Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Money and my mouth

Here's another blog I’ve been following with a great deal of interest.

Via this blog, we hear of the great tragedy of the Jarawas, and how the law is being flouted with impunity, not to mention, with disastrous consequences. Not enough people protesting, and therefore, very little fear of being found out, being thrown out of office or being arrested for contempt of court and illegal construction.

At How the Other Half Lives (I’ve hopped on board recently) a maiden post led to a flurry of comments, some of which have made me think about myself and my take on the issue at hand.

Somebody supported reservation but not caste-based ones. Somebody else supports academic reservations, but not professional ones. Somebody asks me to ‘donate’ my job if I am such a great advocate of reservations in the private sector.

The first two have made me think a little harder about the precise form of affirmative action that I would like to see being implemented.

The third is a very pertinent question – because it all comes down to putting your money where your mouth is.

Would I?

My answer: firstly, reservations do not imply charity. They imply giving someone a leg-up.

Secondly, I do not control my own job. I don’t have hiring and firing rights, but if I did, I would still support a reserved percentage of positions in the organisation. Especially media organisations. (How many backward castes, or even poor people from upper castes, are represented in the mainstream media? Do a head-count. You’ll find a few answers as to why and how certain stories get covered) and if, as a result, my own chances of finding and keeping jobs is lessened, lowered… well, too bad. It won’t be the first time I’m sitting at home, jobless. And it certainly won’t be end of the world.

Let us assume that I did have hiring-firing rights.

Let’s say I have this little dhaba by the highway and I need a cook. Given a choice between candidate A and candidate B, both being competant, I’d give the job to whoever needed it more. And no, I would not give it to somebody who came with a hotel management diploma. I’d send both candidates to the kitchen and watch them roll out parathas – trying to gauge creativity, speed, and their enjoyment of the task at hand.

If there isn’t a vast gulf between the two candidates, skill-wise, I’ll look at their needs. Let’s say A is a runaway kid and this is a first attempt to make an honest living, or that A is the eldest child of retired parents and has two other siblings to put through school… if B has healthy parents and faces no immediate financial crunch – I would choose A over B, at least in the short term (in the long term, hopefully, such considerations would not be needed, if there aren’t vast gulfs between people’s assets and needs)

If I could give away four jobs, instead of one, I’d reserve one for a man who comes from backward origins, even if he is less competent than others, assuming he is eager to learn and work a little harder than the rest.

And I would hire at least two women, even if the men are just as skilled, giving preference to single mothers, divorcees, widows or just women with a very strong independent streak who want to live on their own. Because I have a vested interest in ensuring that women make their own money.

So yes, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.

Not as charity, but as a way of investing in people.


Anonymous said...

We are so used to putting our mouth where the money is, the opposite is refreshingly welcome :-)

And, to add on a lighter note, reservation in the short run is needed for preservation in the long run.

barbarindian said...

Given a choice between candidate A and candidate B, both being competant, I’d give the job to whoever needed it more.

Sure, but you have no right to force others to do so. Also, both being competent is a huge assumption here.


barbarindian said...

Our response:

Putting your money where your mouth is

///slash\\\ said...

i would like to raise the following points...

i havent really followed the history of this "reservation - system" but going by its track record, should it not be the case that reservation should be reduced as time passes??? i mean if reservation is actually bridging the gap, for all these years with the reservation in place, should'nt the gap be smaller now???

secondly, why isnt there a timeline??? can we say we will give these "OBC"s say 50 years to get their act together??? or how much time do they need to get equal???

thirdly do you personally think reservation is a necessary evil??

and much against my wishes i have to agree with barbarian indian here(he/she makes no bones about being a barbarian)...
since this being a democracy, reservation is suported my the majority of the ppl - i'm not talking about the blogosphere - but the general public.
without getting into "the vote bank politics" angle, the government has every right to pass reservation in the public sector..
soo all schools, colleges and universities run by the govt, can go ahead with this policy...
whether that affects the quality of education/services/products/whatever is a totally different question and only time can tell....
but will you agree with us (me and *sigh* barbarian indian) if we say that we, while respecting your opinion(atleast i), can have ours and can run our business/private institutions the way we feel it should be run??

ppp said...

