Save the Internet, okay, but from whom?

There are two sides to the proposed legislation on the internet –

One, as Indiatimes tells us (link via AlooTechie) is against ISP’s charging websites for providing their content faster to the user, effectively creating a payment structure wherein each site can possibly be graded according to the speed of content delivery and charged accordingly. Unfair? Possibly.

Google, Microsoft Corp and other major Internet site operators are not ok with the “pay to get fast” scheme that the ISP’s have proposed but the wesite owners are against it and are all for “net neutrality” as this issue is dubbed.

The other side argues that with costs of regular upgradation and maintenance going up, and charges of providing internet access decreasing or, at best, stagnant, somebody’s got to pay. Either the consumer, or the website. According to this presentation, the big corps like Microsoft and Google make the money, so they should be willing to pay, instead of the consumer being forced to face increased accessing charges. Do they have a point? I guess they do.

My real problem is with the regulation of the internet. Call me cynical, but once you let the Government in, things can only get worse. I’m more comfortable with consumers holding companies accountable, than the government doing that. When ISP’s gang up to charge corporates for access, I see it as a monopolistic practice, but it still leaves space for someone to take advantage of the situation. Slow my speed down and I’ll look for a better ISP, so there is an opportunity in the problem. I find Sergey Brin’s attempt to ask the US Congress for this change in legislation unfortunate. Do see Hand off the Internet


And since we’re talking about Google, see this.

Particularly interesting is this series of questions:

1. Rep. Tom Lantos: Can you say in English that you’re ashamed of what your company and what the other companies have done?
Google: Congressman, I actually can’t, I don’t think it’s fair for us to say that we’re ashamed.

2. Lantos, to Microsoft: Is your company ashamed?
Microsoft: We comply with legally binding orders whether it’s here in the U.S. or China.

3. Drawing parallels with IBM’s collaboration with Nazi Germany, Mr Smith said: “US technology companies today are engaged in a similar sickening collaboration, decapitating the voice of dissidents.” He added: “Women and men are going to the gulag and being tortured as a direct result of information handed over to Chinese officials.”

And Finally:

4. Lawmakers were generally unmoved by this last argument. “If the secret police asked half a century ago where Anne Frank was hiding, would the correct answer be to hand over the information to comply with the local laws?” asked Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Democrat and chair of the subcommittee on human rights.

While I agree with the US Congress’ stand in this case, I think it’s rather hypocritical coming from a system that has, in the past, financed coups and wars to further their own interests. I don’t think it’s beneficial for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! Businesses should have a long term perspective; their “compliance with Chinese law” is going to hurt them in the long run.


From: Yahoo clear winner in Chinese censorship race

… While censors results as strictly as, search engines and the beta version of let through more information from sources that are not authorized by the authorities. In fact both Google and Microsoft, though certainly not squeaky clean in the eyes of Reporters Without Borders, come up in a relatively favourable light compared to their competitor Yahoo.

Reporters Without Borders says it is particularly shocked by the scale of censorship on, which is even higher than local Chinese search engine Baidu. It found that the search results on “subversive” key words are 97% pro-Beijing. It is therefore censoring more than Baidu. The media watchdog was able to show that requests using certain terms, such as 6-4 (4 June, date of the Tiananmen Square massacre), or “Tibet independence”, blocked for an hour before the service could be used again. According to Reporters Without Borders, this method is the same technique used by Baidu, while it is not used by any other foreign search tools.

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The Economics of you-know-what

I’ve been composing a post – the structure, the arguments for and against, the stats, the macro-economic implications, the impact on productivity – primarily from an economics perspective, on Reservations. This post is supposed to be a response to Annie‘s post on the myth of merit at How the Other Half Lives. Bits of my response have already been composed, but I’m unable to get the time to search for and analyse the data to make an argument that is final according to me.

Now I find that a few of my arguments and concerns have already been expressed in a very lucid manner by Atanu Dey at The Indian Economy blog. Here’s another one. And another. There’s more promised and I’m looking forward to it.

Also, it seems that the Delhi Government is already taking remedial steps to address the demand-supply gap in this City. Better late than too late. Now that the schools have been addressed, please also attend to colleges. Delhi sees a mass exodus of students to Karnataka and Maharashtra because of this demand supply gap.

