Another reason why people move out of India is to escape the sociopolitical chaos. I have met many LGBT Indians in the US who moved out just to escape the prison that is Indian society. Similarly, I wouldn't blame any progressive individual who wants to ditch this country, considering how common the threats of violence have become for anyone who doesn't fall in line.
Second, I dislike how the conversation around brain drain is framed around blaming students. It's the government's responsibility to provide affordable education, just like clean air, clean water, and public safety. It's not a favour. Governments and policy-makers should introspect why brilliant minds are so eager to fly away, why reputed Indian colleges have such decrepit infrastructure. I went to one of the best NITs in the country and found mediocrity at every level. The professors were disillusioned uninterested cynics, labs had pirated software, the apparatus for experiments was so old, we might as well have been using an abacus.
While it's true that American colleges are very expensive, the resources they provide are incomparable to Indian colleges. No wonder research-oriented people flock here.
Dear Hafta team,
I really enjoyed the discussion on voter bigotry this last Hafta. I want to add two cents from my parents perspective (hardcore Modi supporters).
We have to understand that there is a generation that has lived its life under the Congress. They’ve seen communal indifference (Sikh massacre) and manipulation (Shah Bano, Ayodhya shilanyas) under the Congress as well. Add to this the image that the Congress built up of being slow, inefficient, corrupt and dynastic. UPA II did this Congress image no favours and the BJP rode the sentiment of popular movements (anti-corruption) and the “Modi wave” to win in 2014.
Whether we agree with that image of the Congress or not, the fact is that today, they neither represent a credible alternative, nor do they have the freshness or organisational structure to challenge Modi. That they win some seats is a minor miracle. Modi’s biggest success has been to project himself as a wee bit better than his alternatives and to keep his image “clean”. Notably, even in states people vote for Modi-BJP’s trump card when all else fails.
So, when the principal Opposition is not keen to win, how do you imagine that people will consider them a choice? And if the Congress is not an alternative at the national level, who is?
Hi NL Hafta team
I recently subscribed to Newslaundry because the podcast went behind paywall, and the marketing strategy of showing a glimpse of the podcast on YouTube worked really well 🙂
I liked the recent podcast and the talk about brain drain was put out well. I did my education throughout in a government-run school and college in a railway town known as Chakradharpur (Jharkhand) and I have had a lot of friends who are Dalits. Almost all came from a poor financial background and for them, education was one way of coming out of it. Since there was reservation in the railways, they wanted to get a job there. Most of them made it and are quite happy in there life. This could be one reason why you don't see a lot of the educated Dalits moving abroad as they opt for government jobs here because of the reservation.
In the town, Dalits had a separate colony for themselves. It was called Harijan basti. Back then, as a kid, I didn't understand the reason for having one such basti for them. However, as I got older, I understood that it was a form of a discrimination. Such discrimination can only end if they have more educated people from their own society and this could also be one reason why you might not find Dalits going abroad as they want to be a catalyst of change in their own country.
About the discussion on students being forced to stay back.
- The team lightly touched on the deeper issue, looking at the country as a service provider (à la Punit Pania/Kamra's standup bits) vs your own community.
- There is a model of Lambda schools where education is provided for free and they have an income share agreement to get a return. This is so much better than some forced contract to stay back.
- On the thought experiment, obviously a parallel system would emerge, just look at the coaching classes system.
Love the team, and the fact that Abhinandan hasn't missed a week even through his Covid experience. Keep up the good work, all the best for the next year.
Just wanted to clarify a few things with regard to the mail by Mr Hemal on the farm bills on Episode 308.
MSP was never a legal right and can never practically be set as one, due to the difference in quality of produce that's sold to the government
The current bills, are based on bipartisan recommendations of expert committees of the past 15-20 years (Ashok Gulati has written extensively about it).
Post harvest losses amount to about 20 percent of the produce. The current problem of small and marginal farmers is a lack of access to market information, due to which they are unable to diversify to higher margin cash crops/vegetables/pulses. There also exists no incentive on the seller's side to invest in cold chain technologies due to no rules regarding contract farming (something this bill aims to achieve).
