Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BITS and pieces - reservation comes to Pilani

(I had posted this on my personal blog a little while ago. But considering the subject, I thought this might be a better forum for this post.)

After years of resisting Government interference. by avoiding UGC grants and federal funding and being supported primarily by the Birla group, BITS Pilani finally got bullied into the reservation mess by Arjun Singh and his goons. Rashmi Bansal summarizes this fiasco in her aptly titled post Another one BITS the dust?

On May 29, the very day the Supreme Court observed that quotas can divide the nation and asked the Government to explain its rationale behind the 27% OBC quotas, HRD Minister Arjun Singh further tightened the quota screws on the higher-education sector, both public and private.

In a note prepared that day for the Cabinet, his Ministry has proposed a legislation with provisions that give the Government unprecedented power not only to impose quotas in over 100 “deemed universities” over and above 32 Central institutions but also to regulate their fees, selection procedure—and even take punitive action.

So not just IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, the institutions which are brought into the 27% OBC quota net include Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani; Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Pune’s Symbiosis International Education Centre and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

We BITSians have always been fiercely proud of ourselves. We knew BITS Pilani could have had better libraries, labs and furniture if only we went begging to UGC for funding. But we realized that this would come with strings attached like reservations, entrance exam mandates and such. And we decided we would rather have the best students than the best facilities. We were secure in the knowledge that only the creme de la creme of India would qualify to be our classmates and competitors at BITS. We were admired when we graduated, and the BITS brand name was second only to the IITs in India.

Well, say goodbye to the perfect world, because politicians like Arjun Singh have decided to dishonor the sanctity of private and elite universities and bring them all under Government control. I have no idea how the Government can suddenly manipulate the constitution so they can exercise control over institutes like BITS. What's next? Can these so-called OBCs have job reservation quotas in Reliance, Infosys and Wipro once they graduate from BITS and IITs through their reservation quotas?

Don't get me wrong. I believe that India has to have some kind of affirmative action in place to accelerate the development of those who have been left woefully behind in our society. But such over-arching and generic reservation schemes will only do more harm than good - they will further divide our society on the basis of class and cause resentment and hostility between them. More thought should go behind such schemes, and reservation should be done more along economic lines rather than just based on class. The push should come at the primary school level, so that these backward classes will have come up to par and ready to compete on equal terms with everyone else when they are ready to enter college.

Much has been said against this reservation scheme by the public, regular media and bloggers alike. But we all know how this is going to end. Even when all this was going on, I did not for a minute stop and think that my BITS Pilani would be subject to this disgrace. For we've always stood away from the rest of the pack and made our own path. We've always prided ourselves for our independence and freedom from Government-imposed quotas and restrictions. All that has been felled in one swoop. And for what?

I'm glad I graduated from BITS Pilani when I did, secure in the knowledge that I rubbed shoulders with the best India had to offer. It pains me to see that this might not be true anymore. Yes, Arjun Singh and company will leave a legacy behind. A legacy that will be India's bane. A legacy that will leave many a broken heart and shattered dream in its wake.

PS: I would love to hear other BITSian opinions on this issue. This post will be updated with your comments.


Blogger camelpost said...

I found this poem of BR Natarajan BITS Pilani thought provoking:

Future Shock for India

Wisdomless Politicians
Meritless Admissions

Meaningless Curriculums
Substance less Examinations

Faculty less Departments
Student less Colleges

VC less Universities
Knowledgeless Society

Developmentless Nation
Into that hell of gloomdom

My Father,
Let my country go to Sleep
Let my country go to Sleep...

3:01 AM  
Blogger mineguruji said...

Well, the writer must also be knowing that for thousands of years the Brahmins had reserved education for themselves and none other, except when the powerful Kshatriya kings would beat them at their own game.
This is one of the reason that a country with 1000 million people is illiterate. Even know the brahmins and upper castes dont want the shudras to learn anything, but democracy has forced them to keep quite.

India has always been losing to invaders, because the security of this country and its politics was contracted to Rajputs.
Consequently, India was lost to the Arabs, Mughals, the Mongols and the English, while the Rajputs gambled, watched mujras and sold the country to the enemy.
The Banias wont mind selling the king and the freedom of their people to anyone, provided the price is right.
And after all these sins, if the above situation as you have mentioned arises, than who is to blame.
One has to pay for your bad karma in this life and also of the past life and also of your forefathers, so does the wise brahmins say.

11:49 PM  
Blogger camelpost said...

Swami Vivekananda said " We are responsible for what we are. However whatever we want to become, we have the power to do. Realize the self potential" If mineguruji thought that by Reservation the sins of past can be washed away, I pray to God Almighty to Bless him.

9:59 AM  
Blogger mineguruji said...

