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Reservation maths PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 April 2006 00:00
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The Election Commission may have put the government on the back foot with regard to the proposal to reserve up to 27 per cent of seats in schools and colleges for members of the “other backward classes” (over and above the 22.5 per cent already reserved for scheduled castes and tribes), but it is only a matter of time before the proposal gets implemented. The Prime Minister hinted at this in his comments on media coverage of issues, at an awards function last week. Also, unlike the Women’s Reservation Bill, which every party claims to favour but actually opposes, this Bill will have the support of all parties because no one wants to turn away the OBC vote. Nevertheless, there are some statistics that the reservationists would do well to keep in mind. One interesting number, reported in The Pioneer, is the sharp increase in applications received by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, for setting up minority educational institutions. Against a total of 380 received in all of 2005, the number has already reached 1,600 in less than four months this year. One reason for this surge could well be that minority educational institutions are exempt from the application of quotas. Would the proposed reservations lead to an unintended consequence, namely a sudden expansion of minority-run institutions?
 
Those trying to restructure education in the country would also do well to study the statistics put together in these columns on Saturday by Surjit Bhalla. Dipping into data from the National Sample Survey Organisation’s Employment & Unemployment Survey, 1999-2000, Dr Bhalla has pulled out the break-up of high school graduates and those enrolled in college. This is important since, if you haven’t passed high school, you can’t get into college—reservation or no reservation. Dr Bhalla finds that SC/ST and OBC children form 16.7 per cent and 25.9 per cent, respectively, of the population of high-school graduates. In the case of SC/STs, this is 68 per cent of their share in the population, and in the case of OBCs the figure is just 1.5 percentage points below their share in the population. In other words, there is systemic discrimination that manifests itself when it comes to SC/ST children, but not in the case of OBC children, and certainly not to the extent that it necessitates seats being reserved for them.
 
Indeed, the only group of people whose share of high school graduates is well below its share in the population is the Muslims. According to Dr Bhalla’s findings, their population share is 13.4 per cent, but they are just 7.4 per cent of the population of high school graduates. Interestingly, in all cases, the share of various groups in colleges is roughly proportionate to their share in high school graduates; in the case of the Muslims, though, they comprise just 5.8 per cent of those enrolled in college as compared to a 7.4 per cent share in the children graduating from high school. As far as SC/STs and OBCs are concerned, the primary task then is to raise their level of school education. If one is to judge by the figures, college education will then more or less take care of itself. The other point that parties interested in increasing quotas for OBCs would do well to keep in mind, as Dr Bhalla’s calculations show, is that if you do increase the probability of OBC students getting into college, it immediately lowers the probability of both Muslim and non-reserved Hindu students getting in.

 

 

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