Just as e-commerce juggernaut empowered a lot of small producers to invest in logistics as they got access to market information, a free market has the power to provide the same to small farmers.
Lastly, Punjab and Haryana are amongst the slowest growing states in terms of agriculture, due to over-reliance on staples (which are procured by the government), which has wrecked their water table and has led to second order outcomes like stubble burning (Vivek Kaul has written on this).
Keep up the good work.
Hi Abhinandan and team,
Brain drain has some advantages that you did not touch upon. Best brains going out gives the impression to the western world that this is the quality India has to offer, yielding a positive impression about India, particularly in the US.
When I worked in a call centre in 2002, I had to take on a pseudonym, fake an accent, and hide my location. Today, as I peddle automation tools, I can go with my real name, native accent, and get a lot of respect.
Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai are just the tip of the iceberg. Indians have infiltrated almost every tech company with at least one C-level executive.
Segueing into the actions of the current government, it's no surprise what they are doing, as they are being led by a narcissistic charlatan. There were, however, some missed opportunities from the governments of the past and Muslim liberals (many would say that's an oxymoron). Did Muslims fill the streets when the order came against Shah Bano? Don't you think legislation against triple talaq and the uniform civil code should have been things the Left should have pushed for? Also, Muslims in the valley were silent spectators for many years as Pandits were being targeted. No one acknowledges that, which is a shame.
Lastly, I have a feeling the farmer protests have an eerie similarity to the Anna movement. Similar arrogance was shown by the UPA back then.
Hi NL team, new subscriber here from Trenton, US.
I’ve been following your work for the last few months. My comment goes to Hafta 308 during the discussion about democracy in India, based on Abhinandan’s open question of “are we [India] now in the Trump zone?”
In particular, when Manisha posits that democracy started in India through luck and the contributions of western-educated liberals (ie Ambedkar, Gandhi), but the regressive laws/acts witnessed in India today are actually revealing the “true nature” of India. There is a dangerous form of negative cultural determinism that is being established. One that suggests there is some cultural value innate to Indian society that runs counter to democratic culture.
The logic of this argument is used to great effect by many conservatives here in the US seeking to marginalise entire minority cultures and simultaneously judge them incapable of coexisting with American democracy. Instead, can we see democracy and democratic culture as a fluid entity that can be moulded into many different societies, based on its own diverse history as a practice that developed across many western and non-western societies?
And moreover, can we also see it as a practice that is under constant assault and instead requires a progressive defence rather than explanations of cultural differences? I share your cynicism, Manisha, but the ways in which we choose to observe this issue will be of great importance in the battles to come.
Thanks again NL team.
Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Hi Newslaundry team,
I am a recently converted subscriber (freeloader earlier) and a contributor to the NL Sena project on "love jihad". Have a couple of questions and comments on the recent NL Haftas.
In NL Haftas 307 and 308, Mr Shekha Gupta of the Print was discussed passionately with respect to his views on corporates in general. I do agree with some of the comments but that did put me into a dilemma since I am a subscriber of the Print too, and do listen to their "Cut the Clutter" show on a daily basis. Frankly speaking, it is very informative. On a similar footing as the explainers done by Meghnad. Would love to get the panel's view on listening and consuming content from presenters you may not fully agree with on every point, but they are a great source of informative content on a variety of topics.
In NL Hafta 309, the bigotry of Modi supporters, specially after the 2019 victory, was discussed in detail. One thing that could have been added to the discussion was how the Modi supporters after 2019 victory qualify for the definition of being a bigot. What I concluded was that if you turn a blind eye to all the atrocities and complete alienation of the minorities and still support them, then that does make you a bigot.
But for that, we are assuming two facts on their behalf:
1) They are aware of all the atrocities being committed to minorities.
2) They emotionally connect with that alienation. Basically feel for them.