Battle for brand IIT

IT was a warm sunny day in the land of dreams. Young men and women were gathered under a tree to protest against the atrocities carried out by the State; men with blaring megaphones voicing instructions, women in jeans and designer sunglasses surging politely but determinedly towards visitors for signatures on a petition that beseeched the nation's President to agree to their demands. This slightly surreal picture describes one protest rally peopled by NRIs in the richest part of the richest area of the richest country in the world. This was a Sunday afternoon in the Fair Oaks Park in Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley, California. An earshot away were the head offices of Yahoo, Google, Intel, Cisco and other corporate outfits that have fired the imagination of youth in 21st-century India. But the protest?

`Protecting' India

It was organised to protect India from the clutches of the OBCs. Young men and women NRIs, concerned about the reservations crisis gripping India, had come together under the shade of a Californian Oak grove, to show solidarity with their brethren sweating in the heat of Delhi and other parts of urban India. They were afraid. Clutching their algorithmic and metrical consciousness close to their hearts, they challenged the politically driven and vote bank motivated decision of the Congress regime. They collectively feared for the future state of education in India, if, God forbid, the OBC candidates infiltrated en masse into the hallowed corridors of the IITs and IIMs. They were aghast that it was their own sophisticated Manmohan Singh and not the dehati Laloo Prasad Yadav who had betrayed them.

They were not anxious about the future of their country, although they professed to be. They were concerned about their institutes. The NRIs of Silicon Valley were angry that the quality of their alma mater(s) was under threat. They feared that the intrusion of the more than 50 per cent of undeserving students riding the quota bandwagon would affect the sterling quality of the products of the IIT-IIM brand. Internal desi email groups at Stanford University, Cisco, Intel, and Google were crackling with activity to save the IIT-IIMs from the sure death of the Arjun Singh "inanity". From online petitions to pubic meetings, from solidarity campaigns to letters to the President, Silicon Valley "Indians for Equality" wanted to desperately make an impact on the politically fraught landscape of reservations. But unlike the Indian agitators, the fear lay somewhere else. It was neither their jobs nor their seats that were at stake. Unlike the medical students, they were not planning to compete for Masters or Ph.D. programmes in the constricted postgraduate medical school seats in India, neither were they going to apply for government jobs. And neither was this display on a Sunday morning in Silicon Valley, a mere solidarity meet, as the organisers contended. There was a real, palpable fear — of "brand dilution".

A different fear

They feared for brand IIT-IIM. "Let Arjun Singh do whatever he wants with any educational institute in India. But tell him to leave the IITs alone", fervently remarked a Silicon Valley engineer. He was a close friend, with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, working in one of the largest multinational pharmaceutical companies in the world. We had both come to Stanford as graduate students at the same time. "It is because of us that the West has recognised the worth of India," he furthered elaborated on his point. "Remember," peering deeply into my eyes, he emphasised, "brand India is brand IIT." The NRI call to save the nation from reservations was a call to save the IITs. If dams were the temples of modern India (of Green revolution, Industrialisation, self sufficiency), then the IITs were their counterparts in neo-liberal India (for Infosys, BPOs and the multiple "Silicon Valleys"). It was to save this brand in the name of the nation that agitated Silicon Valley engineers organised the protest. Ironically, more than a grave protest, it looked like a picnic on a sunny Californian Sunday.

Like most consumers and producers of any brand, IIT alumni also believe in brand IIT as the absolute marker of a product's quality. PR firms hawk the IIT brand in the market place of corporate America, to sell its products. Adulation of the mainstream media at home and the presence of IIT lore in American popular culture epitomised by the IIT geek in Dilbert, has transformed IITs from institutions that were the intellectual keystone to Nehru's developmental paradigm, to a sophisticated icon of corporate India's success in the Silicon Valley.

Just imagined constructs

The pervasiveness of the IIT brand and belief in its efficacy is not restricted to the outside world, "the consumer" so to speak, but is deeply ingrained in the products and the producers of the brand itself — the IIT alumni. It appears that they are unable to recognise that brands are imagined constructs with perceived rather than absolute value. The anti-reservation voices disturbing the opulent tranquillity of the NRI-infested Silicon Valley are motivated by a felt need to protect IIT brand equity rather than a need to address the education crisis in India, although it is the latter that is underscored in the posters, pamphlets and websites of anti-reservationists in the U.S.

