1. Indo-Pacific should be free of conflicts, says Morrison
Modi seeks cooperation among democracies of the region
Developments such as those in Ukraine should never happen in the Indo-Pacific region, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said on Monday.
Addressing the bilateral annual leaders’ meeting, Mr. Morrison argued for greater cooperation among “like-minded democracies”, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide leadership within the Quad. In his address, Mr. Modi focused on the Indo-Pacific region, and called for “appropriate” global standards for emerging technologies.
“Our meeting today is, of course, set against a very distressing backdrop of the war in Europe which must never happen in our own region. While we are distressed by the terrible situation in Europe, our focus is always very much on what is occurring in the Indo-Pacific and ensuring that those events could never occur here,” Mr. Morrison said thanking the Indian side for “partnership” with Australia.
The bilateral meeting is the first such interaction between the two leaders since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Earlier, they had participated in the Quad meeting convened by U.S. President Joe Biden on March 3.
Mr. Morrison laid out the broad spectrum of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries covering science and technology, defence and critical minerals that are necessary for India’s strategic sectors.
During the interaction, Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) and Australia’s Critical Mineral Facilitation Office signed an MoU to jointly explore lithium in Australia.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the deal would allow India to “invest in Australia’s critical mineral sector, as well as get Australian expertise in this area.”
2. ‘World sleepwalking to climate disaster
’Plan to cap temperature rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius is on life support: UN chief
UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday the world is “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe”, with major economies allowing carbon pollution to increase when drastic cuts are needed.
The planet-saving goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius is already “on life support,” he told a sustainability conference in London.
Keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius in play requires a 45% drop in emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by mid-century, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
But even if nations honour newly revised pledges under the Paris Agreement, emissions are still set to rise 14% before the decade ends.
“The problem is getting worse,” Mr. Guterres said in a pre-recorded video message. “We are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe.”
“If we continue with more of the same, we can kiss 1.5 degrees Celsius goodbye,” he added. “Even two degrees may be out of reach.”
His comments came only hours before the 195-nation IPCC kicks off a two-week meeting to validate a landmark report on options for reducing carbon pollution and extracting CO2 from the air.
The report is expected to conclude that CO2 emissions must peak within a few years if the Paris temperature targets are to be met.
Mr. Guterres described COVID recovery spending as “scandalously uneven” and a missed opportunity to accelerate the turn toward clean energy.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, he added, could further derail climate action with importers locking in fossil fuel dependence as they scramble to replace Russian oil and gas.
“Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap (climate) policies,” Mr. Guterres said.
“This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.”
Breaking with the usual practice of not singling out countries, Mr. Guterres called out Australia and a “handful of holdouts” for failing to lay out “meaningful” near-term plans to slash emissions.
He also said the development needs of China, India, Indonesia and other “emerging economies” prevent them from making similar commitments, especially on coal.
- Average Surface Temperature:
- The average surface temperature of the Earth will cross 1.5 °C over pre-industrial levels in the next 20 years (By 2040) and 2°C by the middle of the century without sharp reduction of emissions.
- In 2018, the IPCC’s Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C had estimated that two-fifths of the global population lived in regions with warming above 1.5°C.
- The last decade was hotter than any period of time in the past 1,25,000 years. Global surface temperature was 1.09°C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
- This is the first time that the IPCC has said that the 1.5°C warming was inevitable even in the best case scenario.
- The average surface temperature of the Earth will cross 1.5 °C over pre-industrial levels in the next 20 years (By 2040) and 2°C by the middle of the century without sharp reduction of emissions.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) Concentrations:
- They are the highest in at least two million years. Humans have emitted 2,400 billion tonnes of CO2 since the late 1800s.
- Most of this can be attributed to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.
- The effect of human activities has warmed the climate at a rate unprecedented in 2,000 years.
- The world has already depleted 86% of it’s available carbon budget.
- Impact of Global Warming:
- Sea- Level Rise:
- Sea-level rise has tripled compared with 1901-1971. The Arctic Sea ice is the lowest it has been in 1,000 years.
