Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cheeni kum, conviction zyada

I saw 'Cheeni Kum' last night. It is a brilliantly crafted movie.

The casting is perfect. The acting outstanding. The dialogue witty. Just about everything in the film screams "This has not been attempted before in Bollywood". And the amazing thing is, it works.

Except maybe the last bit, where the precocious kid got irritating and Amitabh went berserk at the Ashoka pillar.It kind of spoils the overall understated effect of the film.

I won't attempt a review because it would just be a repeat of what my friend Apu has already said here.

Cinematic excellence apart, I found the character played by Tabu to be most refreshing.

Witness this scene, when her father goes on a 'satyagraha', hoping his 34 year old daughter will call off her plan to marry the 64 year old Amitabh.

"Papa, kuch kha lijiye.."

"Kya tu us buddhe ko chhod degi?"


"To phir main kuch nahin khaoonga".

"Jaisi aapki marzi", she says calmly and walks out of the room.

A hunger strike may be a bit extreme. But these kind of power struggles are commonly enacted in our homes and especially at this time of the year, when students make choices related to careers.

What Neena Varma shows you is that if you know what you want and are determined to have it, no one can 'force' you into a different direction. Yes, marrying a guy 30 years older than you is not common. But agar meri khushi isi main hai and I am prepared to bear the consequences, then so be it.

"I love you, you're my dad, but finally it's my life!"

The trouble is few of us stand up for ourselves because we are unsure. We hesitate. We vacillate. We bow down. And then tell others, "Yaar... mere parents yahi chahte the."

The moral of the story is: if you stand firm for what you believe in, the world will come around to accept it. Let your passion burn bright - be it for a person, profession or philosophy of life. Fuel it with conviction. Only a candle in the wind is snuffed out by the slightest drizzle of disapproval.

If there is fire in your belly, it will burn on!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Looking for a web designer/ developer

JAM is developing a couple of interesting new websites and to make it happen, we need people who live and breathe the internet.

We're looking for:
a) Web developer: Must have a passion to make a difference, and be comfortable with joomla/ drupal.

b) Web designer: A keen aesthetic sense and understanding of Html, Dhtml, CSS, Photoshop.

If you'd like to be part of a small and motivated team which has big dreams and a definite, and different direction for the future email rashmi_b at

We are looking for people who can work full time. Or at the very least, on a project basis for minimum 3 months.

Things people notice

On the road. From Ludhiana to Chandigarh, and then on to Shimla, I amuse myself with a mental contest: "Most Creatively named Dhaba'.

But first, a word on the most uncreatively named dhaba. That khitaab goes to the 'Punjabi' dhaba, with 'New Punjabi' dhaba coming in a close second. After all, what can you get in a dhaba but Punjabi food. Chicken, black dal and the omnipresent alu gobhi!

The also rans list includes:
New Frontier dhaba
Taaran taran dhaba
Dimple dhaba
Fauji dhaba
Bunty Shunty dhaba (I kid you not!)
Din raat dhaba
Sunny full stop dhaba

The runners up prize goes to: Dhaba Non Stop dhaba. The name sounds all the more corny juxtaposed with the Airtel branding.

But the prize for 'Most Creative Dhaba Name' goes to: the one and only 'Indo German Vaishno Dhaba' near the Neelon bridge, on the outskirts of Ludhiana. I am sure they serve the same black dal, yellow gobhi and kadak brown chai as any other dhaba in Punjab. Still, I like their global attitude.

Why Indo German and not Indo Swiss? Next time around I shall definitely stop, seek out the owner and solve the mystery!

But the more interesting issue was raised by my daughter. The same highway landscape provoked this question:" Why are all the shops here named 'Amrit Lal and sons', 'Pyare mohan and sons', 'Tara Singh and sons'... Why not daughters?"

The signage on dhabas may change but society and convention will take much longer. Maybe a few more generations!

