Monday, April 20, 2009

Story of the poor and hence of India.

Last week I read an article titled "I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told", that I would like to share with you.

As an introduction to the article I share with you the first two paragraphs of the article here:

That the children of the poor underachieve in later life, and thus remain poor themselves, is one of the enduring problems of society. Sociologists have studied and described it. Socialists have tried to abolish it by dictatorship and central planning. Liberals have preferred democracy and opportunity. But nobody has truly understood what causes it. Until, perhaps, now.

The crucial breakthrough was made three years ago, when Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania showed that the working memories of children who have been raised in poverty have smaller capacities than those of middle-class children. Working memory is the ability to hold bits of information in the brain for current use—the digits of a phone number, for example. It is crucial for comprehending languages, for reading and for solving problems. Entry into the working memory is also a prerequisite for something to be learnt permanently as part of declarative memory—the stuff a person knows explicitly, like the dates of famous battles, rather than what he knows implicitly, like how to ride a bicycle.
The rest of the article discusses the methodology that the researchers applied for the study.

While going through the article three things crossed my mind:


The study finds out that; chronic stress damages the memory. Extending this argument, one can have chronic stress from many more situations that necessarily has nothing to do with your financial status. So along with the poor many more children may be having smaller capabilities than the children having more advantaged life.


The study can play a very vital role in the discussion of reservations in India. In India, the policy makers have periodically come up with proposals of seat reservations in jobs and educational institutes based on caste and not on economic status. As a result, today there are seat reserved for people from scheduled caste and tribes. Even without the comfort of a statistical data, I can safely say that most of the scheduled caste and tribes are placed very low on the financial ladder,
nevertheless, there is a sizable population of scheduled caste and tribes who are financially well off. Their children have the luxury of a primary education and decent opportunities early in life. And it so happens that it is this chunk of the group that makes use of the reserved seat in higher education and jobs. Defeats the purpose of the reservation.

My argument is; if all children, poor or not, 'special' caste or not, are given basic opportunities early in life, why would there be any need for a reservation in higher education and jobs.

My contention, therefore, is; first, there should be reservations based on financial status rather than based on caste. Second, reservations should be during the formative period of an individual not later.


In the capitalist frenzy that we live in, from where did the group manage funding for a study that has nothing to do with the rich? Beats me.

As I write this post, I wonder, how do you explain the plenty of rags to riches stories.?Are they the exceptions? Do not exceptions make the rule?


Vishwa Bandhu said...

i agree with u utpal...
the reservation, if at all required, should be on financial base not on caste... but..even today there is a quite large section of people in upper caste who are biased. i know some of the stories when they did not let any sc/ st candidate (good candidate) to join the job..and i m talking abt institute like iitd.
i dont know what will be the better solution, but one thing is for sure. jab tak things will not be transparent nothing will work.

Utpal said...

Yes Bandhu .... Feudal mindset is indeed a problem in India. In the political frenzy when all of us take the high moral ground compared to our politicians, its a good time to remind ourselves that a lot of the problems in society originates from us. Naxalism is a classic example.