by Prof. P V Indiresan, Former director, IIT Madras
The move by the group of ministers to impose 49.5% reservation in IITs and IIMs is sad news as much for the backward castes as it is for the institutions concerned.
For decades, reservation has been used as a substitute for genuine development. With this new move, politicians will have one more excuse to neglect the welfare of the communities they claim to support.
If reservation had been the antidote for backwardness, after 50 years or more of its use, it should have become unnecessary. The fact that people want even more of it means that reservation is not a remedy, but an addiction.
Ideally, the solution is to provide good instruction for all from the pre-primary stage itself. If that is deemed impractical, at least after the primary stage, a couple of hundred poor, backward caste children per district should get vouchers to enable them to study in top schools.
Those additional years of good education will empower them to stand on their own feet, to gain admission in prestigious institutions with dignity and not by force.
What the group of ministers has decreed is that no institution should be caste-free, that the meritorious cannot have any rights whatever and they cannot have any place of their own under the Indian sun.
This move turns the idea of morality upside down: Poor children of forward castes are deemed punishable for no reason other than their parentage; rich backward caste children are deemed worthy of patronage for no reason other than that they enjoy overwhelming power.
Those who breathe casteism declare themselves to be secular; those who plead for quality education are condemned as communal. It is indeed a repetition of the story of the wolf and the lamb.
IITs and IIMs that have been free of communal canker all their lives will now become breeding ground for the worst form of casteism.
Just at the time the country is about to take off economically, and take its due place in the world, this move will destroy the institutions that have contributed most for that progress. Their demise is not the true tragedy; that the nation should be forced to kill the goose that lays golden eggs is the real tragedy.
Words will not defeat this blatant misuse of power; action is needed. Right-thinking persons should demonstrate that a good school education for the deprived, and not reservation, is the real remedy. I will give half my pension to do so. I call on others to contribute what they can.