Monday, May 28, 2007

My brand.. my brand.. my brand

Get a life. The 'consumer' is a human being for whom your brand is one of N million life choices. And unless you are something iconic, like the ipod, little more than that.

But professionals who spend all their waking hours - and perhaps their sleeptime as well - thinking of how to 'touch their consumers lives' don't quite get it.

A large multinational once sponsored a section of JAM magazine called 'Campus Buzz'. One of the regular columns in these pages was 'Hangouts'. Way back when Barista was a cool place where people played scrabble and strummed the guitar instead of holding quickie job interviews over coffee, we featured it.

Large Multinational Client (LMC) threw a fit. You see, this company also sells coffee. He felt we had violated cardinal principles and promoted a 'rival brand'.

We did not see it that way at all. And neither, I think, did the all important consumer. The choice is not: should I drink coffee at home, or should I go out and drink it at a coffee shop. If you like coffee, you do both.

In fact the boom in coffee shops would have made made coffee more popular in a tea drinking nation, IMHO. But, no sir. LMC cancelled his contract and maintained a cold war with us... For years.

I recalled this incident while reading Santosh Desai's column today on agencyfaqs. Santosh talks about why brands are unable to harness the power of the digital media. He writes:

I think the real problem is not that the internet in India is not ready for us, but that we don’t know how to use it. And this gap is not a technical one, but one involving a mindset...We want to control the narrative; we see ourselves as the creative prophets whose word the listeners must follow.

The very notion of creation undergoes a change when the user is involved; everyone becomes an artist. Creation becomes a function of collaboration over time. The idea that all work is unfinished, that eventually we, the owners of brands have no way of guaranteeing an outcome is too radical for most conventional marketers to be comfortable with.

Which is why we are quick to adopt that part of the digital world that fits into our existing frame of advertising. We have trouble with the part where we have to let go, where we surrender to the consumer. This is extremely uncomfortable since we have always believed that we, the emitters of message, are the owners of brands and they, the consumers, are part of some strange phylum of an even stranger genus that needs to be observed under the microscope called a focus group.

Look at the websites of the leading corporations of the world; they still speak in the crypto-corporate speak that signals their absolute terror of having a real conversation with the consumer.

Line of Control
Suppose a consumer gives a bad review of your product and it gets printed in a newspaper or magazine, what do you do? You assume they must have an ulterior motive (doosre brand ki PR agency ne unko paise diye honge). If you happen to be an advertiser with said publication, you threaten to withdraw your support.

Most journalists know which side their bread is buttered and will somehow cook up a product review which is moderately critical at best. The safest thing is to just list down the product specifications or print the press release verbatim.

A lot of advertising is linked to this press release garbage being printed verbatim as a 'value add'.

But then came the internet. You can't control what's said here, your advertising clout is irrelevant. If someone thinks your product tastes bad, well that's that. You can dismiss him as a crank or think to yourself, "Here is a voice that's not coming through to me on focus groups".

Let's face it - most of those groups are attended by 'professionals'. I was once part of a FGD on cooking oil (don't ask - favour for a friend!) and later found that all the housewives present did this on a regular basis. Kind of like a kitty party where you go home with a Shoppers' Stop voucher.

They know what clients want to hear. And that's further packaged by the MR agency into a document full of gobbledygook. "Cover Your Ass" research, it's called. If the product fails you have the report to wave around and say 'but we tested the concept extensively'!

The only industry which has learnt the art of letting go is entertainment. Movie companies invite journalists and other audiences for previews and special shows, without expectating a positive review. Music companies also know that opinions have a life of their own - they can't be controlled.

Of course these companies have the advantage of producing new 'products' on a regular basis. If one film bombs, there's always another release around the corner.

And, there's no accounting for public taste. Often the films with poor reviews get sizable audiences.

In sum, brands need to be less obsessive. Perhaps even less 'innovative'. The new trend is to start a site to 'engage' the customers around some kind of broad theme related to the brand. Most of these sites also use the brand name in the url.