Youth 4 Equality have moved to their own website. I prefer the blogpost blog.

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The Devil’s Advocate interviews the Devil himself

Update (edited 25/5/06):

1. The video of the entire interview at CNN IBN- part 1 and part 2 for viewing online. For downloading – part 1 and part 2. Is it just me or is Arjun Singh’s hand trembling in the first half?
2. The transcript of the interview is here.
3. The podcast (audio) of the entire interview is here (xml). Two mp3 files (3.97mb/17 min 20 sec and 1.21 mb/5 min 18 sec) – part 1 and part 2.
4. A short video clip can be viewed here (3.6mb)
5. Transcript of Karan Thapar interview of Kamal Nath, where Kamal Nath talks about reservations in private sector jobs – here

Thanks codey for the link to the podcast and the videos. I still don’t know how to listen to podcasts, so had to download. Will probably read up later on the how to.


The relevant, and more important excerpts from the first half of the interview are as follows, copy-pasted from the CNN-IBN site:

Karan Thapar: Do you personally also, as Minister of Human Resource Development , believe that reservations is the right and proper way to help the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Certainly, that is one of the most important ways to do it.

Karan Thapar: The right way?

Arjun Singh: Also the right way.

Karan Thapar: In which case, lets ask a few basic questions; we are talking about the reservations for the OBCs in particular. Do you know what percentage of the Indian population is OBC? Mandal puts it at 52 per cent, the National Sample Survey Organisation at 32 per cent, the National Family and Health Survey at 29.8 per cent, which is the correct figure?

Arjun Singh: I think that should be decided by people who are more knowledgeable. But the point is that the OBCs form a fairly sizeable percentage of our population.

Karan Thapar: No doubt, but the reason why it is important to know ‘what percentage’ they form is that if you are going to have reservations for them, then you must know what percentage of the population they are, otherwise you don’t know whether they are already adequately catered in higher educational institutions or not.

Arjun Singh: That is obvious – they are not.

Karan Thapar: Why is it obvious?

Arjun Singh: Obvious because it is something which we all see.

Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that the NSSO, which is a government appointed body, has actually in its research in 1999 – which is the most latest research shown – that 23.5 per cent of all university seats are already with the OBCs. And that is just 8.5 per cent less than what the NSSO believes is the OBC share of the population. So, for a difference of 8 per cent, would reservations be the right way of making up the difference?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn’t like to go behind all this because, as I said, Parliament has taken a view and it has taken a decision, I am a servant of Parliament and I will only implement.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely, Parliament has taken a view, I grant it. But what people question is the simple fact – Is there a need for reservations? If you don’t know what percentage of the country is OBC, and if furthermore, the NSSO is correct in pointing out that already 23.5 per cent of the college seats are with the OBC, then you don’t have a case in terms of need.

Arjun Singh: College seats, I don’t know.

Karan Thapar: According to the NSSO – which is a government appointed body – 23.5 per cent of the college seats are already with the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: What do you mean by college seats?

Karan Thapar: University seats, seats of higher education.

Arjun Singh: Well, I don’t know I have not come across that far.


Karan Thapar: Minister, it is not just in terms of ‘need’ that your critics question the decision to have reservation for OBCs in higher education. More importantly, they question whether reservations themselves are efficacious and can work.

For example, a study done by the IITs themselves shows that 50 per cent of the IIT seats for the SCs and STs remain vacant and for the remaining 50 per cent, 25 per cent are the candidates, who even after six years fail to get their degrees. So, clearly, in their case, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: I would only say that on this issue, it would not be correct to go by all these figures that have been paraded.

Karan Thapar: You mean the IIT figures themselves could be dubious?

Arjun Singh: Not dubious, but I think that is not the last word.

Karan Thapar: All right, maybe the IIT may not be the last word, let me then quote to you the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the welfare for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – that is a Parliamentary body.

It says that looking at the Delhi University, between 1995 and 2000, just half the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Castes level and just one-third of the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Tribes level were filled. All the others went empty, unfilled. So, again, even in Delhi University, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: If they are not working, it does not mean that for that reason we don’t need them. There must be some other reason why they are not working and that can be certainly probed and examined. But to say that for this reason, ‘no reservations need to be done’ is not correct.

