Almost all Indians will soon qualify for affirmative action in India

Jan 10, 2019

Marching for mooching

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, as Americans confusingly call it, has been a defining feature of modern India. The constitution allows the government to make “special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens”. Since it came into force in 1950, “reservations” (quotas) have often been demanded and doled out. By setting aside government jobs and places at universities for members of communities that had been oppressed for hundreds if not thousands of years, the thinking ran, the country would soon rid itself of the iniquities of caste, and with it the need for reservations.

Instead, Indians have been mired in a zero-sum competition for official favour ever since. The first beneficiaries were “scheduled castes and tribes”, in particular untouchables (now known as Dalits)—those at the bottom of the social order. Inevitably, the considerably less...

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