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.
Parties 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.