Sunday, June 11, 2006

Affirmative Action and Reservations – The Missing Links

The recent reservation debates, while drawing comparisons with Affirmative Action (AA) of USA, fail to highlight the proactive facet of AA. AA is superior to our reservations both in letter, spirit and scope. While the Indian reservation system extends to the Government sector alone, the historic Executive Order 11246 issued by President Lyndon Johnson covers almost 200,000 government contractors and sub-contractors.

This article, while quoting Adarand Constructors v. Pena fails to inform the background of the case. The case challenged one of the remarkable components of AA, the minority set-aside programs. These require the Federal, State and Local Governments to set aside a percentage of funds exclusively for minority contractors. Such provisions are glaringly missing in our reservation system. Public Works Employment Act, 1977, which was the first legislation to implement set aside programs, was challenged in the Supreme Court by white contractors and the Supreme Court upheld the law in Fullilove Vs Klutznick. Sadly, the Bhopal Declaration, which touted for such measures, hibernates in the UPA's Common Minimum Programme.

On the AA front, the Supreme Court of USA has played a pioneering role upholding it and ensuring that it is followed in various aspects inter alia education, recruitment, entrance tests etc. Some of them deserve a mention here.

The Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in addition to ruling in favour of racial preference for disadvantaged groups, also held that “the goal of achieving a diverse student body is sufficiently compelling to justify consideration of race in admissions decisions” and that being a minority group could “be deemed a plus in a particular applicant’s file”. Unfortunately, in India, instead of recognizing the role reservation in ensuring diversity, it is treated as a sop to the deprived classes.

In the United States v. Paradise, the Supreme Court upheld the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama’s rulings with regard to discrimination in the employment of black trooper. In 1972, the court ordered to hire one black trooper for every white trooper till the percentage of black trooper reaches 25, when it found that in the past 37 years not even a single black trooper was recruited. After 11 years, when the District Court found that the progress had been tardy, it followed up with the order of promotion of one black trooper for each white trooper elevated in rank. On the contrary, in India, most of the reservations go unfilled and administratively get reclassified as “Backlog Vacancies”.

On the issue of entrance tests for employment purposes, the U.S Supreme Court, in the Griggs v Duke Power Company (1971), ruled that the Civil Services Act banned discriminatory employment practices that cause exclusion of disadvantaged groups, when it cannot be shown that those practices relate to job performance. The employment practices include intelligence tests and minimum education qualifications. Further, to ensure that the practices followed relate to job performance, the court ruled that the correlation between high scores in tests and high job performance must be shown by the employers.

In Albemarle Paper Company Vs Moody (1975), the Supreme Court ruled that culturally biased tests were illegal even if the employer was not discriminating intentionally. In Connecticut et al Vs Adele (1982), the same court said that using culturally biased tests were illegal even if the state promoted more blacks than whites. Infact, till the Civil Services Act, 1991 was passed, most recruitment processes followed a practice called Race Norming where additional marks where awarded to the minorities to offset the cultural bias in the tests. In sharp contrast, glaring cultural biases like testing English vocabulary in exams like CAT and predominant usage of English as the medium of tests have gone unchallenged in our country where most of the disadvantaged students are tutored in vernacular medium.

Such comprehensive and detailed implementation of Reservations is sorely missing in India. Yes, we can’t compare AA with reservations. They have a far wider, deeper and more honest reach.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Godavari - Celluloid Sweetness

A movie that deserves more than one post. I hope to make atleast one detailed post in the near future. Actors, photography, music, lyrics and background score - all merge as harmoniously as the waters of Godavari, the Paapi hills, the hues of sky and the rays of the sun. Veturi’s lyrics are truly beautiful. When a lyrically challenged guy (me) could understand and appreciate (though not completely) the song “raama chakkani seetaki...”, it shows how beautiful the lyrics could be for those who can understand them fully.

eDama chaetanu Sivuni villunu...ettina aa raamuDe
ettagalaDa seeta jaDanu taaLi kaTTe vaeLalO

That Rama who could lift Siva’s bow with his left hand
Can He lift Sita’s plait when he ties the Thaali?

I would love if someone can post the rest of the lyrics. Or atleast give me the links. If it is with transliteration it would be good and if it has translation (even selected lines would do), it would be great.

Thanks Shekar Kammula & the team for not letting me down.

Check out the lyrics and the song here

For a more beautiful description (not review), check these Ramblings on Godavari

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

N.Ram and maR(a)N - Comrade at Arms

When I made this post, I thought that the doomsday prediction was limited to Tamil Nadu. But after I came across this, I realised that things were far worse than I thought.

What is worse is that "The Hindu" has refused to publish the article by Sevanti Ninan, whose column "Media Matters" is one of the best critical evaluations of the Indian media.

