Upside of reservation
After all the power play and trickery in the last three months regarding the issues of OBC reservations in India, Arjun Singh finally managed to do something useful for the citizens - start the debate about increasing the budget outlay for supporting primary and higher education in India. Read this report in the Indian portal, rediff.com, and feel satisfied: Cost of new quotas: Rs 165 billion and counting
It seems that India spends only 3% of its annual budget on education as compared to 10%-13% by USA, and 6.5% by France. When compared to the South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, we rank very poorly. In this scenario, if even a part of the proposed increased expenditure for the education sector is implemented, India might benefit in the long run.
Every issue has two sides. The reservation issue generated a storm of protests across India from the General Category (GC) students. This prompted the government to postpone the allocation of quotas for OBCs in the institutes of higher learning. The federal government promised that the loss of seats for the GC students because of the implementation of the quotas will be offset by the increase in the number of seats for the students in various science, technical, and professional institutes funded by the center all around India. This led to the formation of the Oversight Committee - set up to draw up a roadmap for the new quota regime. This committee is headed by the former Karnataka chief minister M Veerappa Moily.
The price of the new infrastructure and the recruitment of new faculty and staff in order to educate more number of students in the higher education sector has been approximated to be Rs. 165 billion or $3.55 billion over a period of five years by the Oversight committee. I do not know where GoI will get this kind of money in the next five years. However, the good news is that the government is thinking of investing heavily in the higher education sector. Even if GoI decides to increase the budgetary outlay for higher education by some fraction of $3.55 billion, it will have an impact on the Indian economy in a positive fashion. It is far better for a nation to spend its money on the education and health sector than on stupid schemes in other sectors. India has squandered billions of dollars of money in trying to support all sort of socialistic policies in the past. These policies have not even made a small dent in fighting poverty.
I must admit that if the government increases the total intake of the students in the higher education sector in order to compensate for the reservations of OBCs successfully, it might turn out to be a win-win situation for everybody. However, if I have to take into account the past record of GoI in implementing policies successfully, I have to weigh in all this optimism with a pinch of salt. Indian bureaucracy is one of the worst in the world when it comes to bungling even the most simple of all the policies. I do not trust them with such a complicated task. It is prudent for the government to start involving the private sector in higher education as an equal partner. There is money to be made in this sector. This will also help people to have a sense of ownership of the educational institutes of the country!