The Real Core Voter Won’t Be Silenced

A few days back, an article titled “Why The Core Hindu Voter is Upset With Modi” was published in the Swarajya magazine. The same writeup also appeared as the cover article in their May 2018 print edition. It analyzed the outlook of the present Modi administration towards Core Hindu issues and surmised that there has been very little progress on any major demand of the Hindu/Hindutva voters since the past 4 years. It quoted several scholars including Dr Konrad Elst and a few other writers/commentators active on social media after obtaining their inputs on the topic.

In response, an article titled “Will The Real Core Hindu Please Stand Up” was published by the same magazine subsequently. This article tried to completely dismiss the concerns raised in the original article and also the opinions of those quoted in it. In fact, the response attributed the opinion of all the interviewees to inherent malice, lust for control of administration and disappointment at being kept out of the corridors of power!

I was one of the people quoted in the original article, and the author who penned the response has *revealed* my true intentions behind the statements I made. I would consider it inappropriate to respond to some of the attributions made in that article. I will therefore skip responding to those. However, I wish to discuss a little on a few concerns raised in the response regarding the agenda of the “Core Hindu” groups.

Insinuations to Ignore

Before I venture further to discuss some of the objections raised against TeamCore, I must make it a point to highlight two of the insinuations repeatedly made against us – both in the article quoted above and also in numerous interactions over social media, especially on Twitter.

  • TeamCore is against ‘Vikas’. those asking for Core do not want the country to develop economically.
    • Of late this allegation has been furthered even more. The new version is ‘Even if they tell you they are not against Vikas, they are lying’.
  • TeamCore really wants the Congress party to come back to power.

The reason I want to mention both these insinuations are because of how ridiculous both of them are. Such meaningless attributions are sure to have one effect – that of raising the curiosity of those who hear them – and because of that precise reason I hope these allegations stay around for a while. Anyone who till date hasn’t been aware of TeamCore, when they hear someone say “Core team does not want the country to develop economically” is sure to be shocked and surprised and ask himself “Is there really someone who thinks like this? Who ARE these Core people?”

That curiosity is bound to bring them to the party and to try and understand what the demands of TeamCore are. And once anyone puts even a cursory effort to understand the ideas of this group the seriousness, and genuineness of the issues, and the ridiculous nature of the allegations – both will become clear.

It is one thing to say that the demands for Core may end up deflating progress on the economic front which in turn may bring back Congress to power. It is a totally different thing to say TeamCore actually wants both these things to happen. If the approach was the first, there could at least be a genuine discussion on why such an eventuality is actually possible. However, if the finger points at the very intention of the vanguards, then its only (albeit very useful) value is in bringing the curious crowd over to TeamCore’s side.

Thank you.

TeamCore Wants Hardcore Hindutva

The article written in response makes a connection between “Core” and “hardcore Hindutva”. I think this connection is misleading at best. Perhaps there has been very little effort at understanding at what TeamCore really wants.

The Core agenda is primarily about setting a level playing field in Indian society so that all are treated at real parity. Once such a stage is set, those seeking to lead a life of Hindutva can happily do so. Other communities that seek to lead a life based on their religious and social principles can equally do so. TeamCore’s concern is about the lack of parity and equal opportunity without which the followers of Hindutva cannot take pride in their dharti, jati and sanskriti!

Let us look at few of the concerns raised, and solutions sought, by TeamCore and understand if there is anything *hardcore* them.

(Note: I use the term hardcore here in the same sense that it was used in the response article – attaching to it a sense of disruptiveness in terms of peace and economic progress. It, of course, need not mean anything like that, in which case there is nothing wrong with the term ‘hardcore Hindutva’)

On the issue that is called out as the one with the most priority – Core1 – the ask is to ensure educational institutions run by the non-minority – Hindus in effect – are provided the exact same rights and privileges as is currently provided to minority run educational institutions. There has never been any sort of demand to take away privileges accorded to minorities or any other community. TeamCore rightly recognizes that the decontrolling of the private educational institutions is the most appropriate way to address the problems plaguing our educational institutions. It is also a no-brainer that Hindu run educational institutions suffer orders of magnitude more control and regulation by Government agencies than minority institutions. How then can asking for parity – asking for the same level of regulation (or freedom from it) – asking for equal privileges – be termed hardcore? Also, it is baffling how bringing about a change which accords privileges and rights to every community in the country can actually have adverse electoral consequences (especially keeping in mind that most of the minority communities enjoying the privileges currently are never going to become a votebank for the ruling BJP).