Karan Thapar: Fifty years after the reservations were made, statistics show, according to The Hindustan Times, that overall in India, only 16 per cent of the places in higher education are occupied by SCs and STs. The quota is 22.5 per cent, which means that only two-thirds of the quota is occupied. One third is going waste, it is being denied to other people.

Arjun Singh: As I said, the kind of figures that have been brought out, in my perception, do not reflect the realities. Realities are something much more and of course, there is an element of prejudice also.

Karan Thapar: But these are figures that come from a Parliamentary Committee. It can’t be prejudiced; they are your own colleagues.

Arjun Singh: Parliamentary Committee has given the figures, but as to why this has not happened, that is a different matter.

Karan Thapar: I put it to you that you don’t have a case for reservations in terms of need, you don’t have a case for reservations in terms of their efficacy, why then, are you insisting on extending them to the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: I don’t want to use that word, but I think that your argument is basically fallicious.

Karan Thapar: But it is based on all the facts available in the public domain.

Arjun Singh: Those are facts that need to be gone into with more care. What lies behind those facts, why this has not happened, that is also a fact.

From the interview, it is evident that the 50% quota has no statistical or logical base, and that Arjun Singh had no clear evidence to prove that this move was warranted. Arjun Singh spent most of the time evading questions instead of answering them.

What it also exposes is that our parliamentarians make decisions on the basis of impressions and political necessities, and not on the basis of what is required, or even on the basis of facts.

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Email your representative: Dear Mr. Sibal

From: Nikhil Pahwa
Date: May 19, 2006 9:28 PM
Subject: Ref: your Chandni Chowk constituency

Dear Mr. Sibal,

I appreciate your speaking out against your governments policy of instituting quotas in educational institutions. I had voted for you during the last Parliamentary elections.

I’d like to inform you that if the quotas are instituted, irrespective of whether the seats in colleges are increased or not, I shall not be voting for you or your party in the next Parliamentary and State elections. I am also likely to remind others about the quota system at the time of elections.

Your party’s views on this issue are not representative of my point of view. Recent developments have been most unfortunate, and wont be forgotten.

Nikhil Pahwa

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email your representative: a strategy of protest

By increasing quotas the Congress is trying to buy votes in UP, a state that is firmly divided on caste lines, and one that goes to the polls next year. There is no “welfare” agenda. The anti-reservation protests have so far fallen on deaf ears, because:

1. The Congress party stands to gain from supporting the increase in quotas.
2. The Opposition parties risk losing the support of those reserved categories which stand to benefit.

It’s also important to note that next on their agenda is a proposal to implement reservations of jobs in the private sector. Kamal Nath has spoken about this.

Since most politicians believe that they stand to benefit if their party benefits, a strategy to counter this problem would be to divide the Indian polity:

If individual party members feel threatened because of a loss in their vote bank, they are likely to oppose the quotas within the party. This is particularly applicable in urban areas, where public memory isn’t short and the number of reserved category candidates and people is less.

So I suggest that those who oppose the quotas can individually mail their elected representatives and bluntly inform them that if the quotas aren’t scrapped, they will lose our votes. There is a possibility that individual voices of dissent might then be heard, and might influence the party.

How do we do it?

The email addresses of our Lok Sabha MP’s are here. I would suggest that you be polite, short and specific, and address your representative by name. Email addresses of Rajya Sabha MP’s are here(we can bulk mail them). Please CC a copy to if you’re mailing a Congress MP, or if you’re mailing a BJP MP.

You may also write to the President of India at and the Prime Minister at (address courtesy Slashh)

Please mail your representative, and spread the word. Also, maybe it’s time for a “Mail your Representative Blogathon”, where you e-mail your representative and put the mail up on your blog as a show of support.

Update 1:

Mails to some addresses are bouncing. Shreya informs me that a mail her friend sent to an MP from Karnataka bounced. My mail to bounced.