By this logic, when satellite TV took off in India, large brands should've set up their own TV channels!

A website is relatively cheap to set up, so sure, brands are able and willing to experiment. But as long as the Creators see the end user as a 'consumer' it will never really work. When someone 'targets' you - there is an uneasy feeling.

Whether it's in the literal or metaphoric sense.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Migration: you can't stop it - II

American Consular Officer: "How do we know you'll come back to India?"

Student: "Sir, my roots are here - my family, my property, my business... I want to study in America, but I will come back and put my education to good use."

Hundreds and thousands of Indian students have given this earnest answer at their visa interview. A significant number never return. You have to wonder - why bother to ask? Because the idea of America, to a large extent, is to attract the brightest and the best from around the world.

But I guess can't give out the impression yahan visa party chal rahi hai -'everyone's invited'. We don't really want your tired, huddled and poor. That's so last century.

So both sides play out the charade but the visa officer knows there's a 95% chance the guy on full scholarship to Stanford is unlikely to return anytime soon. That in a couple of years his parents will be applying for 10 year multiple entry visas instead.

The H 1 B tangle
Of course, getting a job after a Bachelor's, or Master's in the US is apparently not a cakewalk. An employer needs to prove there is no American citizen or permanent resident skilled for enough to take on that particular job, in order to sponsor your visa. The company must want you pretty badly to go to that much trouble.

With Indian IT companies cornering more and more H1B visas in recent years, things seem to be getting tougher.

Businessweek reports: When Abhishek Sehgal came to the U.S. to pursue an MBA at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, he expected to get some work experience in the country. But the second-year MBA student from India didn't anticipate it would be so difficult to get a visa to work after graduation.

Citigroup (C), the 28-year-old's future employer, submitted his H-1B visa application on Apr. 2, the first day petitions were accepted. But the pool of applicants was already oversubscribed, and Sehgal's application wasn't chosen in a random computer selection.

Abhishek has a few options. After completing his degree requirements, he can try his luck in a visa pool for candidates with Master's degrees. That's 20,000 visas above and beyond the H1B - for students who've completed advanced degrees in the US. Citi could also take him for a one-year "practical training" under his student visa and he can reapply for an H1B next year.

Sehgal is one of many international MBA candidates who's caught in a visa bind. With only 65,000 H-1B visas available for professional-level workers across all sectors for the 2008 fiscal year, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services received 123,480 eligible applications on Apr. 2 and Apr. 3. After a computer lottery, about half the applicants were rejected.

The H1 B issue also affects another student group- the ones who've studied in India but secured the much hyped 'foreign placement'.

So even as the papers went gaga over the Lime group picking up IIT grads for $90,000 a year, the reality is that some of those who got the job never made it to New York. They did not get an H1 B visa.

Says one affected student: "Microsoft hired for US positions (at IIT) and then almost simply dropped their new hires because of the H1b mess (did not even give India positions), Merril Lynch took people to UK, same with Deutsche Bank, Capital One kept few people in India and moved rest to England and Canada.

LimeWire opened an India office. This year also many companies are in trouble including Bloomberg".

Not that working in India or Europe isn't a good experience. But the free flow of labour - at both lower and higher end of the job spectrum - remains more of a dream than tangible reality.

The Change Ahead
But thinking Americans are worried - talent migrating elsewhere to work and study may affect the land built on Immigrant Energy in the long run. Reforms are now being considered.

A new proposal - the Skilled Worker Immigration and Fairness Act - introduced by Senators Chuck Hagel (Republican) and Joseph Lieberman (Democrat). This act seeks to raise the existing cap on H1B visas to 115,000 and go upto 180,000 in years to come.

More importantly, the proposal seeks to allow a limitless number of H1B visas and green cards for foreigners with master's degrees or higher in any field from an American university. Or for anyone with such credentials in maths, science, technology or engineering from abroad.

