Human brilliance knows no boundaries of caste, color, or creed

By : |May 2, 2006 0

It seems to me that being seen to be doing the right thing has become more
important than actually doing the right thing. These latest attempts to enforce
quotas in premier institutions and in the private sector job market are, to me,
are examples of this mindset.

I am a firm believer in affirmative action. I have had the privilege of
knowing and interacting with outstanding individuals from every conceivable kind
of background during my years at IIT and IIM, as well as in the years before I
joined these premier institutions. What I have seen has left me with the
conviction that human brilliance knows no boundaries of caste, color, or creed.

It is pretty much accepted now that what is commonly referred to, as “merit”
is a function of nature as well as nurture. The human brain at birth is but a
pale shadow of what it has the potential to become, once fully developed and
matured. Indeed, this huge gap between the point of departure and the end result
is the reason why we human beings take much longer to reach full maturity than
any other species on earth. It is vital, therefore, that every individual has
access to all the right stimuli and guidance at every stage in his growth to
adulthood. Given this, anyone can do well regardless of genetic or social

The most important thing is to make quality basic education available to
every stratum of society. This would ensure that everyone would have the chance
to reach his or her full potential. Making sure that no one is denied access to
good basic education because of caste, religion, or geography is the only way to
create a level playing field. If we can achieve this, we would have made
reservation at the higher levels redundant.

Without getting the basics right, forced reservations at the higher levels
are bound to be counter-productive, especially if entry barriers are lowered.
This will only serve to perpetuate the myth that the so-called “lower”
castes are lacking in merit, because those who are given these opportunities
without the right fundamentals and specific skills will find it next to
impossible to cope. Given the demands of a premier institution or high-pressure
work situation, the chances of failure are disproportionately high.
Unfortunately, failure will be taken as proof positive of the “inferiority”
of individuals from the so-called lower castes.

Apart from those listed above, one other reason why I am against
indiscriminate and injudicious reservations of the sort that we have now is that
there is no long-term exit plan. This will only perpetuate the artificial
divisions in Indian society. To make matters worse, the way reservations are
structured now; it seems to me that with every passing generation, the chances
of the benefits going to the truly deserving among the disenfranchised are bound
to diminish.

Last, but by no means the least, populist, half-baked measures such as these
will only serve to diminish India’s competitiveness in the global economy.

(The author is a chief operating officer at Hurix Systems, a leading
e-learning company headquartered in Mumbai. Mohanty is a graduate from IIT (Kharagpur)
and completed his Masters from IIM (Ahmedabad) and hails from Orissa.)

© CyberMedia News

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