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Backwardness bogey

The political class is merely trying to hide its failure to provide quality education, says P Radhakrishnan.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2007 14:38 IST

It was quite interesting to see the u-turn which analyst Yogendra Yadav of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) has taken (“Grab the chance”, Outlook, India, April 11, 2007) in his approach to the OBC issue.

From his (and that of his friend Satish Deshpande’s) arrogant posture that the OBCs should benefit from reservation policy to a willingness to see reason in the light of the interim order of the Supreme Court, speaks volumes about the hypocrisy and double speak of sections of the Indian academia. They behave as if they are the last word on the OBCs and reservation issue or whatever animal they described this sub group of the Indian caste system.

Having gone through their much touted “deprivation index” (planted in practically every avail

able space in the media), one must add it make no sense at all.

The ignorance of both these pseudo intellectuals who, at the same time, thrive on the ignorance of the masses, the anchors of the TV channels, and other sections of the media, about Indian social reality is deplorable.

In his write-up mentioned above, Yadav has betrayed his ignorance of dwijas. My understanding of them is that they are seen as twice born, namely those who traditionally had the thread-wearing (initiation) right. Only brahmins, kshatriyas and vaisyas had this right. The castes like the Reddys and Nairs were thought to be sudras. However, each of these castes has an in-built hierarchy, so much so, there are different groups of Reddys, Nairs and comparable castes with disparate socio-economic status.

Most of them, other than probably their lower rungs, are not OBCs and in OBC lists.

Yadav has harped on the NSS and CSDS data on OBCs. But when there is no legal or sociological definition, how could these much-glorified sample-peddling agencies materialise into a definition?

Yadav's suggestion to have a committee like Sachar Committee is inane. It dealt with a sociologically identifiable group. But the OBCs are a heterogeneous ensemble. As they now live in a highly politically charged atmosphere in the context of backwardness and reservations, any information collected about them will be distorted and inflated.

In fact, the NDA government at the centre proposed a caste-enumeration as part of the 2001 Census keeping in view the likely use of the data for OBC reservations. There is a huge danger on collecting data based on caste.

The nation has had considerable discussion on the criteria for identifying OBCs in the context of the Mandal Commission. The sociologists associated with the commission resigned in disgust. There was considerable debate on the criteria in the Mandal case, but the judiciary could not settle the matter.

But Mandal was job reservation. The present controversy is about reservation in admission to educational institutions. Neither the Constituent Assembly nor the Constitution made provisions for educational reservation, though reservation exists. This is the crux of the problem, which the judiciary has to grapple with.

Job reservation is qualitatively different from educational reservation. In a democracy every citizen has a right to get proper and adequate education.

The state's dismal and culpable failure for six decades to ensure this by fostering the education system from primary to tertiary levels to meet the demands of the rising generation cannot be a reason to prop up the backwardness bogey.

So what the judiciary should do is direct the state to make a comprehensive assessment of the educational needs of the country, to create institutions at all levels and develop the existing institutions, all within a stipulated period, to provide financial and other skill-developing support to the needy, and bid adieu to the whole political controversy of backwardness, which will otherwise continue to spread like gangrene.

The real problem plaguing the nation is not one of OBC reservation in education, but of governance.

Dr P Radhakrishnan is Professor in Sociology, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. He can be contacted at

All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the surfer and do not necessarily represent those of

First Published: Apr 27, 2007 09:36 IST