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15 May, 2007

Caste in Academia

It was to protect the merit system that supposedly prevails in the elite All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, that caste supremacist kids masquerading as youth for equality staged a sponsored agitation, which received favourable media and judicial attention, last year. Manoj Mitta of the Times of India throws light on how the system works there.
Sukhbir Singh Badhal, a Dalit post-graduate, stood first in the selection examination in lab medicine held five months ago. By virtue of his record he was entitled to a senior resident post in the man lab of the AIIMS. The post went to the holder of the second rank, who belonged to the general category.
According to Mitta, Badhal suffered such injustice despite an order in his favour from the Dean (Academics) R C Deka. Three subordinates of Deka overruled his order. These subordinates were appointed on ad hoc basis by AIIMS Director P. Venugopal in the wake of the Mandal II stir.
Says Mitta: “This is autonomy, AIIMS style — autonomy measured by the impunity with which influential insiders can discriminate against lower caste students and staffers in India's premier medical institute, right in the Capital.”
Manoj Mitta’s story is at
Now to an Indian Institute of Technology, another repository of national merit.
On August 9, 2006, the Tamil Nadu government chose W. P. Vasantha Kandasamy, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at IIT, Chennai, for the Kalpana Chawla Award instituted by it.
The next day the New Indian Express, Chennai, quoted Vasantha Kandasamy as saying she had been at the IIT for 18 years but had not been made a professor “due to my caste”. She had been teaching for 32 years by then. During this period, she wrote 27 books, of which 24 were published abroad.
Vasantha Kandasamy said, “I am the only OBC woman in the whole of IIT Madras. I saw that students from the backward castes were not treated properly and were laughed at when they attended interviews because of their rural background.
“I was a very docile and quiet person. But when I saw people discriminating against me and others belonging to Dalit and OBC community my tempers rose.”
Tamil Nadu instituted the Kalpana Chawla Award, which consists of a medal and a cash prize of Rs. 500,000, to honour women with daring enterprise. The New Indian Express (August 11, 2006) reported that IIT’s response to the selection a member of its staff for the award was “cool”.
Some students congratulated Vasantha Kandasamy. But her colleagues were not excited. Only one professor could bring himself/herself to say anonymously, “I am happy that Vasantha, who has not been appreciated here, has at least been recognised by the State government.”

1 comment:

Amrit said...

Hi Bhaskar.

Both the cases are deplorable, but they still don't justify the quota system because quotas perpetuate such mentality. People don't need doles, they need an environment where they are not made out to be the "reserved category" guys and girls. It is a shame that we resort to quotas instead of fighting the evil legally and socially. If Kandaswamy or that guy at AIIMS feel that they have been discriminated against because of their castes they should sue (they should/must be able to) their institutions and set an example. In fact, instead of quotas, we need a social justice ministry, a social justice law, and even a social justice court to deal with such cases. It should be in our school curriculum that caste discrimination is a shameful phenomenon and we should all shun it

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