This news was gleefully highlighted on page one of the Times of India late last week. They may as well have headlined it 'Chalo America'! Aapka bachpan ka sapna ab poora ho sakta hai.

Will the bill actually get passed? I am doubtful.

Because however attractive the proposal may be to industry and acadmia, there is a strong possibility of a backlash from the average American. When you let more immigrants in - using the 'talent' argument - there is a natural fear that 'my job could be at risk'.

The new guys may not be attractive only for their skills...

A December 2005 study by the Centre for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that 85% of those working in the US on H1B visas get paid less than US workers in the same occupation and state. $13,000 less, on average. This is against the law.

The study found that 36% of all H1B visas were issued to Indians, and occupation wise computer professionals dominate (25% of visas).

Based on this report, 9 Indian companies have been asked to provide details of how they use the H1 B. As Shubham Singhal notes in his blog, there is definitely some gochi. He writes:

Last year Infosys requested 22,590 H1b visas. Infosys has a total strength of around 70,000. Is it sending more than 25% of its employees overseas? I don't think so.

Moreover Infosys generally sends people overseas who stick with the company for sometime and hence L1 visa is suited for them. Then why do they want H1b?s? Plus let me add that they also have H1b visa holders from previous years. Have all these people left? I think this is just a pure misuse of the visa program.

Now, one may argue, as Basab Pradhan does, that for IT companies whose revenues come chiefly from the US, H1-B visas are like 'raw material'. "If they don’t have them they can’t start projects and this impacts revenue immediately"

Anil comments, in response: Wipro are trying to retain staff. I just came to know from an insider that Wipro has filed H1 B visas for all their employees in a particular practice (for which the count runs in hundreds) for a specific project even though the requirement is only for 2 persons. And those 2 persons are already in US under L1.

Cynical but could be true, because the chief carrot for IT staffers remains "foreign jaane ko milega".

There's so much desperation in this community for H1Bs that a desi consultants racket has apparently sprung up. Brijesh has an insightful post on his blog where he details how all it takes is $4000. These guys will create a fake resume loaded with work ex, fake job, fake paycheque - the works.

Within the first 5 minutes he will ask you this question “How old are you?” Why? The older you are the more experience they can show in the fake resume they prepare. My wife is 25 years old and many desi consultants are ready to hire her. When we told them that she doesn’t have any experience in the IT field this is what one of the consultant told us:

”Any year you lived after the age of 18 can be converted to relevant experience by making a fake resume. So to apply for H1B you need to be only 23 years. Any one above 23 years can easily get a H1B visa”.

Many of these consultants are frauds, making them no different from the agents who promise labourers jobs in theGulf or middlemen who weave dreams of a safe passage to Greece to the youth of Punjab. And now, our 'honourable' MPs as well...

Education is no barrier to being conned. The dreams are the same - only the sales pitch and the spit n polish different.

The Bitter Truth
The Americans are hotly debating the issue here . One gentleman argues: "Labor is work, not product, and if you are going to stand up and tell the US government you cannot possibly find a US Employee to do the job, and must bring in someone from another country to do it, you should be paying an abjectly high premium".

He adds: Look, here is EXACTLY how H1B works the vast majority of the time, and I know this because I’ve been in the meetings where the decisions were being made to do it! List for a job posting offering 50-80% of the market rate for the skill set you need... of course you can’t find anyone with decent skills to take the job.. so you then hire someone H1B and pay them 50-80% of what you should be paying.

You weren’t in a situation where you couldn’t find an american to do the job, you set up a situation where you couldn’t find an american to do the job for WHAT YOU WANTED TO PAY... not that there was no american who could do it... so instead of the company being forced to simply adjust to market situations, you give them a trump card to avoid the market forces, using government interference.

That’s all you have going on with H1B... its a COMPLETE and total scam, its a short circuit of the market, and to argue its “free market” is repugnant.

