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System failure

The UPA?s decision to extend reservations for OBCs to centrally funded institutions of higher learning is a triumph of wishful thinking.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 02:19 IST

The UPA’s decision to extend reservations for OBCs to centrally funded institutions of higher learning is a triumph of wishful thinking over reality. The government and its Left allies have simply brushed aside all contrary views with the promise that there will be an increase in the general category seats in the institutions. Simple arithmetic would suggest that we are likely to witness a dilution of the enviably high standards of some of the institutions, if only because they neither have the infrastructure nor teachers to implement the sudden expansion. Considering how so many other laws-- on banning dowry, sex determination, arbitrary imprisonment and torture-- are routinely flouted, it is a bit rich to hear from the government that it was impelled on its course because of the existence of the 93rd amendment of the Constitution.

Coming as the decision does hard on the heels of a statute that has brought the demolition of illegal constructions to a grinding halt in the Delhi, we can only assume that the actual truth is that we are living in an era where political expediency routinely trumps principle. The alacrity with which the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi have moved to undo the court-mandated drive to check illegal construction and misuse of buildings in the city tells its own story. Anyone who has illusions about the intentions of the new legislation should recall the sorry history of the Delhi Rent Control Act of 1995, which was passed by Parliament and approved by the President, but coteries of vested interests-- mainly builders and crooked politicians-- prevented its notification.

The quota goals are a bit more complex, but nonetheless motivated by self-serving aims that are standard and, in some ways, legitimate fare for politicians. Since the UPA insists it is merely applying the law, we can only offer guesses as to its real motivation-- to either protect its already tattered flanks against casteist parties or, somewhat more improbably, to break the latter’s unhealthy hold on the Indian polity. If so, we can only wish them well, though it appears to be more of a case of a tactic desperately seeking to discover its strategy.