Vantage point

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Shourie and Thapar

Karan Thapar has been the target of the ire of a lot of pro-reservationists as he has attempted to grill Arjun Singh, Kamal Nath and P Chidambaram about their belief in reservations. I am not a great admirer of Karan Thapar as a writer, but as an interviewer, I think he does a decent enough job, by Indian standards. But assuming that he is an anti-reservationist just because he grilled the aforementioned people is the same as betraying the fact that you don't quite understand the name of his show - 'Devil's Advocate'.

So I wonder what supporters of reservation felt when he grilled Arun Shourie with the same aggression.

I think Arun Shourie articulated the opposition to reservations very well. My favourite part was this -

Karan Thapar: So you neither accept the logic in terms of morality or in terms of efficacy?

Arun Shourie: Yes.

Karan Thapar: On both grounds, you think reservations are wrong?

Arun Shourie: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, since you are implacably opposed to reservations for the Scheduled Castes, what is your preferred way of tackling the discrimination they have suffered for centuries?

Arun Shourie: Firstly, I am not against reservations only for the Scheduled Castes, but for everybody. Second point is yes, if they have suffered that kind of discrimination and we have got good records of this kind of thing happening in the South, for instance in many parts of Tamil Nadu, then the best way is social reform and these great reformers who have made an enormous difference to India in the last 200 years as testified to by the Christian missionaries themselves.

Karan Thapar: Is there a second way beyond social reforms?

Arun Shourie: Yes, there is. Second is economic growth and modernisation.

Karan Thapar: Third?

Arun Shourie: Third is to find out what is the real reason for the poor performance of the child. For instance, he cannot retain what he learns in class because of poor nutrition, give him four free meals a day.

Karan Thapar: Individual attention?

Arun Shourie: Yes, absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Is there a fourth?

Arun Shourie: Yes. There are many things. He doesn’t have a place to study, make free dormitories. He needs free textbooks, he needs training and education.

Do read the whole interview.