On the first, many people may not even think something is being done which is out of order, either because of the constant bullshit being thrown at them by the Godi media eclipsing the truth, or they don't even think it's out of order because many of us don't even understand our constitution and the rights it enlists for every single person out there.
On the second, that's where I think the major problem lies. Most of us don't even connect with the members of other communities on a basic conversation level. Asking us to feel their pain is already too much to ask in this situation. We really need to start talking with each other and see the person first before their community or affiliation.
I apologise for the long email in advance :P. Happy new year to you guys and keep up the good work :)
Hi NL team,
Long-time listener, intermittent subscriber, part of your cabal of post graduates in Umreeka and your persistent advocate for trigger warnings. First of all, thanks for responding to that. I really appreciate it.
I'm writing on spec here, trusting that you'd find time to discuss the Madam Chief Minister controversy. I was moved to reflect on what I've learned about being an ally. I know you won't read all of it on the podcast but maybe you can read the last paragraph and include the essay in the show notes.
Reflections on being a Bahujan Ally
What prompted me to write this? Richa Chadha digging herself in a hole, defending Madam Chief Minister.
"You really expect me to turn down rewarding, meaningful work? That’s just absurd... You’d rather this kind of story not be told at all? Sir, you may live in a perfect Boston world, we live in Bombay, where progress > perfection. Humein casteist keh diya, ab kya baaki."
I’m an Indian graduate student writing this in California. I’m definitely part of the “liberal elite with western values” that Ms Chadha believes don’t understand the realities of rewarding, meaningful work in Bollywood. I’m also a Savarna, cis woman like her.
I want to start with the comparison drawn by @bahujanlivesmatter between the posters of Madam Chief Minister and Kaala. The titular characters in both movies are Dalits that fight for their people. While Kaala is depicted as sitting confidently, Madam Chief Minister is bruised and dishevelled. Further, Kaala’s creators didn’t feel the need to announce that Kaala belongs to the Dalit Bahujan community. By contrast, the creators of Madam Chief Minister felt the need to declare the caste of the character and used a word that many in the community find offensive. Both the characters are played by Savarna actors, but Madam Chief Minister has been critiqued for playing into stereotypes about Dalit people.
The fact that movies are necessarily a team effort has been used to defend Ms Chadha. True enough, Kaala’s creative team was led by Pa. Ranjith, who belongs to the Dalit community. I don’t believe Madam Chief Minister’s creative team had any Dalit storytellers in its leadership. I wonder if Ms Chadha didn’t notice the difference between the teams that made Madam Chief Minister and Masaan – which also told a Dalit story but was made by a Dalit storyteller. That’s perhaps the reason why the backlash might feel overwhelming from Ms Chadha’s point of view. She’s stood for progressive values in her work as well as her activism on social media and I admire her for that. But that doesn’t mean she gets to take no responsibility.
The first rule of being an ally is to shut up and listen. When criticised, our first instinct is to defend ourselves. That amounts to Savarna fragility when we turn around and attack the people we claim to be allied with. Humein castetist bulaya hai kyon ki hum casteist hain. At best, we’re recovering casteists, with emphasis on the recovering part. Just because we’ve done three anti-casteist things in the past doesn’t mean we don’t have a casteist bone in our bodies. We will fail. We will be called out. And we need to be humble about it and learn from our mistakes. Being a “progressive” isn’t about patting ourselves in the back for the things we’ve done, it’s about doing the internal work and showing up for your values. And finally, being an ally is about giving up your privilege even when it’s hard to walk away from it.
Ms Chadha, it’s true you don’t have control over every aspect of movies you star in. But you do have the choice to pick the teams you work with. You have the choice to question if they’re speaking for a marginalised community. You have the choice of insisting that Dalit storytellers be a part of the projects that involve you and their stories. And most importantly, you do have a choice in how you react to critique. You and I and not without responsibility. You and I are recovering casteists.
Hi NL team,
I am a recent subscriber. I enjoy listening to Hafta and Awful and Awesome, and recently got hooked to Charcha as well. I have two comments and a question. Sorry if I have crossed my word limit. You may excuse it as it's my first email or just take the comment about the Hafta.
