Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where Backwardness is Sought

Affirmative action, a term that originated in the Kennedy Administration, had begun with the best of intentions: a method of redressing discrimination that had persisted in spite of civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees.

More than 50 years later, this humble blogger is of the opinion that affirmative action has outlived its usefulness. Too many resources are now devoted to claiming membership in "disadvantaged" groups that ironically are granted advantages through force of law. Affirmative action causes individuals to emphasize their differences; it exacerbates, not reduces, conflict. The above statements about human behavior and motivations are disputed in the United States; they are not so in India. [bold added]

Jats protest in Haryana (Hindustan Times)
Haryana’s Jats are angry. [Blogger's note: the state of Haryana has roughly 25 million people, of which 25%--6 to 7 million--are Jats.] Jealous that weaker, lower-caste groups get government aid, they want to be classified as equally deserving. Protests that started peacefully soon turned violent as rioters looted, pillaged and raped and blocked roads, railways and, most alarmingly, also a canal that supplies about half of Delhi’s water.

Since India’s independence, the government has made provisions to uplift the most downtrodden members of the caste system, known as Dalits, most often by means of state favours known as “reservations”: jobs and slots at universities set aside for the people who had been least likely to enjoy their benefits. None of the riots have been started by Dalits, who were traditionally known as “untouchables”. It is relatively clear who counts as a Dalit: about a quarter of the country’s population qualifies, including remote tribal groups. But since 1990 the national government has allowed other, somewhat less disadvantaged groups to claim similar benefits, if they can establish that they belong to the “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs). There are 11 formal criteria for admission into the ranks of the OBCs, but these are open to interpretation. Dalits and OBCs together may claim as many as 50% of a given state’s reservations. The Jats of Haryana, like the Patidars of Gujarat or the Kapus of Andhra Pradesh, all want to be counted among the OBCs to gain a slice of the social-welfare pie to which lowlier castes are entitled.
Corrective programs do address needs, but they often not only continue but expand with their original purpose transformed, long after the original problems have subsided.

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