If the anti-reservation protests in India were largely a result of self-indulgent middle classes screaming hoarse to protect their turf in elite educational establishments, then the resentment in the Silicon Valley was a result of a more affluent, but intrinsically identical middle class protecting its own corporate motivated interests spearheaded by the idea of IIT. A career in Silicon Valley epitomises the aspirations of the privileged middle class Indians who form a substantial percentage of the students entering IITs. A degree from Stanford and a job in the Bay Area are what an IIT topper's dreams are made of. Brand IIT sells in the U.S., and any compromise on its product quality is detrimental to the brand and its saleability, affecting ultimately the aspirations of the IIT product.

A myth perpetuated

The average IIT product believes that the IIT graduates are the finest in India that can be offered to the world — the corporate world, essentially. It is in the U.S. that the myth that brand India is synonymous with brand IIT has been generated, perpetuated and consumed, replacing the earlier narrative of India as the land of elephants and snake charmers. It is important to note that both are imagined constructions and equally unreal, produced through identical sociological processes.

These anti-reservation voices in the Silicon Valley are not to be viewed as mere solidarity songs for the student movement in India, as contended by their organisers and the press. A more insidious subtext, driven by the desire to protect the brand at the cost of the nation, underlies these protests.

As we were admiring the surreality of the protest in the land of dreams, an activist upper caste friend, one of the few who had come to distribute pro-reservation pamphlets at the same meeting, nonchalantly remarked, "Woh IIT bachana chahate hai, hum desh bachna chahate hai."

Ashish Chadha is a doctoral candidate in Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University.

8:40 AM  
Blogger mineguruji said...

Thanks for blessing the depressed Indians.
Prior to the announcement of reservations, no doctor or engineer from the upper castes spoke against casteism.
Where was all the concern of these people, who are now speaking against reservations.
I think its casteism perpetuated by upper caste India which has will destroy India rather than reservations.

8:46 AM  
Blogger camelpost said...

Mineguruji I must congratulate that you put forth your arguments very well. At the outset I must clarify that poem Future shock talks of meritless admissions and not Less Merit admissions. The goal of the nation is to make everyone forward and this reservation approach is likely to lead to the cycle of so called forwards of today becoming the backewards of tomorrow and the cycle will repeat. Let us do all that is necessary to educate every indian and give them the best of opportunities and let merit decide the issue and not FC BC OBC etc. Let the government start schools in every Panchayat which will educate the SC ST OBCs of that Panchayat free of cost and give them the best of facilities. Why is the govt chickening out of this responsibility? Let the government sponsor all SC ST OBCs to Kota Bansal Coaching, Career Point Coaching, Brilliant Tutorial Coaching so that they acquire the cutting edge to compete, perform or perish. The issue is why compromise merit?

6:18 AM  
Blogger camelpost said...

If you thought Reservations end with admissions in IIT, please read the following from Academics@ IIT Delhi http://www.iitd.ac.in/bsw/academic.htm
Department Change at IIT .. A student is eligible to apply for change of discipline at the end of first year only provided he/she satisfies the criteria: CGPA for the General Category students greater than or equal to 7.50 and CGHPA for SC/ST category students greater than or equal to 6.50.

MHRD and the job reservation in private sector supporting UGC Chief must be working hard to set new standards for OBCs.
Let my country go to sleep, let my country go to sleep .......

6:35 PM  
Blogger camelpost said...

Hindustan Times 8th July news carries the following:
While there have been recent cases of students scoring 90 per cent and not getting into colleges of their choice, two All India Engineering Entrance Examination 2006 candidates who scored six on 100 have been selected for admission in the engineering course of Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra.

Rajesh Kisku of West Bengal and Ashok Jambhule of Maharashtra (names changed) will study civil engineering and biotechnology respectively, thanks to the Central Counselling Board (CCB) of the AIEEE. Both belong to the Scheduled Tribe category. They aren't the only ones to benefit from reservation. Others with scores of 7, 10, 11 and 13 will also pursue engineering in this premier institution.

They've got it made for now but there are many who aren't happy about it. "It is correct. These are facts," says BIT V-C Prof S.K. Mukherjee, blaming it on the CBSE norms. All-India seats are distributed state-wise and the same pattern is adopted while distributing SC/ST category seats. If a reserved category candidate with less marks opts for BIT in the CCB, he gets admission.

"Such situations are a matter of concern. There should be a minimum cut-off mark," Prof Mukherjee says. On the pattern of the IITs, he says, marks/rank obtained by a candidate in a competitive exam must be linked with marks obtained in a conventional exam.

What's more, things could get worse. "Reserved category candidates with lesser marks may get admission during the second round of counselling, " the V-C says. "Some 50 reserved category seats are still vacant. And chances are that students who scored 1 or 2 may be considered for admission," says a BIT professor.

That means candidates who scored 270 would come last in the list of general category candidates granted admission. "It's not fair," says Samrendra, one such candidate. Admission over, the academically weak students find it hard to cope, says a professor of civil engineering.