I had known since long about Hindu’s DMK relations. No, I am not referring to the coincidence that “N.Ram” is almost a palindrome of “Maran”. Dayanidhi Maran’s wife is the grand daughter of Rangarajan, the publisher of Hindu. The refusal to publish Sevanti Ninan’s article just reaffirms Hindu's hidden vested interests. I am yet to comprehend what was so “legally risky” in the article. Remember, Hindu had the clout to get a stay order the very next day from the highest court of this land when they were threatened with warrants and a person no less than the Solicitor General appeared for them. A court which takes ages to solve basic problems of the most deprived sections such as the ousted tribals, gas leak affected victims etc was ready to hear even after the official hours. Such a newspaper calling the article “legally risky” is as genuine a reason as to say that they ran out ink while printing and hence the article was omitted.

And while a few people would aware of Hindu's duplicity, they would earn accolades by publishing articles like this. A very intelligent way to masquerade their immorality. This post, which I also referred to in my previous post accusing Hindu of bias, raised the questions of caste composition of the Hindu management and their ownership pattern. While Mr. Varadarajan slams the media in general and his ‘previous’ newspaper in particular, can he or his Big Boss, Ram tell us how diverse is Hindu’s editorial staff or what steps have they taken to increase inclusivity. Or why the card-holder refuses to give his employees a share in the company?

Hindu should learn that in the age of blogs and sms, it would be difficult to carry on their hypocrisy forever.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

'Under'Cover Stories - Sex, Lies and Surveys

I stopped reading magazines ever since India Today carried Natasha Singh’s suicide on its cover page. And the way tabloidification of magazines has happened since then, I never had to regret my decision.

A recent edition of The Week (unable to fish the hyperlink) chose to carry on its cover a survey on sex at workplaces. Initially it dint interest me as I neither have sex nor work. You see I have this disastrously repulsive combination of being both ugly and unemployed. And literally, neither lady nor luck, smiles at me.

But then I decided to have a peek hoping against hope to find some alchemical formula to liberate myself from virginity. I remember how few years back I ran to a book shop when I knew a book called 'Losing Virginity' was released. On reaching there, I realized that it had everything other than what was written on the cover. These magazines too are something like that.

India Today did some similar survey and every forgotten female made news by just commenting on what one clumsy female commented in it. So did Outlook and virtually every other magazine except our dear Frontline. They believe in Real Story. Everytime. In case of sex that would be disappointing at its best and depressing at its worst. One common denominator among all these stories (no, I wouldn’t call them surveys) is that they never tell you anything that you dint know.

They would begin talking about the increasing stress in urban life, failing relationships, work pressures and then go on to tell you how sex is fun, stress busting etc etc. Wow! Revelation indeed. I swear I never knew that till I read these stories. I always thought that sex was for artificial insemination in men, and to produce broiler babies in women.

And then a couple of couples in coupled positions. A few bold (I mean the font, not the content) titles about relationships, marriages, divorces, flings, preferences, positions etc etc. But whom are they trying to surprise. Every kid knows that these days sex and infidelity fit as good as six and nine. I know that was gross. But I am happy that I was able to comment on relationships, preferences and positions in one go and that’s what people seem to like these days. Considering the popularity of sex and the falling visits my blog gets, I too plan to have a new section, “Sex”.

To add a technical touch, you would have a sociologist, psychologist and, of course, a sexologist who tries hard to look sexy from the small passport size photo beside his byline. This one in the Week, recommends nipping causal (read sexual) relations in the bud. So now we are going to have two departments in the HR, one to prevent sexual harassment and one to prevent sexual appeasement. The first would ask the guy to take his hands off the girl and the second would ask the girl to take her hands off the guy’s hands so that they can then ask the guy to take his hands off the girl.

The survey itself was crap. 47% were not aware of casual relations. So with close to half of the respondents blissfully unaware of what rocks their cars, tables and lifts, how accurate would the survey be. Another sore was “No Comments”. For god sake, you are not a chargesheeted politician speaking to the media. With anonymity assured, why can’t you open your mouth and speak something which you have been dreaming, speaking and hearing ever since you passed out of your kindergarten. And damn those who make the survey. In a population of 1 crore they can’t find 1000 people who can answer all the 10 questions.

I won’t start preaching the media on socially responsible journalism as I know they are not going to desist from such surveys and news in future. But what I wish is that they should be useful.

For Example:

1) Top 30 Firms (with the full postal address) whose proportion of female employees is atleast 75%

2) Among these, top 20 Firms where the average age of females is less than 25 years

3) And finally, the top 10 firms where the standard deviation from 36-24-36 is less than 1.213

4) Top 5 approach lines

5) Next 5 approach lines

If they fail,

6) Top 5 cover-ups

7) Next 5 Cover-ups

If they too fail,

Repeat the survey with the next 30 companies in the next issue.

Iteration to continue ad infinitum.

For pre-marital sex, please replace firms with schools. And please don’t ask people like Khushboo and Sania for comments. One is too old and the other hardly went to school.

Additionally, annual subscribers should be rewarded with complimentary details. Something like one-year subscription should get you the first names, two year subscription, both first and last names and three year subscription should get you both names and mobile numbers.

Do this and I assure that the editors can laugh their way to the banks and readers to the beds.