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Reservation in the age of Meritocracy

Note: This was written for a 3 minutes speech which was to be given as a part of my Management Communication class here in IIM-Clacutta. Well, that didn't go too well but I thought it might deserve a place here, so there you go.


Meritocracy is the foundation upon which modern human civilization is built. Countries and societies which have nurtured and promoted meritocracy have prospered, and the United States of America is a prime example of this. Meritocracy is a philosophy which holds that power should be vested in individuals exclusively according to merit. Reap what you sow! And who can argue against that?

And yet we as a nation not only argue against meritocracy but spend considerable effort in undermining, sabotaging and suppressing it in every way possible. We as a nation have replaced meritocracy with mediocrity. 68 years after Nehru celebrated India’s tryst with destiny at the Lal Qila, we continue to pander to the masses, to play to the galleries and to woo the vote bank.
Half of you, who are sitting here, ask yourself if you deserve to be here. Half of you, sitting here, ask yourself if you have not robbed a more worthy student of a place in this hallowed institute. Ask yourself, if deep down in your hearts you do not know that this is not right.

Reservation is a curse inflicted upon this country. After all meritocracy is king. Is it not?
What is meritocracy? How do you define it? Who defines it? I got 99.78 percentile and I did not make it to IIM-A but he got only 97.89 and he made it to IIM-A. How unfair? How very unfair? Of course it is not unfair that you were born to the privileged, while he was discriminated against all his life. Of course, it is not unfair that you got the best education possible, while he studied in a dismal government school. Of course, it is not unfair that you even dream in English while for him English is a nightmare.

I know how I am here. I am not here because I am the most intelligent. Far from it. I am not here because I have the most passion; even farther from it, and if you think I am here because I am the most hard working, you couldn’t be more wrong even if you tried. I am here because I was lucky. Lucky to be born to the right parents, lucky to be born in the right place and most importantly lucky to be born in the right caste.

Privilege makes one go blind. It makes a hypocrite of all of us. How easy it is to watch ‘How I met your mother’ and become Americanized, the great United States of America, and forget and ignore the village 100 km away from you. How very easy. Do you realize the extent to which a tribal faces discrimination? 65% of tribal girls drop out of school before turning 14. A backward class girl has to walk miles to fetch water because all the wells are in the upper caste localities and there goes her chance at education. A Muslim is denied housing in a posh locality and all of you know that the best schools are in those localities. Did you know that 95% of the students in Delhi Public School are from the upper castes?

Why do you think there is under representation of minorities in every walk of life? You all understand that the law of Normal Distribution is real and should hold. Discrimination is real. And before you say that reservation should be based on economic parameters and not caste, understand that its primary aim is to eradicate social discrimination. Tackling economic disparity is only incidental. Caste based discrimination is a disease. Caste based reservation is the medicine. And as long as the disease persists, so should the medicine.

So next time you crib saying about lack of meritocracy saying that you got XYZ marks and he got only ABC but still he made it to PQR institute, remember that meritocracy does not exist. Meritocracy is like the Himalayan Yeti, it is like the Lochness Monster of Scotland. Meritocracy is an illusion; it is a myth, a lie, sheer utopia, mere wishful thinking. It is only a chimera.

Sure, life ain’t fair. In fact, life is a bitch! Learn to deal with it!   

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