5:30 PM  
Blogger camelpost said...

Top 100 Engineering Colleges In India : Magazine Outlook
A recent flurry of private institutes has helped improve the scene, especially in south India.
BITS Pilani ranked sixth position.

India Today should have atleast had the decency to write in their holy survey that BITS Pilani did not participate in the say let us all call it Rat Race!!!!

9:54 AM  
Blogger NIGHTMARE said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:32 AM  
Blogger NIGHTMARE said...

very true,but,the insti has ,and always will be my UTOPIA

12:34 AM  
Blogger camelpost said...

BITS Pilani and Tagore Gitanjali
The country "where the mind is without fear" is the only country in which true scholarship can engage with the great issues of society. Are we losing that country?

Its time for every Indian to read Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel prize winning poem and appreciate the stand taken by Ekla Chalo Re BITS Pilani, in the context of reservation fire raging the length and breadth of the nation.

'Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high"

While various deemed universities said that they would wait, watch and ultimately toe the government line, BITS Pilani's bold stand that it would not implement quotas and reservations in admissions shook the conscience of the nation. For BITS Pilani, courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Its for nothing Andrew Jackson said "One man with courage makes a majority".

"Where knowledge is free"

BITS Pilani is a privately funded institution playing an eminent role in the nation building task at par with the IITs and the government of India as well as all its agencies must ensure that autonomy for admissions, fees charged, curriculum design, faculty recruitment etc are not encroached and eroded.

"Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls"

BITS Pilani has ensured the creation of a classless, casteless society and thousands of BITS alumni take pride in identifying themselves as Indians and not belonging to any caste, religion or language.

"Where the words come out from the depth of truth"

BITS Pilani had no hesitation in stating that students who take admissions through a criterion other than merit would find it difficult to pursue higher education and as such would be a drain on the system.

"Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection"

BITS Pilani believes that any departure from merit will only end up deemed or otherwise universities becoming doomed universities.

"Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit"

To ensure homogeneous input in higher education, BITS Pilani has emphatically stated that merit and nothing but merit should be the only criterion for admission.

'Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action"

BITS Pilani has said what millions of Indians wanted to say by saying that the Government and Society at large must focus on Primary education and schooling system by giving special attention, care, concern, scholarship and coaching so that candidates of weaker sections can compete with other students and become worthy citizens of the nation.

"Into that heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake"

Will our country awake, will our country awake, will our country awake ...............

BITS Pilani believes just not in forseeing future but in enabling it. Future indeed belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams and BITS Pilani converts each of its dream to a goal by adding a deadline.

While a group of deemed universities including some prestigious ones on Thursday Oct 26, 2006 backed HRD Minister Arjun Singh's move for reservation in unaided institutes, BITS, Pilani, strongly opposed it. BITS, Pilani was invited but could not attend the meeting. In fact the institute had already submitted a note to the ministry expressing its views on reservation of seats in admissions for the weaker sections.

For BITS, Pilani merit which is so vital to ensure homogenous input into the higher education system must be the only criteria for admissions and that can not be compromised.

BITS Pilani has always been a Leader who Knows the Way, Goes the Way, and Shows the Way.

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5:56 AM  
Blogger Thejazzz said...

Here's something I'd like you to think about. Now the "aim" of these reservations are to help those who really need to be uplifted right? The people who are literally on the streets doing menial jobs because that's what their families have been doing for generation?

Now I have a question for you. How is reservation in IIT's going to help THESE people, when these people don't even attend primary school?? I agree we need reservation but the level at which reservation is applied should be at the lower levels. Lower caste/income people should be encouraged to get through entire of school. A person from a lower caste who completes school will be as competent as a higher caste person going through the same process of learning.

This is what I question when it comes to reservation in the IITs. I question how these reservations help the people who they are intended for.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Chaudhari said...

You people dont want reservation ok because they get admssion at lesser percetage.I have a straight question then why do you have private colleges which on paying huge fees give admission to the student who have got even lesser percetage than sc st just because they have money those who are against sc st resevation for admission purely on merit they should answer then why not in privarte colleges.
just for the downtroddens you are against.You should thank god that you are not born in downtrodden family.go to the places where nothing is equal why dont you correct the system.A newly born doent know in which family he is born.

1:19 PM  
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10:45 PM  
Blogger Raman Nv said...

So true yaar!!! India claims to be secular and sovereign and all that equality crap, but what it does is contradictory. I mean, why do we have to suffer for what our ancestors have done? It's like executing the grand son of a murderer! I hate to say this, but India will never even become a developed nation, leave alone superpower, if this situation remains.

-Raman, a BITS aspirant and a Brahmin (not that I am proud of it).

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9:11 PM  

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