Update 2:

Contact your MLA’s in:
1. Delhi: Email Addresses | Right to Information (Update: Mails to Shiela Dixit and Prahlad Singh Sawhney bounced. Looks like Delhi email addresses don’t work)
(please mail in the addresses for other states and help compile a list)

Update 3:
1. The Center has given corporates two years for quota in private sector jobs. [link]

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On CAT, Reservations and Employability

Since we’re in the mood, we’re going to dissect this brilliant comment that an anonymous poster left on the ‘reservations about reservations about…‘ post:

1. Firstly, the person suggested that we should investigate the term ‘merit’.

Here goes: Merit is determined on whether a student has achieved a certain minimum level of results, dependent on certain criterion. If the IIT’s and IIM’s have their own set of criterion, then merit for them is determined according to that. Age isn’t a factor in merit, but might be an important determinant in ’employability’.

2.The CAT exam is based on the SAT exam in the USA . It has been proved beyond doubt that the SAT test is culturally biased . Blacks and hispanics do poorly at it year after year .

Now, the CAT exam is based on SAT, it isn’t the same as SAT. Also, Blacks and Hispanics aren’t the same as our OBC, MBC and SC/ST friends. False generalisation.

3. It was suggested that CAT is discriminatory because the CAT is in English, and has comprehension passages and that knowing that language does not mean you lack the capacity to clear that exam.

This can be attributed to employability, which I’ll discuss later in the post.

4. There is no test on earth which can reliably tests aptitude .

That, I agree with.

5. CAT is a clever way to keep those from lower socio-economic strata away Institutes funded with tax payers money .

So have the politicians asked the tax payers whether they would like reservations on the basis of merit or castes? They’ll get an answer, anyway, in the next election, lest the BJP continues with the infighting, and not provide a stable alternative.

6. And FINALLY: Dhirubhai Ambani had a poor command over English . He would not have made it through CAT. So what “merit” are we talking of?

Rationality? Ambani may have not had an adequate command over English, but he was at once a risk taker, determined, a little headstrong, a street smart strategist and a rational businessman. Now can you tell me which exam can help determine this, in full earnest? There may have been companies who might have refused him employment as well, but that was their loss, not his.

Now on Employability:

Firstly, I’d like to categorically state that I believe that the CAT exam, as with several other entrance exams, are actually for the purpose of elimination, not selection. The post-exam procedures of the GD and PI are modes of selection. Both procedures are necessary, and both are not expendable. At the end of the day, they both help select students that the university in question feels are employable or can be made employable, and therein lies the subjectivity. Undoubtedly, the system can be tweaked, but if with the procedure in place, they’re getting students who are employable, they might not feel that there is a need to tinker with it.

At the end of the day, if you don’t meet the cut, it’s your problem. If the government isn’t providing people with an education that gears them up for working life, or for even tackling selection procedures, this is clearly no reason to pass the buck.

Let’s just take a situation where the norms are relaxed: over a period of time you will find that corporates will begin to consider private colleges, and students will attempt to opt for those as well. They will up their selection criterion, and their equity will rise in the market. At the end of the day, the students of the government funded institutions will lose out, albeit not immediately, because the corporates look at employability of the human resources that they’re hiring. Our pre-post grad (school, highschool and even college) system is so archaic (and often so behind the times) that it serves no obvious practical purpose. I mean – it takes a minimum of 21 years before a student gets a taste of post-grad. If Post Grad has become a norm, its only because post grads are considered more employable than undergrads, and that’s only because of the education system. I think you should be looking at a complete revamp of the curriculum every five years, though one that isn’t based on rewriting history.

Which is why English is important – it is the most widely spoken language in the world, and over time it’ll be the one language that unites this country. If I’m hiring, I’d rather have a person who can communicate with people across the country – I don’t want to hire a punjabi whose language cannot be understood by my vendor or client in Chennai or Bengal. I think division on the basis of language was the greatest disservice done to the people by the first government, further entrenching differences.

Anyway, still on reservations, I suggest that you guys take a look at the social revolution in Britain post WW-II, after Labour took power. As a Tory leader, Alfred Balfour rightly put it then: “social legislation is not merely to be distinguished from Socialist legislation but it is its most direct opposite and its most effective antidote.” In other words, expect social retribution to increase and divides to widen. English society divided on the basis of class in a manner similar to our caste and class divisions, and they have managed to iron out those differences by switching to a meritocratic system.