The demand made via Core2 is for a fair method of access and distribution of public goods based on pro-rata principles – if a religion or community based distribution is inevitable. There has never been a demand that any of the minorities currently enjoying scholarships, loans and other benefits must be devoid of the same – and that these goods must be provided only to the majority community. What is being firmly opposed is blatant sectarianism through the creation of separate channels – case in point being the minority affairs ministry – which can lead to unfair access and distribution. Here again, one fails to understand how a demand for fairness can be termed hardcore – or how the same can have adverse electoral consequences (unless of course those who envision a new structure do a terrible job at conception and execution – nothing can be attempted if such fears exist).

On the issue of Core4, the vanguards are asking for freedom for Hindus to manage their places of worship. In spite of economic hardship over decades now, the average Hindu is still a very dharmic and religious person. Matters related to the temples and mathas he visits still appeal to his heart. How then can asking for liberation of temples from the clutches of corrupt government administrators adversely affect electoral prospects? Minorities in this country already have total freedom in managing their places of worship. Demanding equal privileges for Hindus, therefore, can never be a ‘hardcore’ agenda item.

On Core3 too, the ask from the team has been to move to an open-data based implementation of affirmative action (quotas, reservations and the like) with the ultimate goal of *ending private violence* in Indian society. Can any group desiring to end all forms of private violence in a State be termed hardcore? Is shunning violence hardcore?

Overall, I feel that there is either gross lack of understanding of what TeamCore is championing or there is a deliberate attempt to paint the team with wrong intentions so they are shunned and their voices muted.

(A small note here on the issue of ‘being heard’. The article I quoted above accuses me of wanting to ensure that only the voices of a few intellectuals are heard and that the majority who voted for BJP in 2014 should not have a voice. I chuckle every time I read this accusation. I made the comment about governments needing to have accountability in the context of the repeated attempts of strong supporters of only-vikas-now-not-time-for-core-yet to convince TeamCore to ‘keep calm and trust Modi’. Every time someone raises a Core issue, he or she is told election years are not for raising concerns and that such issues must be brought forward only after ‘true consolidation of power’ occurs. These are clearly attempts to shut voices of concern. And in a strange paradox, we are being accused now of wanting to ensure only our voices are heard!)

Yet another concern raised in the original article was the issue of lack of effort towards rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits back to their homelands. Surely those who have been thrown away from their own homes and homelands asking that they be resettled back is not a hardcore demand? Elimination of terrorists and steps towards rehabilitation are related but distinct actions. The lack of ‘mention’ of the former has been pointed out as a failure of TeamCore. It is not the objective of TeamCore to mandatorily provide a report of the government’s achievements. Nor is it the intention of the group to sugar-coat issues. Every single day that a Kashmiri Pandit is spending time outside of his motherland is a day of injustice. Every grouse raised to highlight this injustice is therefore genuine. If the repeated raising of these issues is going to hurt electoral prospects, the right way to set right the damage is to begin actual work on rehabilitation, rather than asking displaced Pandits to make sure they highlight elimination of terrorists as a government achievement every time they ask for justice.

TeamCore and Control

Another major accusation against the members of TeamCore is that they are actually ‘conniving’ individuals who are after power and control of institutions. Since we ‘intellectuals’ have been left out of the corridors of power in the present dispensation, the demands for Core are actually an indirect attempt at restoring that control!!

On the issue of we being intellectuals – I will just let it pass J

Now coming to the issue of ‘control’, let us again revisit some of the Core issues to see if implementing any of them will actually lead to a scenario as is being feared.

On Core1, as the astute @realitycheckind has rightly observed, minority educational institutions have a “regulatability” of 1 out of 10. In other words, the amount of control that a government agency can exercise over a minority institution is close to 0. On the other hand, a non-minority aided institution has a regulatability of nearly 9 and an unaided non-minority institution stands at 8. In summary, Hindu institutions are under extreme government control while non-Hindu ones are almost completely free.

If the vision of Core1 is implemented, Hindu educational institutions too will enjoy almost complete freedom from control and management. If one implements such a policy, where exactly is the scope for the policy makers to exercise control or assert influence over institutions? The field of education lays the foundation for the future of any society. The students we churn out from our schools and colleges go out and shape society a few decades down the line. Any ‘intellectual’ worth his salt wanting to control policy or society would find it but inevitable that he exercise control over educational institutions. By asking for complete freedom for educational institutions TeamCore has shown how much control it really wants to exercise!

A similar argument lies in the area of Core4. The proponents of ‘free Hindu temples’ are actually asking that none, except those with ‘skin in the game’, be allowed to manage temples. This is orthogonal to asking for control over these institutions.

