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SurferSpeak | An open letter to Prez

Our surfers, most of them ex-IITians, question the logic of reservations.

india Updated: May 30, 2006 16:15 IST

Former students of IITs now pursuing higher education in the US, attempt to make the government see reason.

May 30, 2006

To

The President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi - 110 004

Subject: An appeal from Indian students abroad

Dear Sir,

This may be one of many letters you have received about the recent government proposal to increase the reservation quota for OBC students in institutions of higher education. We were students of premier academic institutions in India until recently and cannot but add our voices to the protest against this decision.

We feel that implementing this proposal will cause irreparable damage to our country. In addition to the arguments regarding need and merit which have already been raised by numerous people, we would like to strongly emphasise the following points.

1. The need of the hour is low-cost, high-quality school education for all, in the absence of which reservation seems merely a token gesture. In our experience, students have found it extremely difficult, and on occasion traumatic, to cope with the rigour of the IITs and similar systems if they lack a strong academic foundation. No amount of affirmative action at a late stage can compensate for the absence of formative education, which is sufficiently empowering in itself. If an underprivileged child goes to a good school, she is as capable of securing a seat in the best universities as anyone else. Basic education is our birthright, not reservation.

2. Indians are respected all over the world for our competitive education system which inspires individuals to excel. The contribution of these individuals to global economy and academia and the benefits of the reputation we have thus earned are immense. Selective relaxation of admission standards would destroy this very edge. A competitive system cannot be founded on a basis of preference.

3. Most troublingly, the quotas for reservation are defined by caste-based criteria. Hence, the implementation of the new proposal helps perpetuate the evil that has plagued us through centuries. As students, we never bothered to know what caste or creed our friends belonged to. The current move will make students bitterly conscious of these mindless distinctions. Academic institutions mould society and creating rifts there would only lead to a divided people. Of all possible methods of self-destruction, this is surely the most insidious and irreversible.

4. The Prime Minister has suggested that, as a palliative measure, the number of seats in the affected institutions will be increased. Having studied at these institutions, we strongly believe that increasing seats is not optimal. First, the immense resources needed for this expansion may be far better utilised in improving grassroots education. Second, such an expansion can only be implemented on a long-term basis and is not an immediate solution. Third, this compromises quality for quantity - huge departments reduce the learning opportunities for a student and top universities all over the world typically limit student intakes for this very reason. Finally, increasing seats implies increasing faculty positions, while a relaxation of standards only worsens the chances of finding people to fill those positions, since the primary reward for a teacher is working with motivated students.

We hope we have adequately voiced our grave concerns about the detrimental effects of the proposed move on the future of the nation. We cannot stress strongly enough our fears about these and other possible consequences. As students who enjoyed every moment they spent in college, we strongly urge you to think twice before obliterating what we continue to be proud of.

Yours sincerely,

* Siddhartha Chaudhuri (BTech - IIT Kanpur, now doing PhD at Stanford University)
* Avisek Das (BSc - Jadavpur University, MSc - IIT Kanpur, now doing PhD at Stanford University)
* Dipanjan Das (BTech - IIT Kharagpur, now doing PhD at SUNY Stony Brook)
* Rangakrishnan Srinivasan (BE - BITS Pilani, MS - Texas A&M University, now doing PhD at UCLA)
* Madhur Tulsiani (BTech - IIT Kanpur, now doing PhD at UC Berkeley)

These students are our surfers and can be reached atsidch@cs.stanford.edu.

Disclaimer
All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the surfers and do not necessarily represent those of HindustanTimes.com.

First Published: May 30, 2006 15:28 IST