- Coastal areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century, resulting in coastal erosion and more frequent and severe flooding in low-lying areas.
- About 50% of the sea level rise is due to thermal expansion (when water heats up, it expands, thus warmer oceans simply occupy more space).
- Precipitation & Drought:
- Every additional 0.5 °C of warming will increase hot extremes, extreme precipitation and drought. Additional warming will also weaken the Earth’s carbon sinks present in plants, soils, and the ocean.
- Heat Extremes:
- Heat extremes have increased while cold extremes have decreased, and these trends will continue over the coming decades over Asia.
- Receding Snowline & Melting Glaciers:
- Global Warming will have a serious impact on mountain ranges across the world, including the Himalayas.
- The freezing level of mountains are likely to change and snowlines will retreat over the coming decades.
- Retreating snowlines and melting glaciers is a cause for alarm as this can cause a change in the water cycle, the precipitation patterns, increased floods as well as an increased scarcity of water in the future in the states across the Himalayas.
- The level of temperature rise in the mountains and glacial melt is unprecedented in 2,000 years. The retreat of glaciers is now attributed to anthropogenic factors and human influence.
- Sea- Level Rise:
- Indian Sub-continent Specific Findings:
- Heatwaves: Heatwaves and humid heat stress will be more intense and frequent during the 21st century over South Asia.
- Monsoon: Changes in monsoon precipitation are also expected, with both annual and summer monsoon precipitation projected to increase.
- The South West Monsoon has declined over the past few decades because of the increase of aerosols, but once this reduces, we will experience heavy monsoon rainfall.
- Sea Temperature: The Indian Ocean, which includes the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, has warmed faster than the global average.
- The sea surface temperature over Indian ocean is likely to increase by 1 to 2 °C when there is 1.5°C to 2°C global warming.
- In the Indian Ocean, the sea temperature is heating at a higher rate than other areas, and therefore may influence other regions.
- Net- Zero Emissions:
- It means that all man-made greenhouse gas emissions must be removed from the atmosphere through reduction measures, thus reducing the Earth’s net climate balance, after removal via natural and artificial sink, to zero.
- This way humankind would be carbon neutral and global temperature would stabilise.
- Current Situation:
- Several countries, more than 100, have already announced their intentions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. These include major emitters like the United States, China and the European Union.
- India, the third largest emitter in the world, has been holding out, arguing that it was already doing much more than it was required to do, performing better, in relative terms, than other countries.
- Any further burden would jeopardise its continuing efforts to pull its millions out of poverty.
- IPCC has informed that a global net-zero by 2050 was the minimum required to keep the temperature rise to 1.5°C. Without India, this would not be possible.
- Even China, the world’s biggest emitter, has a net-zero goal for 2060.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- It is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change.
- It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
- IPCC assessments provide a scientific basis for governments at all levels to develop climate related policies, and they underlie negotiations at the UN Climate Conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
IPCC Assessment Reports
- Every few years (about 7 years), the IPCC produces assessment reports that are the most comprehensive scientific evaluations of the state of earth’s climate.
- So far, five assessment reports have been produced, the first one being released in 1990. The fifth assessment report had come out in 2014 in the run up to the climate change conference in Paris.
- The Assessment Reports – by three working groups of scientists.
- Working Group-I – Deals with the scientific basis for climate change.
- Working Group-II – Looks at the likely impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation issues.
- Working Group-III – Deals with actions that can be taken to combat climate change.
3. ‘Myanmar Army committed genocide against Rohingya’
Evidence of systematic attack: Blinken
The United States officially declared on Monday that violence against the Rohingya committed by Myanmar’s military amounted to genocide, saying there was clear evidence of an attempt to “destroy” the Muslim minority.
Citing the killings of thousands and forcing close to a million to flee the country in 2016 and 2017, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had “determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya.”
“The military’s intent went beyond ethnic cleansing to the actual destruction of Rohingya,” Mr. Blinken said at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The attack against Rohingya was widespread and systematic, which is crucial for reaching a determination of crimes against humanity.”
