India to crack down on discrimination in private sector?

Indian women, from the "Dalit" or "Untouchable" caste listen to a speaker during a Dalit Dignity Rally against Congress-led UPA government near Parliament House in New Delhi in 2007.


Kai Ryssdal: In the Indian economy, what a person can do, what they can become, is not entirely in their own hands. The caste system there still plays a huge part in where you can go to school, who you can marry and what job you're likely to get. The Indian government's latest try at elevating Dalits -- or those from lower castes -- isn't going over so well with private companies.

Raymond Thibodeaux reports new from New Delhi.

Raymond Thibodeaux: India has long set aside a quarter of government jobs for the country's most oppressed castes. Now the government is mulling quotas for the private sector. It asked India's biggest 1,000 companies to disclose the caste of their employees. Fewer than 60 companies complied with the request.

Chandrabhan Prasad is an activist and author from the Dalit community -- India's largest, most-oppressed caste.

Chandrabhan Prasad: Those companies that are not prepared to disclose, that means they don't have as many lower-caste Dalits in their companies. If they did have more, what would they have to fear?

Prasad says it's too bad the government has been forced to get involved in this issue.

Prasad: The private sector should have come into the picture and said, "Now we are reforming the economy. We have a liberal economic setup. We should have a liberal social setup as well."

Prasad says even many big American companies operating in India have been slow to hire from among the lower castes. He says it's because many U.S. companies outsourcing to India are unaware of the caste system's complicated legacy of discrimination.

Narendra Jadhav: The caste system has survived for 2,000 years. It is a brilliantly conceived and brilliantly administered scam. It was all done to maintain the hegemony of a very small strata of society.

That's Narendra Jadhav, a Dalit and a senior member of the government's Planning Commission for Economic Development. He says there's been some progress in moving India's lower castes into better-paying jobs -- certainly, in the public sector, and to some extent in the private. But he says this isn't because of any concerted effort on the part of the bosses. The disadvantaged castes are making their own opportunities.

Jadhav: But India is moving to becoming an economic superpower. They have opportunities to educate. They have opportunities to make something out of their lives. This process has begun. It is still a long way to go.

Jadhav predicts there's always be caste distinctions in India, but he agrees with many business leaders who say that in the new, more urbanized India, discrimination based solely on caste is declining, but perhaps too slowly. Some big Indian corporations such as Tata and Infosys are starting to take notice. They have taken the lead in affirmative action-hiring and training programs.

Jamshed Irani: Tata in particular believes that these discriminations should be erased.

Jamshed Irani is director of Tata Sons.

Irani: The Tata Group is leading this movement, as it believes that it is the right thing to do for Indian industry.

Irani says private industry would be better off voluntarily hiring lower-caste employees. Analysts say if it doesn't take affirmative action more seriously, India's government is likely to force it to.

In New Delhi, I'm Raymond Thibodeaux for Marketplace.

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Well, I think that everything that all my fellow classmates, and others who has commented ont his page are right,because everything that they are saying might be diffrent in words but when you try to visualize everything that everybodi is saying or trying to say, is the same thing because we think alike but write diffrent,so yea if the cast is reduced, it wont be a major problem.If the goverment and company worker give thier employes a little cast, then yea they might be better people.If the goverment give people there jobs, then yea we'll have less people on the stress and people on drugs and other stuff,then yea maybe our race(African American) will help one another and stop killing and being lowdown to each other.
Asharay Walls
Honors History

i hope that they reduce the caste.if they do the it want be a mayjo deal if it is reduced.

why were the government not giving people there job to help them with there family and perhaps at least some companies simple sometimes give them just a little attention to there caste of their employees .

why were the government not giving people their jobs;they needed those jobs to help take care of their families

I believe this is as usual politicians' ploy for more votes. Private sector should be left out of the whole 'caste' and reservation debate. It would be one step backward instead of progress to introduce quota in the private sector. The only thing that would come out of this is multinational companies moving out of India and all the educated folks/cream of the crop migrating to other countries... Quota system has allowed unqualified and incompetent people to take good government positions and is that what they want for the private sector as well? Shame, this is definitely not progress.

I am aghast by this story. I am an Indian and lived most of my life in India working in the private sector. Not once have I ever been asked about my caste, religion. Private sector doesn't care which caste one belongs to as long as they are talented.

There is lot of affirmative action ( called reservations in India) in Govt Jobs and Public schools and colleges. In some states as much a 70% of positions are set aside for the lower castes. In day to day life in India, one would hardly see any sort of discrimination based on caste. There may be some tiny rural and remote pockets in India where there could be discrimination, but this is not part of the society, it is some individuals action for their selfish needs.

I wish NPR chooses experts more carefully.

I am not sure why this commentary even got a slot on marketplace. This idea of the Indian Government standing up for the Indian down trodden is the biggest bull … that the Indian Government has been giving since the independence. No employer in India is discriminating by cast. They are just not abiding by affirmation action. They pick the person most qualified for the job. The reason is quite complicate to explain in a comment and maybe construe as unsympathetic.

However to summaries it is this exact affirmative action policy by the India Government that is causing the rift in achievement gaps among the educated youth in India.

loves your show every day. However today I got -10 points for you 'discrimination in private sector in India' story.
I am first generation Immigrant from India. My last name 'Suthar' means Carpenter (my great great grandfather were carpenter) I am barley above (or say missed by politician) lower-caste. This means, I have almost same chances to be discriminate by higher cast. Here's my story....
Just after passing High school (securing High B Grade) I miss Good Engineering School. But my friend who belongs to so called ‘lower-caste’ able to secure admission in Medical school with only C grade. When I complete my graduation with (again) B Grade, I fail to secure job in public sector, as it was "reserved" for low cast graduate (with just passing grade)!!!
On other hand when I look at private sector job, I got hire, mainly for my personality and was able to grow within the company due to my performance. With some luck I did able to land in US. Meanwhile I met my ‘ Doctor-friend’, during my last visit to India, who fails to diagnose malaria.
Conclusion: caste system is everywhere. (White and African American in here?) However private company pays for performance, not for your cast. Private company will become inefficient like public, if ‘reserve quota” is administrated there.
And I believe Indian Government has no business asking for those data.
I found your guests( Jadav & Prasad) are biased, who happens to belongs to those cast. This story misses to show other side of story. The fact is higher class (rich) gets all they wants regardless (As in any country). “Dalit’ gets it through politician (like one on your show) where middle class people has to be suffer. Politician looks for Dalit, as they holds vote- bank.
In reality in Recent Indian society, cast system is disappearing (just in my life time) so I don't understand a Guest claim that casts is for 2000 years.

Your first quoted "expert" said that "Those companies that are not prepared to disclose, that means they don't have as many lower-caste Dalits in their companies." I don't know much about India, but perhaps at least some companies simply don't pay attention to the caste of their employees? I know that if I were to start a company that expanded to India I wouldn't even think of it.


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