Well it may be repugnant but that is life. Skills are important but immigrant labour is attractive because it is willing to work for less. And longer and harder hours, as well

This holds true whether it's a Mexican restaurant worker, a Pakistani cab driver or an Indian IT engineer. Or the Biharis and UPites who stream in to Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Not to forget the Bangladeshis who simply jump our border - no passport, no visa.

No quick and easy solutions here.. the debate continues!

Migration : you can't stop it! - part 1

Monday, May 14, 2007

Big adda - or big anda?

Social networking is the next big thing. Correction - the current big thing. Anything 'big' and naturally, an Ambani needs to get into it. And I mean literally.

After the Big 92.7 FM stations, we now have a 'big adda' - an orkut-myspace clone from Reliance ADA. This is something like Rupert Murdoch deciding to create a myspace - instead of buying it out from some dudes.

Can it work? Hell, no.

When you join Myspace 'Tom' is your first friend. He is a real guy, a cool guy. Someone I want as a friend, if only in a notional sense.

When I register at Bigadda, I get this slob as my first friend. No kidding! And a message that reads:

"Hey friend! Welcome to Bigadda. Boss here, the dude of this wonderful place. Any queries, comments or feedback - Just scribble me and I will take care of it. Enjoy!" Sheesh.

The second problem is Bigadda is a free for all. Although they claim 'the website is accessible to internet users only via invitation' that is so not true. Anyone can join. In fact, you don't even have to be a member to see the profiles on the site.

Lastly, myspace caught on with young people. The average age of the recent Bigadda registrant appears to be 28. The age distribution is something like this (each page contains 24 profiles)

Age 16-20 - 4 pages
Age 20-25 - 17 pages
Age 25 -35 - 22 pages
Age 36-50 - 4 pages
Age 50-59 - 8 profiles

Age 16-20 - 14 profiles
Age 20-25 - 3 pages
Age 25 -35 - 3 pages
Age 36-50 - 6 profiles
age 50-59 - 0 profiles

As anyone in the s-n business knows, like attracts like. With tons of middle and aging folks on Bigadda which young people would see it as a cool hangout??

Now maybe Reliance figured that cool young Indians are on orkut (and now a bunch of them is moving to Facebook). So instead of weaning them away - too much hard work - let's just attack a different set of people. Bored office workers.

In fact who says a s-n site is for the young only? People of any age should be free to join. Why should Bigadda discriminate against people over the age of 59?? Let a hundred profiles over a hundred bloom. Let this be the site where the lonely octogenarian finds people with whom to swap tales of lost and found dentures...

Considering the user generated content on the site right now, that sounds seriously interesting!

Early morning internet

44% of Brazilians read in the bathroom, according to the study; in Saudi Arabia, 10% of respondents do.

More than half of all Indian respondents surf the Web before leaving the house, while less than one-third of Americans or Canadians do.

About 80% of Saudi Arabians pray or meditate before work; in Germany, 3% of respondents do.

- data from a BBDO survey on 'daily rituals' around the world, via PSFK.

Hmmm... wonder what the bathroom reading figure for India might be! I'd like to do a similar study, focussing just on the youth.

Asking stuff like... how many people take their cellphones into the loo. How many skip breakfast, by accident or design. And how many wake up feeling like shit everyday - because of late night TV/ orkut!

Meanwhile, I can feel 'normal', logging in to check my mail and even put up a quick blog post, just before leaving for work. Now that I have a Reliance Netconnect modem, this ritual should rightfully drop out of my day. Except it's a bit of a pain to stare at a laptop screen in broad daylight...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

FLAME: Education with a difference

Prof Indira Parikh retired in August 2005 from IIM A. She was one of the longest serving and most loved profs on campus. A professor in the OB area, she was best known for her involvement with the ERI program.

ERI - Exploring Roles and Identity - is a unique aspect of the curriculum at IIM A. An optional 'course' ERI takes you to an off-campus location (beach/ forest/ mountains) and all you do over 4 days is introspect. About who you are, what you wish to be, the things that hold you back, the regrets, hopes and fears you have.