The claim that TeamCore is unsettled because of the lack of opportunity to exercise control, enjoy power or shape future of institutions is therefore baseless.

Anti-poor TeamCore

This is once again an oft-repeated allegation that those wanting the RTE Act to be abolished are actually anti-poor. I will only make a few comments on this issue.

It is baffling that the supporters of RTE amongst the Right Wing actually think there is no substitute to the model envisaged in the RTE on providing free education to our country’s poor. TeamCore demands removal of RTE on three primary grounds

  • Illegal application on only majority run educational institutions
  • Unfair financial burden on majority run private educational institutions
  • Extreme regulation – again applicable only to majority run private educational institutions.

Since the honorable Supreme Court itself, in ‘Unaided Rajasthan Schools vs Ors’ and again in ‘Pramati’ has held that the whole RTE Act is non-severable, there is no option but to rescind the whole Act. What this does NOT mean, however, is that there must not be any new education policy or Act that replaces the RTE.

A new Act that takes away the three major anomalies highlighted above would be most welcome to TeamCore. A simple voucher based system in which the value of the voucher is decided based on fair terms would be the simplest and most effective way to implement free education for the poor.

On the other hand, the existing Act has created innumerable problems for the children of the poor and underprivileged.

  • A lottery based admission system which does NOT actually guarantee every poor child free education.
  • No process for accommodating children who lose out during the lottery!
  • A bureaucracy-ridden admission process in which RTE kids do not get to start classes even 6 months into the year, which creates a learning-gap between them and the rest of the children.
  • A no-detention policy which has led to a disastrous drop in the quality of teaching, and learning.
  • Weak implementation rules, leading to false claims from well to do parents which is denying genuine kids a chance at free education.

The list goes on and on. And note I have not highlighted any of the problems from the schools’ point of view.

Anti-core warriors must realize Education is also an infrastructure issue. It is a ‘soft-infra’ issue. It is as critical, if not more, as roads, water, lighting and cooking gas. 5 years of inaction on this critical development item, while letting the unfair and sectarian Act of the previous regime to continue is nothing short of disaster.

TeamCore and Window-of-Silence

In the run up to the recent Karnataka Assembly elections, the BJP came out with an election manifesto in which the party gave some assurances, for the first time, on the issue of temple management. It has promised to ensure there will be no interference in management of temples and also that the earnings of the temples will not be diverted for any other cause.

Such a promise is a clear outcome of sustained demands from relevant stakeholders, including TeamCore. If these issues were totally irrelevant, as is being made out to be, there was no reason for the party to include it as a significant item in its manifesto. This small, yet significant, success shows that a sustained effort at educating the electorate on Core issues is surely bound to yield results.

For similar reasons, it is imperative that TeamCore does not adhere to any “window of silence” during election years, although it in principle supports right wing parties. Election years are the ones where lack of progress on any issues, especially significant ones, is highlighted and political parties are made to take a public stance. TeamCore believes in a society based on Equality of Law. Given the lack of awareness currently amongst the majority, it is imperative these issues are highlighted continuously, awareness is raised, and people are made to realize their importance.

TeamCore will certainly ‘keep calm’. TeamCore will, however, not ‘keep quiet’.

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NET: Is lower threshold for OBC really needed?

Thanks to @realitycheckind on Twitter, the topic of the recent notification by UGC on the issue of cut-off percentages for “Qualifying” in the National Eligibility Test came up. This test allows candidates to apply for the posts of Assistant Professor and/or Junior Research Fellowship in various Universities and Colleges in the country

I am sincerely hoping @realitycheckind will soon write a blog on the unconstitutionality of the selection/cut-off methodology that had been adapted by UGC till recently. I say ’till recently’ because in January 2017, in the Nair Service Society vs UGC and Ors case, the Kerala High Court has stuck down as unconstitutional one of the elements involved in the process of declaring a candidate as “Qualified” in NET.

In this post, after giving a brief background into what the procedure is, I want to provide some data that will allow us to question the practice of grouping OBC with SC, STs and Disabled Persons and granting them a lower cut-off (pass) percentage in the NET exam.