Around 8,50,000 Rohingya are languishing in camps in Bangladesh, recounting mass killings and rape, while another 6,00,000 members remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where they report widespread oppression.
The move was cautiously welcomed by activists and members of the beleaguered community.
Who are Rohingyas?
- Rohingyas are Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state whose origins are believed to be from Bangladesh.
What is the issue? [↑]
- Rohingyas are not recognized by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group (mostly Buddhists) and are therefore denied citizenship.
- Both institutionally discriminated and denied basic human rights, over a million Rohingyas have no land they call home.
What are the Reasons?
- Rakhine is a province located in the north-western coast of Myanmar and is isolated from the rest of the country because of a mountain range in between. This created natural barrier = fewer interactions between two sides.
- After the region came under British rule in 1824, there was an increased movement of people.
- As the region was fertile, there was rice cultivation on a large scale.
- The British got workers from Chittagong to cultivate the rice fields.
- Eventually, a lot of people settled down in Myanmar.
- Mosques and pagodas existed side by side and there was a cordial relationship for centuries.
- The world war II saw the first fissures emerge as the Muslims supported the British and the Buddhists supported the Japanese for their respective political aspirations.
- Rohingyas are not qualified to be citizens of Myanmar as per the 1982 Citizenship law, which was promulgated by the erstwhile military junta.
- Only those people who trace their residence in the country to before 1823 (remember British engineered migration from 1823), or those belonging to the majority Burman, or Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan ethnic groups, qualify for full citizenship.
- Thus Rohingyas couldn’t claim citizenship as the majority of them came to Myanmar only after 1823.
What are the issues faced by Rohingyas?
- Lakhs of Rohingyas have been displaced, with three-fourths of them seeking refuge in Bangladesh and India.
- They suffer “mass atrocities” perpetrated by security forces of Myanmar in the northern part of Rakhine state.
- A large number of those escaping the brutal violence end up in the trafficking networks of the region who smuggle them out for huge amounts of money.
- Some die en route, some make it to the borders of neighboring countries only to be turned away: hordes, including little children, often get stranded at sea.
- What’s even more distressing is that all of this is now happening under the stewardship of Aung San Suu Kyi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous and inspiring “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.
What is the global response to this issue?
- The western world is busy with the unfolding of events in the middle-east particularly Syria and the resultant refugee crisis. They neglected Rohingyas, whose plight has no direct bearing on the West’s interests.
- By lifting the 20-year long sanctions against Myanmar in 2016, the U.S finds itself in no position to bargain or put pressure on the country.
- The UN has also proven to be powerless on the Rohingyas question.
- For China, its relationship with Myanmar’s Generals is important for gaining access to the country’s natural resources and recruiting Myanmar for China’s larger economic goals which include opening a land corridor to the Bay of Bengal.
- Neighboring countries like Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia have raised the issue with Myanmar only when the refugees became economically burdensome.
- In any case, the Rohingyas are of no strategic value to anyone. So there is no effective international pressure on Myanmar government.
What is India’s response?
- India’s record of accommodating the Rohingyas is better than that of China, but this policy is changing.
- Many Rohingyas are either turned away while trying to enter the country or sent to the jail for illegal entry.
- Citizenship (amendment) bill, 2016, proposes that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians (note- No Muslims) entering India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan not be considered as “illegal immigrants”. Thus the proposed amendment is technically pro-minority but it certainly is anti-Muslim.
Why is India reluctant in helping Rohingyas?
- In India, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya refugees = High economic costs.
- Also, a lot of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have been reporting Rakhine as their origin to get refugee status in India.
- There has been a problem of growing Islamic radicalization among the Rohingyas.
- Efforts of radical Islamists to influence Rohingya youth, to capitalize on the situation and promote anti-India activities is possible.
- The Indian intelligence has also discovered Pakistani Army & ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) connections with the ranks of “Arakhan Rohingya Army” which is currently involved in an insurgency against Myanmar.
- Rohingyas are spread over several states in India and thus creating political tensions in those states.