In the Covid Hafta 308, I was surprised that the guest panellist couldn't think of even one thing that the government did right in the pandemic handling. Some that I can think of are early strict lockdown that bought time for ramping up testing and healthcare, proactive handling of Covid outbreak in Dharavi slums (people were isolated based on oxygen levels for example), banning international flights, or institutionally quarantining people who took flights. Everyone was expecting India to be a disaster. The government must have done something right to have bent the curve. Also disappointed that none from the NL team rebutted this. Anti-government bias coming out, perhaps? Sorry, being provocative just for the sake of it.
In Charcha 148, Meghnad argued that journalism should be more anti-establishment than neutral because the government has an unfair advantage in terms of resources in pushing pro-establishment communication. But I think doing only anti-establishment journalism decreases the credibility of the media house, and people might think that the media house is a mouthpiece of the Opposition instead, or funded by the Opposition. This will turn away neutral subscribers and soon the media house will just be serving to an ideological bubble, something that I think happens with the Wire.
This segues into my question: The section of populace that Newslaundry reports on, such as farmers, poorer or rural sections of society, are not the section of populace that subscribes to Newslaundry, which is mostly urban, middle class or upper middle class and even NRIs. Newslaundry might help inform my opinion about farm laws, but my opinion doesn't matter as I am not a farmer or a person living in that community. To bring any actual change, there should be intersection between the subscriber group and the reported group. If the reports are about poorer sections of India, then a subscription model will not work as the masses won't be able to pay for news. One needs an alternate model where poorer people get it for free (or almost free), and the richer ones need to pay for it. Ad model does this automatically as poorer people don't have the purchasing power anyway. Thoughts?
Hi Hafta team,
Happy new year wishes to you all. I wrote this piece after hearing your discussion about the Indian Express piece on exam toppers. I myself am one of the privileged few who got to become "meritorious" and hence these thoughts. Sorry that it ended up this long. If you can't publish it, it's fine...If time allows and some of you can go through it, would like to know your take on it.
What’s the core issue with standardised tests and exams? Isn’t it the best available way to assess merit?
What’s the issue with nepotism? Doesn’t nepotism give people without merit undue advantage?
What about affirmative actions? Don’t they sabotage the very concept of merit?
Meritocracy by definition is a system in which economic, social and cultural rewards are distributed on the basis of talent, effort, and individual achievement . Merit in this system is defined as a combination of inborn talent and hard work. Meritocracy is supposed to be fair as those who are considered "meritorious" have cleared reliable, repeatable and standardised criteria (tests) for attaining these success .
Meritocracy, as a term, was actually first coined by Michael Young in 1958 as a satirical term in his fictional work called The Rise of Meritocracy. Today, it is often considered as the ultimate characteristic of a fair society . Young's work in which he first used this term was a tongue-in-cheek look at a dystopian future where the class structures of aristocracy was replaced by emergence of a new elite determined by achievement on standardised intelligence tests. It’s hard to miss the irony that even the bogus formula that he came up with - "IQ+ effort= merit" - has become more or less acceptable today as a definition of what merit is
Merit today is often defined as a combination of inborn talent and hard work. In reality, what we consider as merit is a product of privileges, skill and incentives.
Privileges are advantages that one is born with. Inborn talent and other heritable abilities, usually called as genetic lottery, are privileges. But the real genetic lottery in addition to the inborn abilities also involves one’s gender, nationality, race, caste, socioeconomic class also. All these combined make the privileges that one have .
Skill is usually seen as a product of one’s hard work. The attitude to put in long hours is seen as a virtue. High quality skill actually is acquired through high quality repetitive training cycles and feedback. Hard work is definitely a part of this story, but it’s not the full story. Even with the right attitude to do hard work, if that effort is wasted in low quality training places , then it is of no use. Now we can see that acquiring high quality skill is again influenced by privileges one have, as the quality of repetitive cycles and feedback is heavily influenced by privileges one have other than the inborn talent.