The NET Exam Procedure (till 2017):

  • The exams are held for 83 different subjects such as Economics, Political Science, Philosophy, Computer Science, Electronics, various languages and so on.
  • The exam consists of three papers.
  • Paper 1 is a common one to all candidates appearing.
  • Paper 2 and Paper 3 are specific to the subject for which the candidate is appearing.
  • All 3 papers are objective type.
  • General Category students can write the exam if they have scored 55% in the Master’s Degree or equivalent exam
  • SC/ST/OBC and DC students can write the exam if they have scored 50% in the Master’s Degree or equivalent exam

Cut-off Criteria for Passing NET:

  • Paper 1 is for 100 marks
  • Paper 2 is for 100 marks
  • Paper 3 is for 150 marks
  • Pass marks for Paper 1
    • General category students : 40
    • Others : 35
  • Pass marks for Paper 2
    • General category students : 40
    • Others : 35
  • Pass marks for Paper 3
    • General category students : 75
    • Others : 60

Qualifying candidate list:

  • Amongst all candidates who pass NET scoring the necessary marks as mentioned above, UGC will determine a “qualifying candidate” list. The students in this list are declared to have qualified in the NET and are eligible for appearing for interviews and other procedures as individual Universities and Colleges may determine necessary.
  • From 2010 till 2017, UGC created this list of qualified candidates by selecting the top 15% of students from each category.
  • First, a list of all candidates who passed as per above mentioned criteria for each subject is drawn. Under each subject there are 5 sublists – GC, OBC, SC, ST, DC
    • For e.g. Economics GC list, Economics OBC list, Economics SC list, Economics ST list and Economics DC list.
  • Now within each sub-list, the top 15% of students are selected and declared as having qualified.
  • The sum-total of all qualified candidates form the list for the respective year.

Problem area:

  • Remember under each category, the 15% is derived from the list of all students who passed the test.
  • And the ‘pass’ criteria is different depending upon whether you are general category or otherwise.
  • For e.g.
    • In Category 1, if total pass candidates are 200, then 30 people qualify
    • In Category 2, if total pass candidates are 300, then 45 people qualify

It has been so happening that due to lower pass criteria (35% and 60% vs 40% and 75%) for OBC also, the number of candidates who pass NET has turned out to be much much bigger than General Category students.

In NET 2015, as per the above rules, the following number of students were declared as qualified.

  • Total: 23595
  • General Category: 6229 (26%)
  • OBC: 12095 (51%)
  • SC: 3574  (15%)
  • ST: 1335 (5.6%)
  • Disabled Category: 362 (plus a few more under SC/ST) (1.5%)

The reservation percentages in jobs in almost all states is

  • OBC: 27%
  • SC: 16%
  • ST: 7%
  • DC: 3%

It is quite clear that the pool of qualified candidates being created is totally skewed in favor of OBCs.

Is the lower cutoff for OBCs needed?

The entire list of candidates who have qualified in NET 2015, based on which the Kerala High Court ruled the procedure as unconstitutional is available here.

In addition to candidate list, the following information is available

  • Candidate category (OBC, GC, etc)
  • Marks of each paper
  • Total marks
  • Miscellaneous (gender, etc)

I managed to convert the PDF document containing the list of students into an excel sheet and performed some calculations.

Following were the steps:

  • Extract list of all candidates qualified under OBC category.
    • Total number of OBC students : 12098
  • Increase cut-off marks for Paper 1 from 35 to 40 (same as general category)
    • Remove all candidates who scored less than 40
    • Total number of OBC students: 11723
  • Increase cut-off marks for Paper 2 from 35 to 40 & remove all candidates scoring less than 40
    • Total number of OBC students: 11655
  • Increase cut-off marks for Paper 3 from 60 to 75 & remove all candidates scoring less than 75
    • Total number of OBC students applying general category cut-off: 9342

Thus, even after applying the same cut-off criteria as General Category students, the total number of qualifying OBC students is 9342, which is about 50% more than the GC students.

Are lesser number of GC students qualifying?

For General Category, since the cut-off is already high, there is no filter with respect to individual paper marks that can be applied. However, remember that the bare minimum total for a General Category student is 155 marks (40 – Paper 1 + 40 – Paper 2 + 75 – Paper 3)

Applying this criteria and looking at the list of 6229 GC students, we see that the minimum total marks scored by any student is 172. Corresponding lowest mark in OBC is 142, about 30 marks less.

Even if an additional condition had been imposed on the OBC students that their lowest total must be same as GC, we find that the total number of qualifying students with 172 or above is 9340 (just 2 less than above number of 9342).

Conclusion:

Based on the actual marks obtained by students, the lower cut-off for OBC is totally unnecessary and is only causing a significant skew in favor or OBC at the expense of students belonging to other categories in the “qualified candidate” pool of NET.

Hopefully, the new system announced by UGC for NET 2017 and onwards will set right this anomaly. Since the notification is due only in July 2017. we will have to wait and see.