India’s Hindu caste quotas edge towards private companies

May 13, 2008

The issue of redressing the imbalance of Hinduism’s ancient caste system by creating job and college entry quotas for lower caste and other disadvantaged groups in India seems to be gaining headway in an election year. Now it may be the turn for private industry.

Medical students attend protest in Kolkata, 26 Sept 2006/Parth SanyalParties across India’s political spectrum appear to be seeing caste-based reservations, as the quotas are known, as potential vote winners. It is a sign again that caste consciousness will become ever more important in what in theory is a secular Indian state.

Now multinationals enjoying the fruits of an Indian economic boom may find they are not immune. Much to the horror of many industrialists worried about their international competitiveness.

India’s Supreme Court has already this year upheld a government policy to reserve about half of all state college seats for students from lower castes, in what some call the world’s biggest affirmative action scheme.

Then, the Indian Express quoted on TuesdayHindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Gopinath Munde as demanding quotas for lower castes in private companies. His comments were not endorsed officially, but the caste issue was out of the bag for a party that could well win the next general election. The Hindu nationalists’ election strategists must realise they could win millions of votes with such policies before a general election due by early 2009.

Turn a few pages of the Indian Expressand there is a full-page advert for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, known as the “Queen of the Untouchables” and the potential “king maker” in the next general elections. Celebrating her first year in power, she proudly espouses her move to introduce quotas to private companies participating in state partnerships in her state, India’s most populous. It was the first prominent policy in India to include private business into the quota system.

International Tech Park Bangalore (ITPB), 15 May 2007/stringerI recently returned from Bangalore covering the Karnataka state election in southern India where the Janata Dal (S), the main regional party, made headlines by proposing to reserve about a third of seats in IT companies in Bangalore for local Karnataka residents.

IT multinationals are currently free to hire from anywhere in India — a policy that has increasingly annoyed many local Karnataka residents. Karnataka has its own language and many feel they are discriminated against as highly-educated Indians move to their state to work .

Most leading businesses have shunned the idea of quotas, worried it will worsen their competiveness in a global market, especially in the fast moving world of IT.

For those that think that all this talk of caste quotes in private industry is just small parties playing politics, remember it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a 2006 speech, who first raised the spectre of quotas in private industry.

He then called on companies to take voluntary action to help lower castes get jobs, a statement at the time widely seen as a warning to India’s booming business sector to act or face possible legislation.

India’s economy may be booming, but this debate highlights how these religious and social issues of inclusiveness could dictate the election campaign. And then companies may find they are not immune to the issues of caste and Hinduism, no matter how proud they are of their global branding.


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The British were chucked out of India, but their caste system lingers

Posted by sam maina | Report as abusive

[…] Read it. […]

Posted by DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » India’s Hindu caste quotas edge towards private companies | Report as abusive

Blame it on the system, all these politicos are so idiots, though crooked is a better use, they want to give every sector the look and feel of Indian parliament; like Dalits will represent 27 % of Infosys, OBCs will have 22.7 percent of TCS. Brahmins will be 9 percent and..the list will go on..

Posted by Sceptic Indian | Report as abusive

Just think yourself luck, sceptic Indian, us BBC’s (British Born Confused) Indians have it so much harder – at least you know your place in this crazy, mixed up world.

Posted by Shahshank Signoria | Report as abusive

While I am definitely not for caste based reservation policy in the private sector, I would like to see some reservation policy based on income levels. For the larger good, we have to be inclusive and seek ways to alleviate poverty of a significant majority.
However, the truth is that there exists a direct correlation between caste and income levels. Let’s also not forget the subjugation of an entire people as a result of centuries of caste system; it will take time, understanding and sacrifice to heal.
It is unfortunate that politicians take advantage of the situation for personal gain, however, we must not forget that people make the final choice by voting for them. People will vote based on issues that matter to them and politicians will continue to exploit as long as there are imbalances.
It is a democracy, stupid!

Posted by Anil | Report as abusive

Shahshank, you are talking utter pradesh!

You are an INDIAN who happens to live in a different country, sure you must have been Westernized to some extent and it has clearly messed with your head. I would suggest you come back to India. We are better at cricket too!

Also, these quota systems are disgraceful. Placements should be awarded on merit not caste!

Posted by Kumar Patel | Report as abusive

just so you people know – Blogging on the BBC website is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better. this site is poor and it is full of mistakes and idiots phrasing

Posted by john | Report as abusive

“The British were chucked out of India, but their caste system lingers

– Posted by sam maina ”

Good thing they chucked them out too. Barbaric brutes from the North caused 4 million people to die of starvation in the Bengal Famine of 1943.

