Genre: Current Affairs
So far in my life, there have been only two people for whom I have wished instant death, because they just don't deserve to be alive. One of the wishes got fulfilled today, so it is time to celebrate. Yes, I am happy Arjun Singh died, and I am not the only one saying this. I was following Twitter updates in the hours after the news of his death broke out, and the ratio of celebratory to condolence messages was almost 100:1. Never before have I seen so many educated Indians celebrate a death. So, why this strange reaction now? Because the man deserved it.
For the uninitiated, Arjun Singh was the Human Resource Development minister in the Indian government and besides other cases of corruption and manipulative politics including mishandling of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case, he was a vehemant supporter of caste-based reservations in admissions to presitigious engineering and management colleges of India. Now, per se, it is a good thing to promote education for all, and I am all for it, having myself participated in Teach India program teaching street kids who cannot afford school fees. But the method adopted by Arjun Singh was downright wrong, unfair and implemented for the sole purpose of gaining political mileage. Providing education to backward caste kids is one thing, but keeping aside seats in premier institutes and handing them on a platter to certain students simply because they have a paper that says they belong to a certain caste is outright stupid.
The caste-based reservation system must have spoilt the careers of millions of Indian kids over the years, and I will narrate a couple of examples how- when I applied for admission to VJTI in 2005, out of 60 seats available for Electronics Engineering, only 19 (yes, nineteen only) seats were offered to students on the basis of their merit. A whopping 68% seats were reserved for students under various quotas- female quote, Scheduled Caste quota, Scheduled Tribes quote, Other Backward Class quota and so on. How does this affect a student's career? This is how- the admission to VJTI was through Maharashtra state Common Entrance Test (CET). The cut-off for Open category male students was 191/200. My friend who had scored a healthy 188/200 in CET could not get admission to his course of choice. However, a common friend of ours, with a mediocre score of 110/200 made his way in to the said class. How? Because he held a piece of paper that proclaimed he belongs to the "backward caste". So, was he indeed poor, backward and oppressed? Well, he used to come to college on a swanky bike, armed with an iPod and an expensive cellphone. Imagine yourself in the shoes of that friend whose dream of studying at a premier educational institute, for which he had studied day and night for 2 years, was crushed and several relatively undeserving students walked in, because they had a certain piece of paper. So, if there was no reservation, would he have made it? Quite easily, considering his rank among applicants to the said course was 43. If all the 60 seats were available on the basis of merit alone, he would have accomplished his dream of getting a B Tech degree from VJTI. This is just one example. Cases like this happen every year with students aspiring admission to the presitigious IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and other institutes seeing their dreams crushed, thanks to one man- Arjun Singh.
So, if this was unfair, did the students not protest? They did, we all did. Coming together under the banner of Youth for Equality (YFE), a non-commercial non-politically aligned group, comprising of college students and their parents asking for appreciation of merit. Unlike some political groups who resort to violence, demage to public property and vandalism to protest, we chose the democratic way. YFE conducted protest rallies (one of which me and my friends attended in the middle of our final exams), organized awareness drives (in one of which, me and a friend stood a whole day in heavy rain explaining new college applicants the consequences of reservation system), several students at AIIMS went on a hunger strike and YFE submitted petitions in court. And what happened? On orders by the government, students in Mumbai were treated like criminals and beaten up in the middle of the road and the petition in Supreme Court was quashed by Arjun Singh's ministry, and this is when the Chief Justice handling the case famously said "if this is how the government wants to function, why don't we just put a lock on the court?". Having seen all this, it is natural that the news of death of the man responsible for it is received with cheer and happiness.
So here it is, to the man who screwed up India's education system- Rest in Pieces in Hell, and if you plan to go to Heaven, make sure to carry your reservation certificate, because for sure you do not have enough marks to make it through on Merit. *
* Last line courtesy my friend Pranay Karwa