Friday, August 25, 2006

Affirmative action and education in India

Sanjoy Majumder:

The Indian government has introduced a controversial affirmative action bill in parliament which aims to increase quotas for lower-caste Indians and other disadvantaged groups in professional colleges.

Under the plan, the number of seats set aside in these institutions for lower-caste students will increase to nearly 50% to enable more underprivileged groups access to higher education.

Government ministers argue that it is the only way to undo centuries of discrimination and will allow millions of students from traditionally disadvantaged communities access to some of India's best known professional colleges.

But the controversial legislation has led to a public backlash.

On the streets of Delhi, angry doctors and medical students are protesting against the move.

Most of them are elite, upper-class Indians who see the move as a cynical attempt by politicians to gain votes from the influential lower castes who are a dominant force across the country.

"The politicians need votes - they have to get elected. That's why they are going ahead with this plan," says Anand Kumar Sharma, a doctor at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi's top government hospital.

"The whole thing about reservation is that it is completely against merit," argues Aditi Mahajan, a medical student.

Govt pushes caste quotas as protests rage


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