I believe the program was originally conceived by Prof Pulin Garg, but for a whole generation of IIM A students Indira = ERI. Of course, there were other 'facilitators' - such as the wise and wonderful Sushanto.

The reason I am writing this, however, is not to recount days gone by. But to celebrate the future. Post retirement, Prof Parikh has set up FLAME - the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education. The initiative is funded by Parag and Nemish Shah and aims to impart 'holistic education'. Set up on a 75 acre campus on the outskirts of Pune, FLAME takes in students from this July.

FLAME has 3 programs:
- a 4 year undergrad course which promises 'the freedom to design your own education across science, humanities, management and creative arts'.

Students will graduate with a FLAME diploma in liberal education and a BA or a BBA (for which affiliation is being sought from Pune University). The course is fully residential.

- a 2 year MBA where students will take up liberal arts subjects along with the regular MBA course material. Emphasis will be given to personal growth, inter-personal skills and all round development.

- a 2 year 'MBA in Mass Media' which integrates creative and management skills for those interested in a career in the media.

FLAME also promises to revive the 'guru-shishya' parampara. Student teacher ratio will be 1: 14. There is an impressive roster of eminent visiting faculty, including specialist teachers from the UK to teach English literature!

Here's what I think:
The 4 year undergrad course which offers a more flexible curriculum is most welcome. As is the inclusion of liberal arts and emphasis on all round personal development. I think the undergrad course serves a real need - a gap in the market - and will find takers. But mainly with those thinking of studying abroad. Because it is expensive - Rs 3.62 lakhs per annum (which means Rs 14 lakhs for 4 years!).

The two year courses cost Rs 11 lakhs (Rs 5.52 lakhs per annum). That might deter many from the MBA, although I do think that the kind of spin FLAME is giving to the MBA is much needed.

The media course sounds a bit odd to me. In media you either join the creative side or the management side. Of course, exposure to both does not hurt... But the cost could be a turn-off. It's 5 times as expensive as Asian College of Journalism!

But then there aren't as many media schools as bschools. And yes, loans are available from Centurion Bank.

As a concept, FLAME sounds exciting. With Indira the helm, I am hopeful they can pull it off. My only concern is there has not been much publicity - and the pool of applicants may be small and not diverse enough.

FLAME should not turn into a cool school for rich kids!

Incidentally, the former director of SCMHRD, Prof M S Pillai, set up SCMLD (Sadhana Centre for Management and Leadership Development) in 2004. The institute offers a 2 year 'MBA with a difference'. For example, yoga and meditation form a compulsory part of the curriculum.

The support of former SCMHRD students has been crucial to the success of SCMLD. Although again, not enough people know about SCMLD and most would still prefer the conventional management institutes.

But it's good to see academics with vision and drive become, in a sense, 'educational entrepreneurs'.

Prof Bala Balachandran of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai is the other name that comes to mind in this context.

I believe institutions led by academic-entrepreneurs are a new trend. These institutes stand a better chance of becoming brand names than a school set up by regular Mr Moneybags, who sees education merely as a business opportunity.

Faculty, placement, quality of students - the reputation and network of the founder makes a perceptible difference to all these crucial aspects.

Of course, in the longer run it's systems, processes and overall philosophy which results in Institutions of Enduring Value... Which live on long after their founders.

But this is a good start!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

JAM Engineering College Ratings - Final Update

UPDATE, MAY 2008: The JAM Engineering Admissions Guide is now out. You can order a copy online at 15% discount from here. It is also available at leading bookshops across India, distributed by IBD.


The survey is done, the book being composed and the website under construction. The fruits of all these efforts should be visible in early June.

Thank you all, for your feedback and participation. And a few final requests. After going through the matter we found some bits of information missing and/ or inadequate. Hence would request write ups on the following.