There is no caste system, caste is basically like ethnicity in India. India has a greater population than Europe, in about the same land area. At the very least one would expect the same level of diversity. The affirmative action system the Indian government uses is to even out benefits across all ethnicities, which is not a bad idea in principal as long as it doesn’t curtail economic growth or hurt profits of companies.
If somehow there is supposed to be a “Hindu” caste system, a stupid propaganda statement made by Christian nuts in the west who want to forcibly convert us to their religion like Muslims, then why do Christians and Muslims in South Asia have a caste/ethnic identity. Was the ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia an Inter-caste conflict or an inter-ethnic conflict? The Gypsies are the untouchables of Europe. Indians need to highlight the brutal discrimination they suffer under Europe’s age old caste system.

Posted by slow_snail | Report as abusive

The game is straightforward here. The population of those who would get benefited out of reservation is much larger than those who would suffer. Hence, when you have greedy politicians and divided people, it just gets easier to get more votes by introducing reservation.

Posted by Eternal Truth | Report as abusive

As a journalist who has spent more than a decade covering the affirmative action debate in the United States and has written a book on the subject, I can virtually guarantee you that the people on top of the pile will hold on to what they have, and those in the middle will end up being squeezed.

Posted by Peter Schmidt | Report as abusive

I think in 21st century india, merit and not caste or prejudice or past baggage be the points of concern, the realities are different now. Today’s India is roaring for money not culture or history, centuries of subjugation is venting out in form of money-hunger and its prevalant across all the stratas. So, make economy the only basis for quotas, change past. Or I suggest give the desired reservation to lower castes, and allow the poor upper castes to be part of it, select the poor upper clas students, and if they provide income certificates then they shud be considered on part. Its like punishing todays kids for their past life karma, bullshit..don’t devide the future generation, or India will be a fgramentated dream, gone on a wrong path…

Posted by Sceptic Indian | Report as abusive

What is very astonishing is that while countries like the US which have been free long since, to choose manpower based on a scale that measures merit whereas India needs to continuously think and feel contrite about whom it is allocating its jobs to, which region they come from and which caste they belong to. Isnt it too much stress on the nascent Indian IT sector to restrict jobs based on political constraints instead of practical considerations like merit, experience and benefit to the organization. Why not let the best person get the job as it is in the industrialized countries. People who support political arguments and want to tilt the dialogue in the direction of caste or region instead of practical factors are in fact enemies of the nation as they adulterate the process of good decision making.

Posted by ML | Report as abusive

Reservations are a fine idea, but they should not be caste-based, and should be provided only upto the stage of education.
A poor student is the one who needs state support; he could be high caste or low caste. And once you have equipped him with education/training matcing his abilities, he is ready to be on his own in the job market.
This the simplest of points. But obviously, politicians have different, selfish priorities.

Posted by Abraham | Report as abusive

For the sake of country, India should stop recognizing the caste and religious systems, in admissions and jobs. Only merit should determine the fate of thease. After 60 yaers, it is way past the time to move on. I belong to a small minority group. I want think the welfare of the Country is more important than that of a nay given group.

Posted by George | Report as abusive

sticking to the topic, India should slowly taper down all kinds of reservation. I don’t think reservation has helped and still we see people working as labourers. economic status based reservation might help. but anything will fail without strict enforcement. i have seen a lot of people becoming scheduled caste and tribes.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

Some people are saying that there is no caste system, but then we have this: 8/05/16/a-horrible-day-in-haryana-and-a- challenge-to-indias-police/#comment-111

An honor killing based on caste and locality. And there are certainly other caste based crimes in India. Caste /is/ very similar to ethnicity, in that its largely an imaginary thing made up to discriminate against other people for.

Posted by nygdan | Report as abusive

10:08 pm GMT

Some people are saying that there is no caste system, but then we have this: 8/05/16/a-horrible-day-in-haryana-and-a- challenge-to-indias-police/#comment-111

An honor killing based on caste and locality. And there are certainly other caste based crimes in India. Caste /is/ very similar to ethnicity, in that its largely an imaginary thing made up to discriminate against other people for.

It’s true there is no caste SYSTEM. There is no system, it’s all local , overwhelmingly countryside tensions. There are no ethnic issues anywhere else in the world , except India, 1.3 Billion is a lot of people. Main thing is people are the same race, so these differences are not very serious and have already faded away in Urban India. Racial discrimination in the west etc is a bigger issue due to the “eyeball” factor.

Posted by slyfox | Report as abusive

Many people here said that, “reservations should be based on income levels and merit basis”. So that proves that many people do think that we “need” reservations.

So…do we really need reservations? I’d say ‘yes’.

Posted by Niranjan | Report as abusive

slyfox you are living in urban india and not know how the life goes in village . if you would be there them every day you would here something called ’oye cha*ar ki aulad’

Posted by tejasvi | Report as abusive

slow_nail is the stupidiest person with his such a idiotic theory of european caste system . i dont know where the hell he has read this supernatural thing

Posted by tejasvi | Report as abusive