"""secondly, why isnt there a timeline??? can we say we will give these "OBC"s say 50 years to get their act together??? or how much time do they need to get equal???"""

somebody explain: is it arrogance laced ignorance or sarcasm laced intelligence which i fail to get or just plain insensitive way of expression?

yes there should be a timeline. however, if every factor involved, the elected representatives, the bureaucracy, the people, if all had worked hard and genuinely, we probably would not have had this exchange. so give a guarantee of everyone doing their job, from people exercising their right (and duty perhaps) to vote, information, to education systems, managements and governments, and am certain reservations will be pointless in 20 years..

Anonymous said...

" Given a choice between candidate A and candidate B, both being competant, I’d give the job to whoever needed it more"

That is exactly the point. Let's say the case is slightly different. A is not as competent as B is. But A is from a backward caste. You are forced to employ him by the government. Are you still as happy? I am not even going into the factors that A's family may be more materially endowed than B's is.

"Let’s say A is a runaway kid and this is a first attempt to make an honest living, or that A is the eldest child of retired parents and has two other siblings to put through school"

Let's say A knows that you are going to give preference to an underprevileged person (As he knows that reservations exist). What is there to prevent A from making up a story about the exact circumstances that you state? If you employ one or two people, you could personally check up on their backgrounds, but what if you employ thousands? (I have seen people who wear top designer brands and travel only by air claim fee waivers meant for people from financially weak backgrounds, while others did not because they had loans available)

I am not saying that the underprevileged do not need to be helped, just that caste based reservations are not the answer. Sorry for the length.

Janaki said...

Good God woman! What have you unleashed here???

///slash\\\ said...

@annie: sorry for hijacking ure post but...

Answering your question, If I have a choice, I would go with "just plain insensitve".
my intentions were clearly to offend.
going by ure response, I am assuming that you are in favour of reservations but not too happy about the way its been done up so far.(correct me if i'm wrong in either of these cases)
Which brings me back to point one I raised - the gap is still the same..(or so its claimed)
Then why is that people(i'm talking about ones that are educated here) still continue to support something that has never worked and shows no signs of working in the future.
Unless of course we are interested in a sybollic policy where it all about everyones feelings.

"if all had worked hard and genuinely, we probably would not have had this exchange"

my point exactly - there can be no such "guarantee" and hence in "my opinion" this idealogy while being very noble and all is not going to achieve its objectives.

WillOTheWisp said...


Ah well, there seems to be yet another way of looking at it - The 'majority' ( debatable ?) of people seemingly have a minority representation at a majority of professional institutions. The majority of seats at these institutions are filled up the 'meritorious' minority ( and how they got to be meritorious in the first place is not so difficult to suss out - and so is how they are able to maintain their [undoubtedly deserved] meritoriousness through generations ). In a sense, it is a form of 'reservation' ( as is being debated now ) in reverse. Isn't there an obvious skew with no means of self-correcting?

The economics of providing / ensuring 'free' and 'quality' education to the underprivileged ( in a country which is just about 60 years old) AND 'equal' opportunities, versus the mechanism of 'quota' / 'reservation' at these institutions could be looked at in terms of feasibility / mass appeal. I wonder what is workable ... and how.

I happened to read elsewhere that the system of 'reservation' is little else but lip-service for the 'actually' underprivileged - a political 'gimmick' - since they do not really get to reap its benefits. Possible. The question is - if it does not affect their lives, then it cannot be a successful political ploy - not likley to garner any votes because of it being there or not there. No?


WillOTheWisp said...

There is something else that came to mind - who is to decide if 'merit' is the solely valid criterion for access to 'education' / 'opportunity' / 'choice'? It could simultaneously be argued that 'necessity'/ 'oppression' constitute alternate criteria. I would consider it fair if 'merit' versus 'necessity' were to be subject to a referendum. I am also concerned about the elitism rampant in a meritocracy. It is just as corruptible / corrupted as any other human device.

On a slightly tangential note, I would feel that it is possible to be as 'objective' about 'necessity' as it is to be about qualitative 'merit'.

It also strikes me that the argument is indeterminate - the merit of necessity versus the necessity of merit.

Vox Populi, anyone?

barbarindian said...

The majority of the wealth in India is in the hands of perhaps 1 Lakh people and their families. So, what do you suggest next?

Reservation is nothing but bank robbery.

Annie Zaidi said...

v: thank you :)

barbarindian: my personal view is that the each private concern should be able to decide for themselves. assuming that the said private concern does not receive any state (public) benefits, either by way of grants or subsidies or tax benefits and so on.

the assumption, huge or not, is a safe one.

