reservations - Notes
1. Note that a PD policy does not necessarily result in the displacement of better qualified applicants by less qualified applicants from preferred groups; depending on the circumstances, it might either help to offset biases in conventional selection procedures or introduce additional biases into such procedures.
2. One cannot rule out a priori the possibility that a PD policy — by recognising hidden capabilities of community applicants — will actually improve the accuracy of applicant assessment. In this case PD beneficiaries would, on average, be capable of performing better academically than their non-PD-eligible peers with the same formal qualifications. It stands to reason, however, that even in this case there will be some preference magnitude beyond which the performance level of PD beneficiaries will fall below that of peers selected without any such preference.
3. Direct financial aid to needy beneficiaries is another kind of financial resource commitment that can make a significant contribution to the success of a PD policy. Many student beneficiaries may not be able to afford all of the (unsubsidised) expenses associated with attending an educational institution, so they may require financial aid just to enroll. Students from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are much more likely to have to drop out of an educational program — temporarily or permanently —in order to help out their family by contributing their labor to work within the family or by earning additional income. Means-tested financial aid to PD beneficiaries can clearly help to prevent such problems from compromising the success of PD admissions policies.
4. See chapters 10 and 12 of my book, Affirmative Action in the United States and India: A Comparative Perspective, Routledge, London, 2004 (printed and distributed in South Asia by Foundation Books) — hereafter cited as my book. I have also presented much of this evidence in ‘The Impact of Reservation on Admissions to Higher Education in India’, Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay, India), Vol. 39, No. 39, Sept. 25, 2004.
5. See my book, Affirmative Action in the United States and India, chapter 7.
6. Although not all Dalits and Adivasis are necessarily PD beneficiaries — owing their admission to reservations — this is true of the vast majority in the more prestigious educational institutions.
7. The evidence of underperformance by PD Dalit and Adivasi beneficiaries — whatever its limitations — does refute the notion that India’s PD policies in higher educational admissions might actually be improving the accuracy of applicant assessment (see footnote 2 above) — at least insofar as such assessment is designed to identify those students best able to perform well academically.
8. In both Indian and the US, the extent of the support for disadvantaged students is highly correlated with the academic quality and the financial resources of the institution concerned; thus some of India’s elite educational institutions — such as the Institutes of Technology — have done fairly well in this respect.
9. See, for example, V. Patwardhan, and V. Palshikar, (1992), ‘Reserved Seats in Medical Education: a Study’, Journal of Education and Social Change, 5: 1-117.
10. Data compiled by S. Deshpande and Y. Yadav suggest that India’s Muslims may have the strongest case to join Dalits and Adivasis as beneficiaries of affirmative action; see Tables 1-3 of their article, ‘Redesigning Affirmative Action’, Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay, India), Vol. 41, No. 24, June 17, 2006.
11. This point has been clearly articulated by A. Deshpande; see the last section of the article, ‘The Eternal Debate’, Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay, India), Vol. 41, No. 24, June 17, 2006.
Thomas E. Weisskopf is Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan. A dissenting economist and a founder of the Union for Radical Political Economics, he has lived in India in the 1960s, teaching at the Indian Statistical Institute. He has worked extensively on affirmative action in the US and India