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Measuring Merits, And Its Apologists

By Chandrabhan Prasad

02 August, 2004
The Pioneer

Is there any way one can appreciate the private sector's attitude to job reservations? As a non-partisan analyst, it would be the peak of lunacy to subscribe to the view that the private sector would loose its "competitive advantage" once Dalits enter corporate offices. As we know, there is no factual basis to accept that India has any kind of "advantage" as its share in the world trade is less than one per cent. It is not a glory, but a shame, and the private sector must carry the cross for this.

We also know that Dalits form about 12 per cent of Group A jobs in the public sector. And, if the government-public sector is not doing well as argued by some, then who should be blamed - the 12 per cent Dalits, or the 80 per cent who claim to belong to the "meritorious" category? There is no data, scientific study, or survey to establish that the Dalits are not "good" at their work. Yet, Indian industry insists that "job reservations will make it less productive".

I have discovered at least one angle which our captains of industry use quite often to convince themselves that the genius of the Dalits is questionable. It goes like this: A comparison between Dalit and non-Dalit candidates would show that the percentages of marks earned by Dalits at the school/ college/ university levels are often low. That means, the "mark sheet" speaks for the genius or talent of a candidate. While Dalits often score less in exams is a fact we all know, any hypothesis built upon the infallibility of the mark sheet can be humiliating to all those whose social conscience is regulated by these instruments. Dalit Diary takes great pleasure in throwing a small challenge to captains of Indian industry. Please understand, think, and respond to the following:

(A) Fact: Make a list of a thousand post-graduates, 500 of them Dalit, and the rest non-Dalit, from all streams whether the sciences, humanities or management, and include it the products of the IITs and AIIMS as well. In most cases, it will be found that the performance of non-Dalits as reflected in the mark sheets at the post-graduation stage would be at an average of 75 per cent and Dalits' at 65 per cent. Come down to the graduation stage and you will see that the non-Dalits' average would be at 80 per cent, the Dalits' at 60 per cent. Now, at the plus-two stage what would you see?

The non-Dalits' average would be at 85 per cent while the Dalits far behind at 55 per cent. Finally, at the high school stage, the average of the non-Dalits would be in the region of 90 per cent while the Dalits would be bogged down at the 50 per cent level.

(B) Hypothesis: The above facts throw some interesting results. The mark sheet differentials between non-Dalits and Dalits is seen to be at 40 per cent at the high school stage, but, as they go up to the post graduation stage, the difference narrows down to at 10 percentage points. If there was another stage, say "super post graduation stage", the non-Dalit-Dalit difference may settle at five percentage points.

The hypothesis, therefore, is that at the work place after recruitment, if there was any examination to measure performance/ talent, the Dalit may start from an average of 90 per cent and the non-Dalits from 50 per cent. The Dalits may keep improving over the years, and non-Dalits head for a steady decline. This shows that with the onset of age, the Dalits keep bettering their performance while the non-Dalits reach a saturation point.

[C] Thesis: As the non-Dalits grow in age, they tend to suffer from an innate structural crisis, where the brain refuses to reconcile with the regenerating demands of nature, and hence, they are irreconcilable to the process of production and wealth creation. The Dalits, on the other hand , tend to show greater and greater talent and seem to be innately equipped to meet the demands of modern science and technology.

<.b>[D] The truth: Dalit Diary is a platform which bases its existence on reason, scientific scrutiny and hence offers no scope for irrational, unjust theorisations. Hence, Dalit Diary rejects the "mark sheet" as a mirror of one's genius, talent or abilities. It is unacceptable that non-Dalits grow into nut cases as they age. Equally ridiculous is the suggestion that Dalits grow sharper as they grow. If either of the above two is ever applicable to human beings, it will be equally applicable to both non-Dalits and Dalits.

[D] The reality: Forget the general picture of a hostile social set-up governing the upbringing of most Dalits. Just remember the "educational legacy" of Dalit parents, facilities at home, the quality of schooling. A great mark sheet at the school or college level is often a product of injecting artificial intelligence through tuition, literature and parental care. This unfair situation weighed against Dalits is somewhat akin to the advantage derived by sportsmen who use performance enhancers.

[E] Conclusion: Dalits students better their performance when they enter urban centres, hostels and relatively comfortable educational environments. Once there, they discover the material basis to explore their latent energies. On being recruited, they better their performance, and, given a chance, even excel over non-Dalits. Apologists of "merit" must understand this.