The perceived market demand usually constitute the incentive. It's this perceived market demand that makes any position "meritorious" or “virtuous” in society. Having an inborn talent in abundance or having the best work ethic alone means nothing if the perceived “demand” in society for that ability isn’t high. A Sachin Tendulkar born in Brazil or a Bill Gates born in Burundi would barely be noticed.
This means competition will be highest for the limited openings in the “perceived in-demand meritorious" positions. This attracts a large subset of population with comparable inborn talents and aptitude for hard work. In such a scenario of “ceteris paribus” (other things being equal), it's the number of privileges that one has, that makes the difference. For example in the NEET exam, a studious, hard-working student born with extra privileges of high socioeconomic status gets two bites of the cherry. One, that student has access to the best and most expensive training facilities. Two, can try an expensive self-financing college option.
If you feel your merit is down to your own inborn ability and hard work alone, two questions can always uncover the real foundations of your merit. One, did you have the opportunity to take the best shot; the best available skill training facilities? This will involve not just the best schools, training centres, access and knowledge to best openings but also the option of not worrying about other externalities of life. Two, in case you failed, did you have the option for second and third chances? This involves not just further attempts at the same opening but also a different opening that’s not significantly bad.
The key point to the appreciated here is that even if both the answers to above question was yes, even then that doesn’t mean your either lacking in talent or hard work. It just means that ceteris paribus, you had certain other privileges too. So whether your present position is result of a series of standardised tests, paid seat, nepotism or affirmative action, it makes no further insight into your personal attributes like talent in your field or work ethics.
Lets try to explain this through the thought experiment of Aristotle. If limited number of flutes are to be distributed in the general population, who all should get these flutes? The obvious answer to such a question is those who know how to play the flute best should get them. Now, let's add to this a caveat that being a flute player is a financially rewarding and highly revered position in society, almost like a rockstar. In this case, the ability to play the flute is an inborn talent, a privilege one is born with. Other privileges in this case are the usual ones like gender, nationality, race, caste, socioeconomic class, etc. Skill is how you polish that talent and make it more better and repeatable. Here, it would be the premier expensive institutions that give flute playing training. Market demand here is the fact that being a flute player is one of the most socially revered positions and a financially rewarding one.
Now straight away, you can see that this last factor suddenly changes the whole picture. The inborn talent of flute playing, which otherwise would have been an almost serendipitous discovery, suddenly becomes something that's actively sought out. To get a modern perspective, you just need to substitute the talent to play flute with ability to play cricket and number to flutes to be distributed with number of openings in the Indian team.
Now lets move one step further. In flute playing and cricketing ability, at least there's a specific “talent” that can be tested to see whether one should be selected for further training. In cognitive fields, it becomes even more difficult as there's no specific “inborn talent” to be looked for. Let's compare this hypothetical flute scenario to a present day skill intense position that has perceived market demand: medicine .
Like anything that has high demand in the market, quality alone isn’t the reason behind the exorbitant demand. Think of the the highest grossing movies and think of the movies you thought of as the best. But demand matters and supply follows the demand. That’s why people make formula movies to make money.
Now, let’s see how a perceived market demand driven craze works with respect to medicine. Firstly, in the earlier example, to find out who all has the talent to play the flute best is easy. But does a surrogate like an pre-medical entrance test really test the talents that go on to make a good doctor? Yet we do need some parameter to allot the limited supply of seats. Hence the exams.
Secondly, what happens if the best flute players don't get the flute? The answer is that society misses out on hearing the best music. So, if exams are a bad screening mechanism to find good doctors, are we missing out on good ones? A profession like modern medicine is mostly skill-based and not inborn talent-based. The skills of a doctor are mostly not based on some inborn excellence but on mediocrity and repetitiveness of a learnable skill that’s trained in a high-quality training setup.
