Equity sans reservations: Imagining alternate ways for affirmative action

Affirmative action aimed at ending discrimination has a long and complex history in India. A new chapter was added to this story on May 10 when the Supreme Court upheld a Karnataka law, saying quotas for promotion of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates in public employment was constitutional and did not require demonstrating ‘backwardness’ of the community.

Even groups opposed to quotas want the same benefit extended to them. For long, this has been the only solution to address inequity in India. So these recent developments provide a good opportunity to reflect on the question: can we imagine better ways to achieve social equity goals?

Consider this thought experiment. There are no predetermined quotas for any posts. Positions are filled only based on a composite score of all applicants. The composite score is a combination of two measures. The first is an inequity score — calculated to compensate for the relative disadvantage faced by an applicant.

The second measure strictly represents an applicant’s ability to be effective for the position they are applying for. Selection is on the basis of the composite score. No seats are reserved and yet the score allows for addressing multidimensional inequity much better than current methods.

Read the full article on FirstPost here.