst hit will be the brand names, IIT & IIM

I dont agree with that statement.
One Senior HR Manager has bluntly asserted that while there is a significant different in interview performance of both general category & reserved category graduates. They do NOT practice
any kind of discrimination (as believed by many ambedkar wallahs).
Infact every organisation is struggling to attract & retain good talent. The very survival & growth of business organisations depends on them.


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