Overview of engineering education for the following states:
- Himachal
- Uttaranchal
- Chhatisgarh
- Madhya Pradesh
- Goa
- Tamil Nadu
- Karnataka

The last two - we do have write ups - but they don't do justice.

If interested, please email me rashmi_b at and we'll send you guidelines. But, we need the matter in a bit of a hurry - a week at best.

If you can't write but would like to simply share the info you have with us that's ok as well. Drop me a line with your contact no.

A couple of other topics we need short write ups on:
- Unusual courses at IITs
- Coaching Class scene - Kota and others

After Engineering
We'd also like a few paras from some of you who are:
- working in core engineering jobs (civil, chemical etc)
- engineers who went into research
- engineers who went into something completely unrelated

You could give your brief background and share the journey so far, in brief.

Lastly, if anyone has any tips or specific advice for engineering aspirants - even if it's just a para - please send it in. We are including a lot of 'tidbits'.

And yes, those of you who have contributed articles will receive a cheque from us this month. In case you haven't sent your address, pls do so at the earliest!

JAM 'Downloads' Survey

JAM is coming up with a special issue on the 'Download' culture. It would be great if you could take two minutes to fill out this brief questionnaire.

In case you aren't in college anymore, put in wherever you studied and year of graduation into that space.

We're also looking for:
- an IITian who can write abt the download culture in the institute
- anyone who can do a humourous piece along the lines of a 'Day in the life of a Downloading Freak'. Perhaps, 'night' would be more appropriate.

Any other kind of contributions on this subject are most welcome. Email me at rashmi_b at

Friday, May 04, 2007

'Affirmative Action', Symbiosis style

Taking yet another historic step towards empowering India's masses by spreading the light of knowledge, Symbiosis International University voluntarily decides to implement the recommended 27% seat allocation for OBC students. This is being done by creating additional seats over and above the sanctioned intake of each programme...

- ad in leading newspapers earlier this week.

This increase starts with a 7% hike in seats this year, going upto 27% in two years time.

This ad was cannily released right after the IIMs released their admission list, minus OBC quota. The OBC question will come up once again for hearing on May 8 in the Supreme Court.

Given the time the judicial system is likely to take, the OBC issue may remain unresolved by the time the academic session begins in June. So what happens to OBC candidates? Well, most likely, they would have given other admission tests like Symbiosis SNAP.

So Symbi swings into action. This is both a chance to gain some PR points with politicians and assume a sort of higher moral ground. "Affirmative action", after all is practised in American universities. Sounds so much better than 'reservation' as well.

The trouble is this:
- Nowhere on the Symbiosis website do I see a mention of SCs and STs. If one must begin to 'empower India's masses' on the basis of caste then surely you can't start with OBCs.

- There is no mention of creamy/ non-creamy layer. The whole debate about merit vs reservation rests on the argument that caste does not necessarily equal backwardness. An OBC and a Brahmin with similar economic and educational backgrounds should be treated as equals.

In fact there is no mention of the word 'underprivileged' with OBC at all, so one can only assume this initiative is going to empower those who can pay for their education.

- The use of the term 'affirmative action' is misleading. As the Princeton Review notes:

..affirmative action is not about quotas—that is, it's not meant to force schools or businesses into accepting or hiring a certain percentage of minorities or women. Instead, affirmative action is meant to level the playing field and ensure that schools and businesses are not intentionally discriminating against minority groups.

No college is permitted to have separate admissions criteria for different racial groups; all students must be in competition with one another regardless of race.

What Symbiosis is implementing is a quota. Voluntary it may be, but the spirit behind it is pure commerce.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

'No Country for Old Men'

Tehelka has a special issue on the internet and India's youth titled 'Adventures in Netistan'.

Here's the piece I wrote for this special issue: No Country for Old Men .

I also liked this piece on young people in Bihar hooked onto the net. Being offline for a week cost one fella his Russian 'girlfriend' ...

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth