Monday, July 06, 2009

The 90:10 challenge!

Finally, the Bombay High Court (surprising, it is still called Bombay High Court) has dumped the Maharashtra Govt order providing 90% reservation to students from the State Board, applying to junior colleges within the State.


It was some 25 years ago, when I was a SSC student who had stood 2nd in school and secured admission into the Science stream of one of the premier junior colleges of that time. Out of the roughly 100 students in my class, about 40% were from the CBSE and ICSE boards. In those days, students passing out of these Boards had an additional weightage of 5% (Percent, mind you, not marks, so that was really huge).

These guys used to have a certain aura around them – at least that’s what I felt. Let me explain why. They were not really snooty; in fact my entire circle consisted of only CBSE/ ICSE guys, since most of the SSC guys were from vernacular schools, with whom I used to have a problem relating to). In Standard XI, the standard of curriculum suddenly appeared to have risen sharply. The complexity and volume of the syllabus was far higher than what I had been used to upto the SSC level. And my friend circle from the ICSE and CBSE found the same curriculum a breeze. Reason – most of it had already been covered in their respective courses back in school. And for the rest of us hapless SSC guys, it was a major struggle coping with the stress.


That experience of my own in Junior College convinced me that the level of studies in the ICSE and CBSE Boards most definitely provided a superior quality of student given the same IQ level and genetic background. It was this belief that led me to shift my own kid from the SSC School that she was going, to a recently opened ICSE school. The sense of urgency to make this shift was also on account of the fact that the number of ICSE schools were on the rise. Hence, in my kid’s generation the percentage of her peers who get an ICSE exposure would also be higher (than the relatively smaller percentage in my generation).

My hunch was right. The change was felt right from the first month of the shift. The volume of studies was far higher, but not stressful. It was richer in content, but not demanding on the student’s overall time and effort.


It was thus, with a great deal of frustration, that I heard about the Maharashtra Governments order to have a 90:10 quota system for SSC/ non-SSC students applying for junior colleges.

1. The ICSE and CBSE boards do not have sufficient number of their own junior colleges – hence the students have to forcibly move into the State Board stream to further pursue their studies. Discriminating against them therefore, is unfair.
2. Further, the issue is that of shortage of seats. If all the ICSE/ CBSE guys had actually studied in SSC format, then they would have fallen into the same category as the present SSC students – in such a situation, how would the Govt have tackled the seat shortage issue?
3. The Government has to remember that while the Boards might have been from Maharashtra, the Students are locals. Discriminating against them on flimsy grounds is not only unfair, but is only postponing the problem of seat shortage.
4. Adjustment of grades to account for difference in grading systems between the two streams can be done to a limited extent. That can take care of the misgivings which SSC students have about the regional language compulsion which they claim brings down their percentages.

On a long term Basis, the ICSE and CBSE boards would need to plan for extending their courses upto Standard XII. This alone would help resolve this issue as well as make sure that the quality of education enjoyed by these students is sustained.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The "NON" Congress Party!

In 1999, after Jayalalitha brough down the one and half year old Vajpayee Government by a single vote, the prospects of Sonia Gandhi (who is Italian Born) becoming the Prime Minister were real. Three Senior Congressmen, Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and Purno Sangma, in a closed-door Congress meeting, raised objections to a foreign born person occupying the highest chair. (Whether Pawar’s objection was really to the foreign origin or whether this was merely a political ploy to bring himself centre-stage, one cannot say). Sonia was enraged at this affront to her authority (after all, who can offend a Gandhi in the Congress and get away with it?) and showed these three the door! The NCP, supposedly the “Nationalist” Congress Party, thus came into being!

Now, 10 years later, questions are being raised about the raison d’etre of the NCP! Let’s see why:

1) Just one year after its formation in 1999, the Congress and the NCP had no qualms about joining hands to form a coalition government in Maharashtra, which ran “successfully” for the entire term.
2) They then fought the 2004 Maharashtra Assembly elections together and again continued the Government for another five years.
3) And now, they are all set to fight the 2009 Assembly elections as well.
4) In the meantime, the NCP has also fought the 2004 and 2009 General Elections with the Congress and become an integral part of the UPA with Sharad Pawar becoming the Agriculture Minister in both the stints.
5) Now, Purno Sangma, who wants to make sure his next generation’s career is well taken care of, has apologized to Sonia for his misdemeanor 10 years ago. Obviously, after Sonia visits his son’s wedding and takes Agatha Sangma under her tutelage, he would be hard pressed to say such a thing.

So, the issue is, why is NCP still alive?

If the foreign origin issue, raised so evocatively by Pawar and his cohorts in 1999, was such an important issue, then pray, why didn’t they pursue it? When in 2004, Sonia was all set to become PM, did we hear any murmur from the NCP?

The other day, when Praful Patel was asked the question about the continuation of the NCP, he deflected it by giving a standard vague reply that they were partners in secularism or something to that effect. Pray, what has secularism got to do with this? Do they need to exist as a separate entity just to promote secularism? If that were the objective, wouldn’t it be better if they unite and form a single entity? Why struggle and try to find a feature distinctive from the Congress?

I’ll tell you why!

If NCP merges with the Congress, Sharad Pawar loses his bargaining power. Today, whenever he senses that the Congress is on a weak wicket, he can always try and flirt with the third front, fourth front, fifth front and so on, like he did during the 2009 election campaign. That way, he can remain in power whichever combination comes to power. (He is rumoured to have even been in talks with Bal Thackeray by playing the Marathi PM card).

And by

a) wooing Agatha Sangma, Purno Sangma, Tariq Anwar,

b) putting the CBI after Padmasinh Patil,

c) getting the IPL matches played outside India and

d) making the media raise questions about the NCP’s existence,

Sonia is trying to nullify exactly that – Pawar’s bargaining power!!!