Thirdly, the rewards given to great flute players acts as incentive for uncovering hidden flute players and also encourage them on not giving up on flute playing. So, does such a high virtue being placed on the profession of medicine mean we are uncovering all the hidden great doctors amongst us? Reality, as we discussed earlier, when any skill-based field becomes incentive rich, this increased incentives will increase the demand, resulting in crowding and over representation of privileged sections who are better equipped in acquiring these skills. This problem becomes worse when the concerned field is mostly skill intense and not inborn talent based. Then for all practical purposes, who becomes most meritorious becomes a competition between privileges. So, most of the best doctors will have most amount of privileges also.
Today, top universities of the world take more students from the top one percent of income distribution than from the bottom 60 percent. The majority of positions of power and merit are still with upper castes. This makes the so-called academic merit another mechanism for dynastic transmission of privilege.
What “meritocracy” does is in a modern society is that it adds more authenticity and feeling of entitlement to the privileged class regrading their achievement. This then becomes not much different from aristocracy, the caste system or patriarchy, where inborn privileges alone decided the fate. The irony, of course, is that meritocracy was supposed to be the remedy for such systems. In aristocracy, caste system, etc, the entitlements enjoyed by the elite class was scorned as those entitlements came to them through stratified inequality based on one's birth with no option of inter-class mobility.
In meritocracy which replaces this aristocracy, what's worrying is not just the seal of approval that it gives to a minority but also the society sanctioned disapproval it puts on the majority who fail to make it. In the end, every kind of meritocratic society ends up ranking its members according to their worth which in turn mostly means according to one's privileges.
So, is better unbiased accurate screening tests the way out? The correction intended here is not a much better foolproof method of assessing merit and then rewarding it. Meaning the solution is not better exams, standardised tests, aptitude assessments etc. This is because in any system that reserves all the cultural, financial and social rewards to those with “merit” alone, those with privileges will be better equipped to find ways to get on top of that rat race, no matter however the merit is assessed. Instead what's needed is a split between so called "merit of an individual" and her “feeling of worth”.
What’s needed is an understanding of a fallacy. The fallacy is that once pointed out ,most of us are ready to acknowledge that one’s privileges - religion, caste, gender, socioeconomic class- are personal characteristics on which one has no personal control. At the same time we consider that a person’s merit which is a result of these privileges, as a self made virtue .
Again, this is not an utopian argument for egalitarianism aimed at appealing to the charity of those who are meritorious. It’s merely a statement of fact that merit, however accurate be the method of its measurement, is contextual in its utility and based on the luck of getting a good hand to play the game of life. The feeling of worth (institutional desert) one gets for his merit shouldn't have any more value than people who win lottery tickets which they have brought and won through proper application of lottery rules.
This is also not an argument against exams and tests for excellence. This is because we have to accept that wealth, honour, social and cultural capital are inevitably going to be unequally distributed because that is the only way they can serve their function as incentives for human behaviour. But giving authenticity to such unequal distributions in society by claiming that personal virtue is what determined these unequal distributions is a not just without any scientific evidence but also dangerous.
A truly egalitarian society will have disparities based exclusively on heritable traits. In such a society , fairness as justice will be better appreciated . This is because a heritable trait like me being tall has nothing to do with my inner worth or ability. So, if gender, race, caste, money, nepotism are privileges for some, affirmative actions is the privilege that state gives to those who don't have these privileges as an attempt to make the playing field fair.
So, in short:
Merit ≠ hard work + talent. (The Indian Express story would have found “meritorious “ toppers are distributed in accordance with gender, caste and economic distribution of Indian population.)
Merit = presumed market value + hard work + privileges (of which inborn talent may or may not be a part. This is why the meritorious person in the story is an upper caste, upper middle class man whose parents had academic qualifications
Regarding "love jihad" being a sign of things to come.
Genocide Watch lists eight stages of genocide. The full list and linked explanations are here.
In summary, the eight stages are:
Dehumanisation, [where] one group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases...At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group.
Organisation, [where] genocide is always organised, usually by the state, though sometimes informally...or by terrorist groups. Special army units or militias are often trained and armed.