Post Script: Looks like I got carried away while writing this, and took a few tangential turns. Well, that’s what blogs are for. O-)

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Reservations about reservations about reservations about&…

The recent governmental decision to increase reservations in government funded institutions to 49.5% is vote-motivated, divisive and discriminatory. It’s also short sighted and retrogressive and will adversely impact the efficiency of this country. To cut a long explanation short, they’re trying to mask their failure to provide an adequate primary and secondary education to the masses. They should, instead, raise their own standards.

As I see it, the government has the following primary responsibilities in a democracy: Education, Safety and Security, Healthcare and Infrastructure. From the looks of it, successive governments have failed us, and are busy squabbling for power among themselves. They spend more on elections than on development. As I said in a response to Shekhar(of Fractured Earth), this seems to be the perfect opportunity for a political party to attempt to garner mass support by opposing the reservations, given that a majority of the much larger general population seems to oppose this move. Yes, dear reader, we see an opportunity in everything. Unfortunately, no political party seems to be willing to take that risk. In my opinion, this is the NCP’s chance.

As of now all the political parties seem the same and lest there�s a �none of the above� option in the ballot paper, I’m likely to abstain from voting because I�m in a majority that isn�t being represented. Here’s what I’d written about democracy earlier, and now it seems that a fractured mob is just as useless as a dumb one.

Even the online space is fractured, and mostly incoherent. I’ve got several mails from Orkut, asking me to ‘Please join this group also’ and also several petitions to sign, many of which express viewpoints that I don’t fully endorse. Here are some of the less intelligent comments I’ve read:

1. Surely reservation is just politician game,it is not charity,but to satishfy its own appetite of vote & power.

2. hi this is 2 bring all the student havin a agony about this so called FATVAA by @$$!#%dr.arjun singh UNDER ONE ROOF and run a movement on ORKUT ur each joinin will be cosidered as support for us will give strength to our movement.
the major problem is even after reservation student who use to get addmission not able complete there studies in 4 years(btech) THAN I WANT TO AKS WILL ARJUN SINGH WILL COMPLETE ON THERE BEHALF I THINK HE HAS ON ANSWER
save india by communicatin about this community and hlep to gather suppot under roof

3. all HRD ministers should be made to stand in a row and should be shooted out

4. This reservation funda is totally uncool. This is just done for the votes and nothing else, but these people donot know that by bringing reservation in here affects the country itself, this all is a gimmick, a way to be the superior most and the government is to be blamed for this.

Reservation of every kind is bad – be it even sex, diability or economical class, not just caste and religion.

5. do u kno that if no. of termite become excess they r riqured to contrl
otherwise they will devastate the house

http://***address removed**/against_reservation.htm
sorry for the forwarding of this message to the
unconcerned persons..


8. Form your own country or anything, our country cannot and will not change.

9. here also we need some hitler or stalin who will just obliterate these illiterate politicians of india..

10. problem was not ambedkar or nehru…problem was mahatma..whose watermarking we ca see in indian currency..if the father of the nation was a *******…what can u expect from the child…

11. Time for a terrorist organization for the really smart people. The kind of terrorist who does no real damage to any living being or property or anything with value…

12. When the worker unions can go and sit in front of the Director’s office, why can’t the students?

If still the govt. does not pay heed, boycott the end-sems. And then, stage a procession in front of the parliament. Mobilise all the college across Delhi and you will have enough people. Hasn’t Rang de Basanti taught us something? It is not the time to wait and watch. It is the time to act.

13. (A petition to the President begins with:) Are you aware of the fact that from coming academic session the Govt of India has proposed to introduce a new Quota System for addmissions to Professional courses.

14. We, the so called upper castes living in urban India created this country and the politicians are using the fruits of our hard work and reaping political benefits through reservations. If all of us belonging to the unreserved categories simply quit India, or stop going to these so called elite instituions where reservations are done, India will be doomed and the Institutes will lose all their name and prestige.
We are the creators of a prosperous modern India, these politicians are forgetiing that without the so called upper castes its Bye, Bye… India, No ecomic boom, no anything.
Or shopuld we jsut ask for a seperate region for ourselves? If the Muslim invaders who came so late can ask for their share, why not us original residents? Then the world will see where prosperous India comes from and who are dragging their legs.
Shoot people, post your opinion.