- India is also concerned about the security conditions in upper western Myanmar adjoining the Naga self-administered zone operated by NSCN (K) group.
4. Sri Lanka’s aggravating economic crisis
Why did the island nation reach this point? How has India extended support and assistance to its neighbour?
The economic meltdown started during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 when key foreign exchange earning sectors, such as exports and remittances, along with tourism, were brutally hit.
The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen to nearly 265 against the U.S. dollar. Consumer Price inflation is at 16.8% and Sri Lanka has to repay foreign debt totalling nearly $7 billion this year and continue importing essentials from its dwindling dollar account.
Beginning January 2022, India has extended assistance totalling $2.4 billion to its neighbour. However, there is growing scepticism in Sri Lankan media over Indian assistance “being tied” to New Delhi inking key infrastructure projects in the island nation.
The story so far: Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is aggravating rapidly, putting citizens through enormous hardship. Over the weekend, at least two senior citizens died while waiting in long queues to buy fuel; the price of cooking gas spiked to LKR 4,199 (roughly ₹1,150), the price of the widely used milk powder shot up by LKR 600 a kg, and authorities were forced to cancel school examinations for millions of students, due to a shortage of paper.
Why are prices soaring and why is there a shortage?
Sri Lanka is in the grips of one of its worst economic meltdowns in history. The first wave of the pandemic in 2020 offered early and sure signs of the distress — when thousands of Sri Lankan labourers in West Asian countries were left stranded and returned jobless; garment factories and tea estates in Sri Lanka could not function, as infections raged in clusters, and thousands of youth lost their jobs in cities as establishments abruptly sacked them or shut down. It meant that all key foreign exchange earning sectors, such as exports and remittances, along with tourism, were brutally hit.
The lack of a comprehensive strategy to respond to the crisis then, coupled with certain policy decisions last year — including the government’s abrupt switch to organic farming —widely deemed “ill-advised”, further aggravated the problem. In August last year, the government declared emergency regulations for the distribution of essential food items, amid wide import restrictions to save dollars which in turn led to consequent market irregularities, and reported hoarding.
Fears of a sovereign default rose by the end of 2021, with the country’s foreign reserves plummeting to $1.6 billion, and deadlines for repaying external loans looming. But Sri Lanka managed to keep its unblemished foreign debt servicing record. All the same, without enough dollars to import essentials such as food, fuel, and medicines, the year 2022 began on a rather challenging note, marked by further shortages and an economic upheaval.
What is happening on the ground?
At the macro-economic level, all indicators are worrisome. The Sri Lankan rupee, that authorities floated this month, has fallen to nearly 265 against the U.S. dollar. Consumer Price inflation is at 16.8% and foreign reserves stood at $2.31 billion at the end of February. Sri Lanka must repay foreign debt totalling nearly $7 billion this year and continue importing essentials from its dwindling dollar account. In a recent address to the country, President Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka will incur an import bill of $22 billion this year, resulting in a trade deficit of $10 billion.
For citizens, this means long waits in queues for fuel, a shortage of cooking gas, contending with prolonged power cuts in many localities and struggles to find medicines for patients. In families of working people, the crisis is translating to cutting down on milk for children, eating fewer meals, or going to bed hungry.
Is there resistance?
Yes, both citizens and different segments of the political opposition are taking to the streets, demanding that President Rajapaksa go home. Many media houses are criticising the government, while social media pages are rife with memes and sharp commentary on the Rajapaksas.
What is the government’s response?
“This crisis was not created by me,” President Rajapaksa has said, pointing to challenges that arose due to the pandemic. Despite many economists putting forward support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the “only option” for the government, the establishment was reluctant until recently when mounting protests and criticism forced the government into a policy U-turn. The government is now in talks with the IMF to “to find a way to pay off our annual loan instalments, sovereign bonds”, Mr. Rajapaksa said. It remains to be seen how the IMF will support Sri Lanka at this juncture, and to what extent its support might help the country cope with the crisis. Colombo has also sought support from various bilateral partners, including India, by way of loans, currency swaps, and credit lines for import of essentials.
