Saturday, May 19, 2007

The reservation system, and the politics of government controls and corruption

A friend responds to another of my Blogs as follows:

"Did you know that India today spends roughly US $ 4.00 bn (yes, billion) on education abroad of all those kids who are denied education in India because of this wretched reservation for the so called OBCs (Other Backward Castes) that were found by the Brits in the census of 1931. The Brits just wanted to divide Hindu society further because it was giving so much support to the Mahatma.And now the likes of Arjun Singh have grabbed that data like Mandal before him to say that there are others like Harijans. There is no new data, no new figures since 1931 . So, what men like Arjun Singh and others like him are trying to do is to force that data of 1931 in creating reservations for groups for which the Constitution had no space. The Founding Fathers knew what the OBS data of 1931 was all about. The reservations as per the Constitution were meant only for the "harijans" (the untouchables) and these did well and no body grudged them.As for the violent groups, I have no sympathy for these feudal groupings that are rising by the day in India of today--in a chain of action/reaction.The tragedy not just for India , but for the whole planet under a globalised world is that its economy does rest on consumerism--like it or not. Thus you have a situation where some people, some groups, do very well and the economics of a so-called "trickle down effect" does not seem to work in the end. As for the value system--the tried and tested Indian values which have held the country together, allowed democracy to flourish despite vast disparities, are now steadily disappearing in the same manner as have Christian values in the West. Some times I feel that perhaps that is the price that civilisations pay for the new industrial global culture. Look at China for that matter. Gone is the old Chinese civilisation."

My response:
The figures that you quote, illustrate exactly the national problems created by the stranglehold of our elites: With $4billion one could finance not only one but many illustrious universities in India! What is the total expenditure on all our Central Universities in India???

However, no one is allowed to found a university in our country without the approval of a thoroughly corrupt bureaucracy and political system. In fact, you can't even establish a single college or even a primary school without the say-so of the bureaucracy! One of our family friends, who runs an excellent school in Bangalore (one of the best) chose to *stop* her middle school when it turned out that continued recognition now required bribery! So the children of Bangalore are the losers simply because some idiots in the educational bureaucracy now want a bribe, not realising that their own children and grandchildren suffer (and will suffer) as a result, from increased competition for the few good schools that are available.

Or take hotel rooms. We need about 100,000 hotel rooms in the country, I am told. However, according to the last figures I have (from December 2006) the Ministry of Tourism has "sanctioned" the construction of about 10,000 (!). Why do we need a Ministry of Tourism to tell entrepreneurs how many or what quality or which location to build hotels? If entrepreneurs make foolish decisions, let them suffer. If entrepreneurs make wise decisions, let them profit! What does the government or the ministry know about such things?

So the real problem of our country is not the reservation system, it is government control of still too many areas of our lives. Wherever government control goes, the entire reservation system will disappear. As long as government controls are there, the reservation system will be there and people will fight for the crumbs that the national economy will produce, because of course government control means slow growth of the economy. There is no point in blaming what the British did or did not do in 1931... They had their political purposes (which we can debate), but what cannot be debated is the fact that the British did leave a clean administrative system behind. By the time I was a teenager, it had become sometimes "necessary" to give a bribe – but you only had to give ONE bribe to get anything done. Now the perception is that you "have" to bribe everyone from the Chaprasi to the Head Babu to the Minister and even higher - and even then you may not succeed in accomplishing a totally legitimate goal!. Corruption has spread and spread in our land since Independence – by contrast with the West, where it is being increasingly exposed and eliminated.....Only recently have important new legislative means come into being to fight corruption, such as Right to Information Act.

But if the government can be got out of the way, the country would prosper much more than it does. Market forces would weed out the stupid or immoral or unprofessional while the good would flourish, from whatever caste or region or belief-system they come. Not so in a government-controlled system.

The clash between values and a market system is more apparent than real - 40% of Americans still go to Church (EVERY SUNDAY!), 70% believe in God, and so on....I know from academic research that the figures were hardly different 10 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago and a hundred years ago....the difference is that the misdeeds of the minority are very much highlighted by the mass media, which gives a distorted picture of the country (in the same way as people even in America have a distortedly greater sense of how unsafe their streets are than they really are).

Naturally, the advantage of the mass media highlighting such things is that in their much more genuine democracy and relatively freer markets (however imperfect) at least their problems get attention as a result of media coverage (unlike what happens in our country).

We have a sham democracy if one wants to be severe about it or, if one wants to be gentle (and probably more accurate) we are still learning what it means to be a democracy and a free market, and are still being massively hampered by government controls. Sphere: Related Content

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