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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

June 11, 2006

Written by C.N.

Affirmative Action Debate in India

Affirmative action has always been a controversial and divisive issue here in the U.S. But apparently, arguments about affirmative action have really heated up in India, centering around the government’s plans to increase educational quotas for India’s lower castes:

In spite of the disruption, the government has sworn that it will not back down, regardless of who resigns or how many protest. Increased quotas, it claims, are the only way to foster social equality at the institutions that are driving the Indian economy forward. . . .

The government proposal at the heart of the conflict aims to reserve an additional 27% of university seats for the unfortunately termed “Other Backward Classes (OBC)” — those who, while not on the lowest rung of the social ladder, are not far from it. Once the new quotas go into effect at the start of the 2007 school year, nearly 50% of seats at elite universities will be set aside for members of the lower castes. . . .

Detractors stress that it is not just because of merit that they oppose the quota system; they believe it is not addressing the real problems in India. If the lower castes and classes had equal opportunities earlier in life, they argue, quotas wouldn’t be necessary for higher education.

“Instead of reserving 10 seats at AIIMS, educate 10,000 children. Then you will see a difference in Indian society,” says Sen.

The article goes on to describe many of the same arguments supporting and opposing affirmative action that we constantly hear in the U.S. However, the one main difference that I can see is that India’s proposal seems to call for a significantly large increase in quotas for disadvantaged citizens — from about 20% to 47%.

Based on that fact alone, even though I generally support affirmative action here in the U.S. — even in cases where it may hurt some Asian Americans — I’d have to say that an immediate 27% increase seems rather drastic. It makes me wonder why Indian officials apparently don’t want to institute more gradual increases over time, in order to make them more acceptable.

Furthermore, it also makes me wonder whether India has the will to do what many of these protesters say they need to do to really address the problem — improve living conditions and socioeconomic opportunities for the lower castes from the beginning. Ultimately, that’s a question we can ask here in the U.S. as well.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Affirmative Action Debate in India" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/06/affirmative-action-debate-in-india/> ().

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