External validity, Indian edition

We recently blogged how India faces some unique challenges to increasing teacher attendance; namely, leopard incursions.  Obviously we were (mostly) joking, but India is making news again in a way that seems decidedly unique to it.

While there is a big literature about the pros and cons of affirmative action, I don’t think many researchers (outside of India that is) have considered the events that the NY Times chronicled yesterday.

Here’s some background:

“Almost half of government jobs and university seats in the country are reserved for members of special groups. India’s Constitution guarantees equality to all, but it also enshrines caste-based affirmative action for the lowest social group, the Dalits, known in legal terms as scheduled castes, and for indigenous forest-dwellers, known as scheduled tribes. In time, the government created a third group, the Other Backward Classes.”

This has enraged other castes that now want to also be considered low-level so they can access these government jobs.

A slippery slope

The problem with giving in once means you don’t have a leg to stand on the next time it happens.  The government must have realized this last year when they denied a “relatively prosperous caste” its demand to be part of the “backward classes.”

Unfortunately, that just caused members of the Jat caste to up the ante. According to the Times, the “protesters had blocked roads around the capital, set fire to railway stations and cars, and temporarily shut down a crucial canal that is a major source of the city’s water. Nineteen people were killed in the violence in surrounding Haryana State, and fears of water shortages led New Delhi to close its schools to conserve its supply.”   

My only question is:  which caste is next?  and what happens if most of the castes are eventually deemed “backward”?  this seems like another way to push the Dalits back down to the bottom again.