Don’t stop upward mobility by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (OCTOBER 21, 2009)

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam comments on Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal’s flip-flop.

HR minister Kapil Sibal is one of our more intelligent, clean and fair-minded politicians. However, his latest proposition that the admission cut-off mark for IIT students should be ratchetted up to 80 percent is neither very intelligent nor does it show any great sense of fair play.

It goes against the very grain of what the founding fathers of our Constitution meant by equality. By raising the bar we are screening out a sizeable number of bright young people from the villages, smaller towns and state capitals, who because of their disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances may not be able to score 80 percent marks in Intermediate class. However, with hard work and sheer determination they will certainly pass IIT and equivalent entrance tests.

Dozens of children from very poor backgrounds in Patna have made it to the IITs under a training programme run by a voluntary organisation. In the entire state of Jharkhand only two students got 80 percent marks in Intermediate this year, but dozens of them have gone to IIT from small towns in the same state. By imposing the 80-percent criterion we are going to do great injustice to such people and are preventing upward social mobility.

Such an act would amount to denial of equal opportunity to all classes of people and loading the dice heavily against the poor and middle classes. That is elitism of the worst kind.

Thankfully, the honourable minister backed off from this stance within hours. However, he has passed the ball into the court of the IITs, who would now decide the criterion. That is as good or as bad as further fudging the issue.

Now, for a while, let us be clear. No change in the existing criterion of first class marks (60 percent) for appearing at IIT entrance examination. That would be an intelligent, honest and fair stance, something befitting Kapil Sibal.

 

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