Myth Of the “Myth Of Merit” – Reservation Context

A lot of emminent bloggers have blogged about the “myth of merit”. This attitude towards meritrocracy has emerged after the announcement of 27% reservations for OBCs in the “elite institutions” by HRD minister Arjun Singh.

The current criterion of merit has been ridiculed over and over to emphasize that “merit” as we see it is not good enough and hence if anybody not so “meritorious” gets admitted to the Institute,it will not in any way affect the quality of students produced from the Institutes. The IITs are a prime target for this kind of reasoning.

What I want to ask people ridiculing merit, is …

  1. Is the current definition of “merit” resulting in the relative backwardness of the BC/OBCs?
  2. If “merit” was measured using some standards other than those that are used today, would the BC/OBCs be better off than what they are today?
  3. If we redifine”merit”, will that achieve a better representation of BC/OBCs in our Institutes?

The answer to all the above questions is No. No matter how you define merit, those classes that are not proportionately represented today, would not have been proportionately represented anyway. This is because it is not the definition of “merit” that is preventing them from becoming “meritorious”. It is the socio-sconomic condition that is preventing them to acquire the desired skills to be “meritorious”. The statement that Anybody given the right opportunity and circumstances can be come meritorious is very true. The whole idea behind reservations is to provide them the opportunity. Hence the idea that the current standards to measure merit are not good enough does not hold ground in the reservation debate.

So why are so many scholars/bloggers attacking the merit? I guess they are either doing so out of the urge to confuse the matters or they do not understand that there is no relationship between merit and the plight of the BC/OBCs.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare

This is true even in the case of merit.

Merit if defined by any other criterion would be as difficult to achieve by the socially and economically backward classes.

The above statement doesn’t undermine anybody’s intelligence but underlines the fact that if someones socio economic conditions are such that they cannot achieve “this Merit” then it would be as difficult to achieve “That merit” as well. Arguments similar to “Myth Of Merit” do not help the cause of BC/OBCs.
Reservations is about proportional representation and providing opportunity and not redefining merit.

August 21, 2006 · Ajit · 2 Comments
Posted in: India, Quota Reservations, Reservations

2 Responses

  1. Apun Ka Desh - September 23, 2006

    Just as there is no glory in reaching the Mount Everest, if you are dropped on top of it via a Helicopter – So there is no sense of achievement in making it to a good college by virtue of Reservations.

    Yes, you need help wherever required like Scholarships, Sponsorshops, Coaching etc….sure; but surely one doesn’t relish a race which one wins by virtue of birth right.

  2. Pratham - December 11, 2007

    This is a very old thread, but I do wish to answer your questions.

    > 1. Is the current definition of “merit” resulting in the relative backwardness of the BC/OBCs?
    No, at least not directly.

    > 2. If “merit” was measured using some standards other than those that are used today, would the BC/OBCs be better off than what they are today?
    Perhaps, if the standards negate the influence of socio-economic conditions. Mind you, not all standards would be influenced by socio-economic conditions in the same way. Entrance tests, for example, rely on coaching classes, study material etc, all closely tied to your socio-economic condition. The BITS Pilani normalized marks system was a great idea, till a state started misuing this.

    > 3. If we redifine”merit”, will that achieve a better representation of BC/OBCs in our Institutes?
    Yes, for the same reasons as #2.

    Having said that, reservations are a strange solution to this problem.
    The Government should fix the basic education system for the underprivileged, and then create a level playing field for all.

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