How is India helping?
Beginning January 2022, India has extended assistance totalling $ 2.4 billion — including an $400 million RBI currency swap, a $500 million loan deferment, and credit lines for importing food, fuel, and medicines. Of this, a billion-dollar credit line was finalised last week, during Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi. “Neighbourhood first. India stands with Sri Lanka. $1 billion credit line signed for supply of essential commodities. Key element of the package of support extended by India,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, China is considering Sri Lanka’s recent request for further $2.5 billion assistance, in addition to the $2.8 billion Beijing has extended since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Chinese Ambassador in Colombo told a media conference.
How is India’s assistance being viewed in Sri Lanka?
The leadership has thanked India for the timely assistance, but there is growing scepticism in Sri Lankan media and some sections, over Indian assistance “being tied” to New Delhi inking key infrastructure projects in the island nation in the recent past — mainly the strategic Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm project; the National Thermal Power Corporation’s recent agreement with Ceylon Electricity Board to set up a solar power plant in Sampur, in Sri Lanka’s eastern Trincomalee district; and two renewable energy projects in northern Sri Lanka, with investment from India’s Adani Group.
The weekend newspaper Sunday Times took an editorial position that New Delhi was resorting to “diplomatic blackmail”, while cartoonists have depicted Sri Lankan leaders trading crucial energy projects for emergency financial assistance from India. The political opposition has accused the Adani Group of entering Sri Lanka through the “back door”, avoiding competitive bids and due process.
5. A solution in search of a problem: on 10% reservations
Instead of addressing inequality, the 10% quota for economically weaker sections creates huge anxieties
The EWS Bill promises 10% reservation to individuals classified as economically backward, that is those who have an income threshold of ₹8 lakh per annum. The NSS of 2011-12 shows that the annual per capita expenditure for 99% of households falls under this threshold, even when we take inflation into account.
The actual implementation of the EWS quota could be challenging as procuring caste certificates could be difficult.
One alternative strategy can be to try and spread the benefits of reservations as widely as possible within the existing framework and ensure that individuals use their reserved category status only once in their lifetime.
As the Supreme Court hears the petitions challenging the validity of the criteria of ₹8 lakhs annual income limit as the upper limit for seeking EWS reservation in the All India Quota for NEET admissions, this article by Sonalde Desai dated January 11, 2019, explains why the EWS quota does not address the problems within the reservation system.
If the number of demands for implementing reforms is any guide, India’s reservation system is clearly in disarray. However, it is unlikely that the recently passed Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, creating a 10% quota for the economically weaker sections (EWS), will serve as anything more than a band-aid.
Given the deep inequalities prevalent in access to education and jobs based on caste and socio-economic status, affirmative action (or positive discrimination) makes a lot of sense. However, the system that was put in place during the early years of the Republic deserves serious re-evaluation in an era when technology has paved the way for deploying a better equipped arsenal. Here I present an evaluation of the potential implications of the EWS quota Bill, followed by some alternatives.
Excluding no one
The Bill promises 10% reservation to individuals classified as economically backward. However, while a number of criteria were discussed in the parliamentary debate, the Bill is quite silent on this. Assuming that among the criteria discussed in Parliament, those that are currently applied to the definition of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) creamy layer are the ones to be used, it is not clear how useful they would be. While the OBC creamy layer has been created to exclude people who are clearly well off, the EWS quota, in contrast, is expected to focus on the poor. One of the criteria — the income threshold of ₹8 lakh per annum — has been mentioned. The National Sample Survey (NSS) of 2011-12 shows that the annual per capita expenditure for 99% of households falls under this threshold, even when we take inflation into account. Similarly, as per the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), the annual household incomes of 98% of households are less than ₹8 lakh. Even if we apply all the other criteria for exclusion (e.g. amount of land owned and size of home), the Bill would still cover over 95% of the households. So, who are we excluding? Almost no one.