(Your last comment, I will not respond to. It is an attempt to bait, besides being completely unrelated to this post.)

sunbeam: part of your comment has been answered above. as far as making up stories and lying is concerned, surely that is a risk we all take, every single day, in all encounters and all relationships. making up of stories is the norm, reservations or not. half the candidates applying for any job tell lies about one aspect of their past or another. that is not a valid argument to discredit the underprivileged or to ignore their needs.

slash: yes, I suppose. the private sector must make its own choices, but with the catch that I've mentioned above.
I personally do not think of 'evil' in an isolated context. I think murder is evil, for instance, but when a multiple rapist gets lynched by a mob of women, I do not think it is evil. I think war is evil. but when people are attacking your homes or your neighbours, it not not evil to fight back. I think systemic discrimination is evil, but not when you are acknowledging the need to set things right for those who have suffered discrimination for centuries. to expect them to forge their own way ahead, is like expecting a newborn to get up and start walking and make its own living. 60 years is babyhood in a nation's lifetime. Slavery was abolished in the USA in 1863 (if I'm not mistaken) and they continue to have affirmative action and continue to need it.

'all these years' is an incomplete argument. people talk of 60 years of independence and fail to look at 5000 years before that. there are large stretches of this country that have never known the significance of 15th August, 1947. Today, we talk of only 15 or 16 or 17 or 23 % (all these various percentages floating around) of seat occupancy, from the backward quota. Why don't you look at the fact that 60 years ago, there probably was zero % occupancy in educational institutes as far as the backward castes/classes are concerned. If the figures have risen from 0 or less than 1 to 15 or 17 or whatever, I think that's growth, that's progress. Who says it has not worked?

jaygee: ask me not. i scarcely know... the beast looks not familiar.

willothewisp: thanks

obc voice said...


'My answer: firstly, reservations do not imply charity. They imply giving someone a leg-up.'

if i may suggest an amendment here: reservations are not about giving anyone a leg-up, they're not about 'giving' at all.
as someone from an obc community, this is how i see it: i'm staking my claim on the services the state provides. I'm taking my share, nobody's giving it to me.

i'd read your post in 'other india' and had also followed the comments. In one response to the comments, you'd said, something like : 'give the poor child outside something'. the idea reflects your individual sense of generosity and large-heartedness but doesn't convey the right picture, in my view. The poor,hungry child is not outside.. and he's been/being ignored because he doesn't understand his rights fully until now.

the post, otherwise, presents a refreshing, new perspective.

Anonymous said...

you have two candidates ..
1) cooks excellent
2) cooks decent , you can eat the food, you like it ..
1 is a rich hotel managment graduate , 2 is a poor chap off the road.

I will employ 2 as
social reasons
1) he is more needy

pure economical reasons
1) he is likely to stay more
2) he will have less demands


you have two candidates ..
1) cooks excellent
2) cannot distinguish between dal and rice ..

1 is a rich hotel managment graduate , 2 is a poor chap off the road.

who will you take annie ??

the question is about the person who is judgine .. and the change should be in the attitude of the judge.

the point of argument is betweem

1) are you happy when the minimum requirement is met for the job,
2) are you happy when an average requirement for the job is met
3) do you want the best possible guy for the job ?

Annie Zaidi said...

obc voice: Apologies. You're right. As far as the state and state-aided institutions are concerned, this is not about 'giving' but about rights. Similarly, if you view the whole country as a house, the child is indeed not outside but inside. At a private and personal level, the elements of the argument might be different... but so far, we're discussing the public sphere, so, thanks for the reminder.

anonymous - First, the assumption that the underprivileged are also incapable/inefficient is not just unfair. It is bigotry.
Secondly, you have to decide (and rethink) what your ideas about 'the best possible person for the job'. Most people enter their jobs knowing next to nothing. Most undergo training and workshopping and internships to make them fit for the job. The point is really - who do you want to train? Nobody knows the 'best possible' until everybody has had a chance to test their potential. All I'm asking is that everybody be given a chance.

Anonymous said...

Just one thing, Annie - the assumption "that the said private concern does not receive any state (public) benefits, either by way of grants or subsidies or tax benefits and so on..." is simple arm-twisting. I think it's a ridiculous requirement.
In another context: "You free to say what you like, but then don't expect any help from us."
The two have NOTHING to do with each other. State/public benefits are for EVERYONE, not just for people whose beliefs match those that are currently convenient/beneficial to the current government.

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