Please note that I don’t necessarily endorse any of the points listed above, and the emphasis is mine. I found the comment about telling others to make ‘speedy movement’ quite amusing. The lack of objective thought, both among the politicans and the student community is saddenning. I’ve only come across one email and one petition that addresses the issues objectively and in a systematic and reasonable manner. Not that I want to see more, of course. During the Mandal commission protests, self immolation made headlines. Today, even suicide doesn’t make a difference, and everyone has been numbed by the apathy of the government.

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We shouldn’t forget that…

… while representative democracy is the best known system of governance, it isn’t necessarily the best possible. What’s the best? I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise the biggest failure of democracy – the rule of the mob.

I’ve written previously about the importance of numbers for the media. Democracy is the rule by the numbers, and I see India as an example of the failure of the system: in a country with divisive factors aplenty – race, caste, language – the primary means of influencing decision-making is having the numbers. Which is why the RSS spoke out against family planning among Hindus, because that might rob them of their majority status. At the same time, I remember Narendra Modi talking advocating family planning for Muslims. The very politicians who are elected in this country on the basis of their caste deny their voters the education that might actually lead them to curbing their numbers. Democracy, in this case, is a divisive force.

Another failure is that with representative democracy being the only viable form, the minority at every level are denied their voice: first when their representative is not elected, and then when the minority party in the senate/parliament/congress becomes irrelevant. If you add it all up, that’s quite a few people being denied a say.

Also, the basic premiss is that a majority of people will vote for the betterment of society. Given the lack of education, and the bias that goes into voting, the mob doesn’t necessarily vote for the better candidate.

Two recent developments have further shaken my faith in democracy:

1. The Office of Profit issue, wherein first the Congress(I) party first attempted to prematurely end the Parliament session, claiming that no work needed to be transacted, in order to pass an ordinance that allowed their president and other MP’s to continue holding an office of profit while also serving as a Member of Parliament. After this failed, it seems that all parties have reached a consensus to allow all MP’s to hold the same.

This is ridiculous – they’re changing the constitution to suit their own needs. The main reason for this law to exist is to prevent a conflict of interest – that a person in a position of responsibility in the government doesn’t try to influence a decision for personal benefit. Now, for personal benefit, they’re shamelessly amending the Indian Constitution to suit their own needs. It is, I suppose, only up to the President. However, I have no faith in Kalam; he is not likely to make an independent decision like Narayanan before him. Here I was around a year ago, questioning why Navjot Siddhu, an elected representative, was spending his time commenting on Cricket on TV Channels while the Parliament was in session, and now this.

2. MCD Demolitions: In a similar move, the Delhi Government recently passed a bill that will probably put an end to demolitions of most illegal structures in Delhi – by legalising commercial establishments operating out of residential colonies. Earlier, this ridiculous practice of legalisation applied only to slums. Now, this sets a precedence for a mass flouting of the laws.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Courts can do anything about this, apart from the judges voicing their displeasure. The Courts can only interpret the constition and the laws. Democracy remains the rule of the mob, and the mob isn’t always in the right.

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Snob value and reservations

Snob value was the tagline on my schools sweatshirts. I found it rather stupid and thought it lacked creativity. Because I’m a different kind of snob…

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Got the link to this quiz off Red‘s blog, where we’re debating ‘Reservations in the private sector’:

Consider a somewhat ideal situation: Efficient utilisation of optimal resources in an open economy means that a company earns maximum possible revenue. The government collects its dues as taxes and spends this money efficiently on welfare and education. An improvement in skills among the youth increases productivity and efficiency, thus increasing per capita income and revenue earned from taxes. This is a case of cyclic improvement/development.

Now if you’re going to incorporate reservations into such a system, you’re hampering efficiency, and consequently reducing revenue, welfare and development.

Take a situation that is not ideal, and things get only worse.


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