The proposal for increased reservations in higher education institutions including IITs is causing much furore in India. Thousands of medical students have gone on various forms of strike causing much hardship to patients. This begs a discussion on the topic of reservation.
What is the supposed intent of reservation? It is meant to help groups that have suffered historically and provide them with opportunities to make a living. My contention is this: if a person has had enough opportunities to be at the doorstep for higher education, he/she is equipped enough to further his/her own cause without further help from the government!
To help the most backward parts of society, one must try reservations at the lowest levels i.e. primary and secondary schools. The cost of one semester of college is somewhere around Rs. 20000 which may be used to educate another child for 3-4 yrs of primary schooling (possibly more). Therefore at the cost of 8 semesters, around 8 children may be provided primary schooling. This is not only good for the society as such, it will also be a more popular policy, garnering more votes!
Reservation at higher education institutions is flawed both as a benevolent and populist policy. Ofcourse, it may be my own biases talking here. Somebody who has suffered through his entire life may feel that this could be a blessing for his progenies. So how do we resolve this? With the advent of electronic polling, it may be feasible to seek "actual" public opinion on such contentious issues. It would be interesting to see what the actual voting population thinks. While voting for the state/central elections once in 4 years, the population could be asked to vote on such issues. This will ensure that a few individuals don't hijack the Indian public.