Monday, 13 April 2015

The Quota Paradox

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Some see the glass half empty, others see the glass half full"

The reservation system in India is one of the most debated topics among people. I, for one, strongly oppose caste based reservation system. To deny meritorious students of seats in good institutions (and jobs) simply because certain seats are reserved for people who belong to a particular caste is as unjust as people looking down upon a certain caste because they belong to that caste.

While many of you may agree with my argument above, I would like to pose a series of situations before you and ask you for your opinions and thoughts.

I read a news article that spoke about the situation of daily soap opera makers of Tamil Nadu. 50% of Tamil Nadu's serials are local shows made by people of Tamil Nadu while the remaining 50% are Hindi series that are dubbed to Tamil. A lot of Tamilians feel that this is unfair because other serial makers are unable to compete against big budget Hindi production houses. In fact, they are running into losses and one debt-ridden director apparently committed suicide. Local technicians and artisans are not getting jobs, they claim. There are several strikes & protests happening in TN now asking for some sort of reservation. Andhra Pradesh allows for only 30% dubbed series while Karnataka has completely banned dubbed series. You can read the entire article here. The question now is - Do you think that this fair?

One the one hand, if the local artistes are not making quality series, we don't have any options and are stuck to watching whatever tripe they churn out. You may argue saying that you should dub Tamil series to Hindi and take it to their backyard. What's preventing you from doing that? On the other hand, it's easier said than done when it comes to spending and outspending. If local artisans get wiped out completely, is that good? What are the long reaching repercussions? Something to think about. Before we answer this question, let's move on to the next topic.

The hot topic of recent times, net neutrality. Essentially the debate revolves around Airtel's new scheme where companies that are willing to become their members gain the advantage of having their customers not paying for the internet to use their apps as long as they are Airtel customers. While customers seem to benefit from this outwardly, several people see many things wrong with it. While we shall refrain from debating the wrongs and rights of the topic, it is clear that the membership is offered to those who can afford to shell out huge amounts of money to Airtel. And clearly all companies cannot afford that - Companies such as Flipkart will gain an unfair advantage over others, is the claim being made. Too bad that you couldn't pay more... You don't think it's a level playing field? Who's stopping you from paying and joining, Flipkart and Airtel may ask...

Now let's come to the last case of our little discussion - It's perhaps easy to say that merit has to win in the cases of education, series and movies. How about China vs India? Chinese manufacturing is known for producing products at extremely low costs. Their costs are unbelievably low. To give you an example, an RFID tag costs Rs. 100 in India and Rs 10 when obtained from China. That's a 10:1 difference! It's no wonder why many businessmen heavily incline towards Chinese manufacturers - imagine the difference it makes to their revenues. However, as a result of this, Indian manufacturers and companies will not be able to withstand this Chinese onslaught. Many companies shut shop for this same reason. Now, one might argue for free market and say, "Too bad, you were not good enough and thus you died" and notice that this is similar to survival of the fittest. However, this systematic destruction of Indian industries can have a detrimental effect in our long term goals of becoming a superpower. The ability to produce and manufacture indigenously is extremely important and one cannot rely on a foreign country, a rival in our case, for products. As you can see, a quota system to stem the Chinese doesn't seem like such a bad idea now, does it?

Remember, the rule is always simple; The playing field should always be level and only then one can say - May the best man win. But can we simply stick to that rule in a one shoe fit all manner? If you defended India in India vs China, think about the case of Tamil Nadu vs Hindi serials... Do you see a similarity? Something to think about. What are your opinions about quotas in each of these cases?

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