Polarisation, [where] extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarising propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction.
Denial, [which] always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators...cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes and continue to govern...
I've included parts of the explanations that I think relate to your discussion in last week's Hafta.
Genocide may be an excessive word, but some of these look familiar if you examine what has happened/is happening in some states in India. Should we be worried? What should we do? Things like this seem to have been happening for a very long time (since before Independence, according to Vibhuti Narain Rai) and, as was pointed out in your conversation (or a letter?), the instinct to police in-group boundaries is common in all Indian communities - these tendencies seem to be deep seated in our culture.
Just because Indian Muslims happen to be the canaries in the coal mine doesn't mean that they don't have these tendencies as well (look what happened in Pakistan), or that these tendencies will only engage when dealing with Indian Muslims or other religious minorities.
I do not agree that people who voted for the BJP in 2016 because they thought it would be good for the country's economy can be given a pass on supporting bigotry. So long as the bigotry wasn't pointed at them, it wasn't an important enough issue to be a deal-breaker. The fact that the economic results turned out to be bad is irrelevant.
On an unrelated note: India doesn't need to worry about a brain drain. Even after all that migration, there is no shortage of brains in India. There's an assumption that if NRIs had remained in India, the country would be in a better place. The assumption can't be tested, but I don't see its logic. Other countries' systems don't do better because Indians migrate there; on the contrary, Indian migrants do better there because of those countries' existing systems.
All the best
I am a two-time NRI. First 1988-96 (as a kid in Dubai, 5-13 years of age). Second 2013 to present. With 16 years in the middle in India.
The IE story on toppers not having Dalits or tribals is not really a story of a lack of diversity. Because the numbers are skewed. You could have come up with a proper insight if you looked at Top 100 each year for those 20 years which would give you 2,000 people and the results would give you a better picture.
Now, I am not poking holes at your insight, I am telling you that the sample size is too small.
Now, the reason that you do not have many from the underprivileged section is simply because most people from underprivileged communities do not even reach the levels to get a High School Certificate. This is why I had a problem with your insight above. And how much ever this is not good for narratives a Brahmin child in rural India cannot compete with a privileged city child irrespective of caste.
Now, coming to this absolute BULLSHIT (the reason why I mentioned myself being a twice NRI) to giving back to the country. I know people who would come up with, "Oh tum tho padresi ho gaye, you don’t pay taxes," etc. The irony is that I was paying back a loan, the interest that I was paying to SBI was more than what the "finger pointers" were paying in taxes. Do you know that NRI-related FDI ranks among the Top 5-7 foreign investments in India every year? There are people with homes in India paying their mortgages which is more than what 3-5 percent Indian people pay in taxes.
So, I did my masters at Manchester (which is a Top 50 world uUniversity) and I have not checked the latest rankings but I don’t think there are many Indian colleges in the Top 100. When it's way easier for me to get a full or partial scholarship at a Top 100 university and pay the rest using a loan than getting into an LSR , IIT or others, why will I choose an Indian uni if I have the resources?
As for research in India, you need people who are ready to invest time and money and wait. Indians and waiting! Well...especially on an investment!
On the sunk costs discussion, please please please listen to this podcast on Hidden Brain - Not at the Dinner Table. It kind of supports Manisha’s idea that people have their own reasons to vote.
India is a HUGE country, something I realised only after coming out of it. (Karnataka is 90 percent of the area of England, Scotland, Wales combined). Google it if you don’t believe me. Tyranny of distance works in different ways. Just as a South Indian story does not matter to Delhi media, a Delhi Riot may not hold any significance in a different part of India. Hence, BJP may do a lot of bigotry in UP and Delhi and people in Karnataka may not care and vote BJP. Is that bigotry, no it isn’t? It’s simply: it does not affect me, why should I care. Hell, people in South Karnataka don’t care what happens in North Maharashtra.
Some views with multiple tangents, apologies for that. And again for the long email: I GOT TRIGGERED :P