Almost two weeks into Rio 2016, India has won just one medal – an inspiring victory from wrestler Sakshi Malik. Even as we lament our poor performance at the Olympics, here is something which will discourage our sportspersons further – the Hyderabad High Court wants the Indian government, at the centre and the states, to consider scrapping the ‘sports quota’ in colleges altogether.
To be sure, the concerns of the Hyderabad HC are real.
A committee of the Andhra government, in its apparent zeal to encourage students to win medals in sports like Tennikoit, Power Lifting, Netball, Throwball, Sepak takraw and Boxing had recommended that these sports be included in the list of sports for which the government provides reservations in medical college admissions. A student went to court stating that she was not called for admission counselling under these sports. The court dismissed the student’s petition stating they were just recommendations.
Sports quotas have a long history of abuse. In both government institutions and private colleges, the sports quota has been used by those in power or those with money to get their kids the seat of their choice. Bureaucrats and politicians use the quota to push their kids into premier public institutions, and private colleges use this as yet another channel to sell their seats to the highest bidder.
Remember Rahul Gandhi? It was subject to much controversy that because he did not have the grades for St. Stephens College in Delhi, he was taken in through the sports quota for being a shooter.
Given the largescale abuse of the sports quota, it does sound sensible for the quota to be scrapped altogether.
But this argument, in reality, is similar to why many want caste-based reservations scrapped.
When we ask for sports quotas to be scrapped, what we are in effect saying is that because there are quite a few who misuse the quota, everyone should be denied the opportunity. Sakshi Malik, who worked hard against social stigma and government apathy to get us a Bronze medal, should have no access to either good education or a fruitful career.
The reason we have sports quotas is that excelling in sports is not easy, and the best athletes will not be able to compete with those with an academic bent who spend all their time in the study. And a career in sports is also extremely difficult to build because success is rare. It is unfair to expect them to do well in sports and yet compete with those who can allot all their time and effort to academics.
If even a quota is taken away from them, then what else is left?
The court, in its order, says that there is no constitutional basis for this quota. While that may be true, there is no reason we cannot have a law based on common sense. The court’s declaration that “The reservation for such quotas, neither help the students to become great sports persons in life nor to become great professionals in other fields” is rather hasty, and does not consider the benefits a crucial few get from these quotas.
What the court should have asked for instead is that the government improve the way these quotas are implemented. We need better parameters for admissions, and a closer monitoring of the performance of students under these quotas. Our inefficiency in doing so cannot be replaced by taking away all opportunities for sportspersons.
If we scrap the sports quota, we would only be taking several steps away from the already distant Olympic dream.