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Since long, the debate on meritocracy has been in the academic circle which originated from academicians, researchers, professionals and students belonging to ‘lower and/or backward’ castes. However, not much attention was paid to such discussions by the privileged and elite majorly because of their vested interests associated with it or due to the fact that we considered this caste as an uneducated, uncivilized and voiceless community unless they are educated and speak for themselves their voice become a part of the politicization of caste system.
This uncomfortable point is time and again raised by many on several instances like suicide of Rohith Vemula (Leonard, 2019: 52), hurling abuses by Prof Seema Singh to the marginalized caste students in IIT Kg (Datta, 2021), etc. however, meritocracy becomes a topic of intense discussion when a globally recognized political philosopher Michael Sandel put them into words and problematizing the way the elites think.
Once again, the lateral entry in UPSC was criticised at various fronts ranging from students’ protests to policy researchers. The connection of meritocracy with public policy and public health is due to technocracies and the policy decisions which were not so fruitful in the recent past. However, this was the same danger which dissenters were warning the world. That reminds us of Avengers Endgame when Tony Stark said to Steve Rogers that we are Avengers and not “pre-vengers”.
Similarly, scientists believing in the perfect ‘built-in’ of science is objectifying the pillars of science which are in the language of Thomas Kuhn a scientist cannot rely on objectivism because science relies on subjective worldview, with the new scientific methods, inventions, discoveries for developing new paradigm it is important to redefine corresponding science wherein old problems could become relegated or considered unnecessary, hence thriving on endless subjective possibilities (Kuhn, 2012: 103). Through this, shifting from the linear path to a new paradigm may occur. Hence, believing in one ‘built-in’ and ‘structure’ are not scientific but fulfilling some interests of the ‘rock stars of science’.
The problematization of meritocracy can be viewed from various aspects in this country. The current social structure makes it challenging to develop an inclusive, long term and decentralizing policy whereas the present policy approach is short-sighted non-participatory in nature. The most intriguing instances of the current policy approach are: (1) India being one of the biggest exporter of wheat and millions of people are facing shortage of food; (2) Maharashtra is high performing state in NRHM and women in Palgarh region are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition.
The above mentioned problems may look grim but the author also portrays a dim light of hope in the form of collection of extraordinary stories by Dr R Balasubramaniam. These stories represent people who may not come to mainstream education system but with their wit and will they have made a path breaking journey.
Moreover, their remarkable leadership stories tell us about the state of the country. At one hand, unsuccessful implementation of public policies has made the condition of tribal population dreadful, leaving them with limited resources, and on the other hand, the tribals under specific circumstances build up pathways for a better life. These stories make the mainstream meritocrats think about their compassion to uplift others twice and demand introspection. In Dr Srinivas’ words, “authors’ lessons emerge from multiple grounded experiences, many of which were failures of his imagination, which he gladly accepts and learns from, all the while being open to learning more and bowing more”. Thus, the humility which Dawkins asked for. With this, author is challenging the top to bottom approach and demands meritocrats to learn from the grassroots social innovations.
1. Datta, Sayantan. (2021, May 22). Caste and Meritocracy Keep India’s Top Institutions Running. At What Cost? Science The Wire. https://science.thewire.in/education/seema-singh-iit-kharagpur-students-...
2. Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions: With an Introductory Essay by Ian Hacking. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (pp. 1–128). The University of Chicago Press.
3. Leonard, D. (2019). Towards a caste-less community :Dalit experience and thought as “movement.” Economic and Political Weekly, 54(21), 47–54.