While the benefits of the EWS quota are likely to be minimal, the cost may be higher than one anticipates. First, it is important to remember that general category jobs are open to everyone, including Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and OBC individuals. Thus, by removing 10% jobs from the “open” category, it reduces the opportunities for currently reserved groups. Hence, this is by no means a win-win situation. This may be particularly problematic for OBCs since OBC reservation is limited to 27% of the seats whereas the OBC population is at least 40% of the population, possibly more. Thus, this move is almost certain to result in calls for greater OBC reservation, particularly if a constitutional amendment to increase the proportion of reserved seats from 50% to 60% is already being adopted.
Getting caste certificates
Second, actual implementation of the EWS quota could be challenging. Few non-SC/ST/OBC individuals have a caste certificate. A large number of SC/ST/OBC households report difficulties in obtaining these certificates. How would an individual practically lay claim to this status?
Third, in an era when skill demands are rapidly outpacing supply of candidates in specialised fields, the EWS quota increases the constraints. If a university advertises for an associate professor for quantum physics under the EWS quota and the only suitable candidate happens to be from an OBC category, she could not be hired. These challenges occur for all positions under specifically reserved categories and we have chosen to live with these difficulties in the interest of the greater good of equity. However, there is little benefit to be derived from the EWS quota.
Arguably, the greatest cost of this amendment lies in the foregone opportunity to develop an enhanced and more effective reservation policy so that we can genuinely see an end to the entrenched inequalities in Indian society in the medium term. We have gotten so used to business as usual that we make no effort to sharpen our focus and look for more effective solutions, solutions that would make reservations redundant in 50 years.
If we were to redesign from scratch, what would an effective affirmative action policy look like? If the goal is to help as many people as possible, we are facing a serious challenge. On the one hand, 50% reservation looks very large; in the grand scheme of India’s population it is a blunt and at times ineffective instrument.
The following statistics from the Union Public Service Commission provide a sobering view of ground realities. In 2014, only 0.14% applicants to the UPSC were selected. Moreover, the general category and OBCs have the highest success rate, about 0.17%, and SCs have the lowest, about 0.08%. This may be because of the perception that it is easier for SCs to be recruited via the reserved quota and this may have led to a large number of SCs taking the civil services examination. One might say that many of these candidates are not qualified for these jobs. However, if we look at the candidates who made it past the preliminary examination (providing preliminary quality assurance), the picture is equally grim. Only about 8% of the candidates who took the main examination succeeded. Here the success rate is 8.2-8.3% for SC and ST candidates, 9.9% for OBCs and 7.8% for the general category. This suggests that in spite of the grievances of upper castes, reserved category applicants are not hugely advantaged.
The above statistics tell us that in spite of reservations, a vast proportion of reserved category applicants do not find a place via the UPSC examination. I suspect statistics from other fields may tell a similar story. This implies that if we expect reservations to cure the ills of Indian society, we may have a long wait.
Spread the benefits
Hence, we must think about alternative strategies. One strategy may be to try and spread the benefits of reservations as widely as possible within the existing framework and ensure that individuals use their reserved category status only once in their lifetime. This would require that anyone using reservations to obtain a benefit such as college admission must register his/her Aadhaar number and she would be ineligible to use reservations for another benefit (e.g. a job) in the future. This would require no changes to the basic framework but spread the benefits more broadly within the reserved category allowing a larger number of families to seek upward mobility.
A second strategy might be to recognise that future economic growth in India is going to come from the private sector and entrepreneurship. In order to ensure that all Indians, regardless of caste, class and religion, are able to partake in economic growth, we must focus on basic skills.
We have focused on admission to prestigious colleges and government jobs, but little attention is directed to social inequality in the quality of elementary schooling.
The IHDS shows that among children aged 8-11, 68% of the forward caste children can read at Class 1 level while the proportion is far lower for OBCs (56%), SCs (45%) and STs (40%). This suggests that we need to focus on reducing inequalities where they first emerge, within primary schools.
The challenge we face is that our mindset is so driven by the reservation system that was developed in a different era that we have not had the time or the inclination to think about its success or to examine possible modifications. The tragedy of the EWC quota is that it detracts from this out-of-the-box thinking!
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