Monday, January 23, 2006

Mother's dilemma

A mother, who has two kids, one is Stong and other is Weak. The Strong kid can eat very fast and the Weak is very slow to eat. For a long time what the mother used to give food to both kids in one plate. Strong kid ate hurriedly to and finish most of the food and Weak managed to take only a bite or two. This continued for a long time, and Strong is now Stronger and Weak is Weaker.

Now, Weak is almost starving to death, he can no longer live on so less food.

Weak approached Mother and said this (giving food in one plate) is unfair as he is starving to death. Mother listened and now she wanted to hear what Strong has to say.

"Survival of fittest is mantra for me, Let the system be meritocratic, I have the ability(merit) to eat fast so I will do that".

"But you brother, Weak will starve to death then. Dont you care about him?", mother said.

"Let him starve to death, I dont care.", Strong said.

Now, Mother has two options,

One, Continue the "meritocratic" system and let Weak die from hunger.

Second, Protect Weak from Strong. Give him opportunity to satisfy his hunger that was suppressed from long time. "Reserve" a part of food for Weak, so that he can eat and survive.

Imagine yourself at place of the mother. Which option would you choose?


Paresh said...

1. give them separate plates
2. reserve some part of food for the weak till he becomes strong and after that discontinue reservation.

I know that the second part is whts goin on in India after independence; but unfortunately the weak is not aware of the facility being offered or he is happy with whatever small part of pie he is getting.

Vikas Agarwal said...

I see the problem as what the theory of objectivism poses. Should the person in need be elegible to the same bounty as should a deserving candidate. Here, I draw the line of difference between the needy and the deserving.
Deserving: Who has become strong because of his deeds, practices or as a gift.
Needy: Who just requires that reward to survive, without a guarantee to get uplifted even after getting the undeserved.

But as for the mother's role and not being at the judge's seat, she is supposed to follow the way Paresh suggested. But leaving aside the emotional part, I would say she should teach how to grow fitter, fight bigger, achieve deserved, and not beg alms.

Rahul said...


When you state this example as an analogue to India's Reservation Dilemma, there are two fundamental flaws - the dependency of the mother on the two children and the incentive for Weak to grow strong.

Paresh suggested in the post above that reservation ought to be given to the weak, and then withdrawn once unnecessary. What went wrong in India? Why is everyone clamouring for reservations? Why is there a new community being given reservations every year? Why are reservations given to communities shortly after independence not revoked after so long?

The reason is Vote Bank Politics - that a party knows a community will keep voting for it if it keeps telling the community that it is weak, needs "protection", and that the party alone can provide it that protection. This is the incentive for a political party (and today, all parties) to make sure that a community actually remains weak, and remains protected.

The other flaw in the analogy of the very incentive of Weak to grow strong at all. Once Weak has a separate portion of the meal reserved for him, he does not need to compete with Strong, and hence will see no need in eventually giving up his separate plate.

Speaking in terms of reservation: The problem with our policy is that it attacks the symptoms and not the problems. The symptom is that there are very few/no members of a community in engineering jobs/in management, and so on. The response of the Government has been to reserve jobs for the community in these sectors/fields.

But the problem to be addressed is: if one community can do it, why not the other? And then we will realize that the problem is that primary education system in India is of inhuman quality. A reserved seat in an engineering college makes no difference to a set of parents if they cannot send their son/daughter to the local municipal school, because there are no teachers, often no school at all! Fix that, and communities will raise themselves to compete for the same seat/job on equal terms, and they will be much happier.

Shailesh said...

Thanks all,

I appreciate that u have put ur thoughts by commenting on my blog.

Its great to understand different opinions, different stands.

Keep commenting.

redrajesh said...

Would the mother continue to keep reserving for "weak" even after many years when "weak" has become so strong due to this privilege that he can actually compete with "strong"? And would the mother keep reserving ever increasing portions over time for the sake of "weak" who is now strong and try to keep making "strong" weaker over time?

Would mother keep listening to "weak" to keep on increasing the reserved portion over time due to the lack of ambition and ethics of "weak"?

redrajesh said...

regarding vote bank politics, since it is clear now that politics is also business and that only lobbying works, I think it is high time forward castes unite and start demanding reservation for themselves....further they should also start demanding passing of laws like "prevention of atrocities against forward castes act"(similar to the one against Sc/st's), demand the right to form unions for forward caste employees(like the unions for sc/st employees) and all the other things which are given to the reserved categories.
Further, to protect males from females, we need laws like "prevention of sowry act"(it is not a spelling is sowry and not dowry) and prevention of harassment of husbands by wives and laws to prevent rape of males and laws to protect male prostitutes from exploitative female customers all in line with the way women are "protected" from men now.

DK said...

I would like to give another example:
There should be reservations in basketball teams for shorter players as well. The logic behind this is that even shorter players have the right to enjoy the sport even though their genetics are against it.
But team managers don't do it because it would lower the standards of teams. That is why seats should not be alloted on any basis other than merit for it will lower the standard of the students passing out of the institution.

Anonymous said...

I understand that this post is aimed at reservations. Nobody is saying that the mother should give food in one plate to both. What needs to be done is to give them different plates i.e., equal quantity of food. But then the point you are missing is that the current rage is not over this quantity of food but what work each one is assigned. I would rather have the mother give equal quantity of food to both and have them work equally. It is foolish to continue giving them food in the same plate and have the stronger one do all the work.