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Anna Ma’am and her boarding school stars: from left to right
Manisha, Aditya, Vicky, Utpal and Yash
standing: Babli and Nikhil

 The quota debate is back. A statutory government panel has advised enacting legislation that would make it mandatory for private companies to reserve 27% of all jobs for marginalised communities. The quota system is affirmative action to help people from deprived backgrounds and is used in education and government employment. The proposed law aims at extending affirmative action to private businesses, including philanthropic organisations.

But what happens when a young woman whose father is a senior diplomat and who has studied in Ivy League colleges applies for a job under the reserved category?

In our own experience when Project Why took the decision to source all of our staff from within the community we never gave a thought to affirmative action or quotas; we were looking at skills and talent.  We have never regretted this choice. They have walked the extra mile and proved their worth. All our teachers needed was the opportunity; they did the rest. Project Why’s achievements are proof of that.

Is affirmative action that same as sourcing from the community?

When Project WHY decided to send eight extremely deprived children to a English medium boarding school; that was a form of affirmative action.  However, we did not throw them into the lion’s den. We rented a flat and kept them with us for one year. We registered them in an English medium pre-school where they learned basic English. At the flat we gave them the skills they would need: eating on a dining table with cutlery, sleeping alone in a bed, manners, using a bathroom and so on. And, in order to make sure they would not feel alienated we also introduced them to all that a boarding school kid would love: pizza, hamburgers, GI Joes, Barbies and what not.

When the day came, these little souls walked into their new world confident and sure of themselves. Today they are admired for who they have become; they are at the top of their classes, excel in sports, and love creative activities. There has been no looking back. Their caste and class does not matter anymore.

Was affirmative action the right choice for us to make?

Will the quota system really support those in need?

Will the quotas create a larger divide?

What are your thoughts on the quota issue? Should there be affirmative action beyond education?




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