Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Populism at Work in India

Score one more for populism in India. The Parliament is in the process of passing a bill which will require most private educational institutions, even those without federal or state support, to reserve a certain number of seats for people who have historically been socially backward. It's affirmative actiion with actual quotas. What's wrong with that? Well, for starters, the track record of such a policy in state colleges has been abysmal. Rather than actually benefitting the classes it is intended to, it eliminated seats from play because of insufficient applications from members of a certain community, and also eliminates any level of academic standards for those that make it through. These students are then completely unprepared for any kind of performance-based system, and usually fall through the cracks (if they don't, there's some chance they will get similar reserved spots in hospitals or public works departments, which would explain the killer state-run hospitals and crumbling infrastructure in India).

But this is also a depressing reminder of populism thriving in India. For all the great economicspeak about India, elections are won by pandering to your base, and when your uneducated base doesn't realize how much your pols are screwing you to keep you down, they think these half-brained schemes are in their interest. So we'll continue to have doomed-to-fail schemes like a National Employment Guarantee, a Right to Primary Education bill and other progressive-sounding bills and initiatives, even when they are just a front for a bulging bureaucracy siphoning taxpayer money, never mind the skyrocketing deficits and lack of actual progress.

No comments: