Feature

India: When quotas clash with meritocracy

The prime minister has come up with a plan to reserve some percentage of promotions in the civil service for Dalits and tribals.

Aditi PrasadThe Sunday Indian

I’m all for affirmative action to help the lower castes, said Aditi Prasad, but there are limits. Quotas for Dalits, or untouchables, and other historically shunned tribes have “played a major role in correcting historical wrongs and giving the oppressed their rightful place in modern society.” Designating a certain number of university spots and government jobs for Dalits, then, is working well. But now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come up with a plan to reserve some percentage of promotions in the civil service for Dalits and tribals. The scheme is “obviously blatant political posturing.” Singh just wants to distract us from his latest corruption scandal, “Coalgate,” which involves the distribution of lucrative coal mining rights to a few businessmen with political connections. And it may work—he’s already got me all riled up at the thought of India’s inefficient and bloated bureaucracy becoming even less productive. Assured of being promoted, Dalits and tribals would slack off, while other public servants would become resentful and lose their own motivation. What’s next? Quotas in professional cricket? In Bollywood movies? “While we are at it, let us delete the word ‘merit’ from the Indian version of the Oxford English Dictionary.”

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