Sunday, December 10, 2006

Reservations XII: Corporate Responsibility [Reposted]

[I have reposted this article. I apologize for this. For the first time, I had written about myself in one of the comments, and it was taken out of context by other bloggers. They ridiculed and made a mockery of it. Hence, I have deleted that article and reposted the article. I shall add all comments you have written].

I am coming back to this topic after a long time since there is an ongoing discussion in the media, industry and the government on whether there should reservations for backward castes in the industry.

Should there be reservations in the private industry for backward castes?

Usually my answers to these questions are unambiguous, but here, I would like to discuss certain issues before I give out my answer.

In my opinion, Indian industry has certain social obligation which it has to fulfill. Promoting backward castes and minorities is one of those social obligations. It can fulfill this voluntarily or it can be enforced. Indian industry had more than fifty years to prove that it was in consonance with social policies of India, i.e. promoting backward castes and minorities, but it has not taken any measures in that direction. The Indian industry, being completely dominated by the same graduates who seem to oppose reservations in every form, wants to keep it ‘unpolluted’. The Indian business leaders give out excuses such as ‘quality’, ‘excellence’, ‘merit’, ‘global standards’, etc, to shirk from this responsibility. They seem to believe that inviting backward castes and minorities into their industry will somehow dilute these attributes- excellence, quality, merit, etc. To be able to compete with world organizations, they say, ‘they need to keep up the highest standards’ and that unequivocally means ‘backward castes based on reservations are not welcome’. They believe it is the duty of only the government to uplift these classes and not theirs. Why? Because they have bigger battles to fight- such as upholding Indian industry to make it competition worthy to take on global giants. In such big and lofty fights, there is no place for such backward and degenerate concepts as reservations.

And whom are they fighting? They want to take on the biggies like GE, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Cisco, etc. And what do these big companies practice that our Indian companies do not? Voluntary affirmative action! While most of these companies (those who are based in US) make sure they have the appropriate representation of the minorities- Blacks, Hispanics, Women and the handicapped, Indian industry looks at such a things distasteful, out of sync with the globalization, anachronistic with modern times. For some reason, these companies in US seem to highly competitive in spite of their policies to include minorities. Our industry does not seem to believe the same. They shy away from any provision which makes them disclose the numbers to indicate representation of backward castes, minority religions and women. Why disclosing those numbers is an anathema suggests something sinister. This attitude is reflected amongst many privileged classes of India who do not want to ‘discuss’ the issues of caste, religion, sex, with the pretense that such discussions will unnecessarily bring about divisions in the society. They want to believe and want us to believe that one can make such caste difference disappear away by just not talking about it or addressing it. While they do not want to discuss such issues, they merrily carry on their discriminatory machines.

Now, that the Indian Government has stepped down saying they are going to enforce reservations, the industry scrambles to put together a voice saying they would want this voluntary and not mandatory. If it was meant to be voluntary, why did they not embrace this voluntarily for more than fifty years? If their intentions were indeed honest, why did they wait for government to impose it onto them?

A mere look at Indian industry will give you how lopsided its representation is. I know of an Indian company with around 2500 people or more, and one look at the roll suggests that Muslims comprise less than 1% of the company. Since I cannot recognize one’s castes from their names, I am not able to say how many backward communities are represented. Here’s a report which has done some observations. According to this report, 88% of the respondents were Hindus, while only 5% were Christians and 2% Muslims. However, 71% belong to the ’savarna’ upper castes (about half were Brahmins). If one includes the 15 % who are from dominant agricultural castes, 44 fully 86% of respondents come from upper castes and/or economically better-off communities.

The industry has ensured it remained mostly Hindu and that too mostly upper caste. While the aim of the reservations has been to increase the presence of backward castes in education and professional environments, Indian industry has somehow escaped that responsibility on the name of ‘being competitive’.

And who is talking about competitiveness anyway? All the top Indian IT companies also hire from private institutions whose only entry criterion is money. More than 80% of the students in such institutions get admission by paying money in various categories, such as NRI quota, management quota, etc. These top IT companies unashamedly and unabashedly hire 60% of the class students from such colleges to create ‘competitiveness’, ‘excellence’ and ‘quality’, while they believe that backward castes and minorities are going to dilute those causes. I do not trust Indian industry. It is filled with the same people who want to ensure the privileges are enjoyed by a certain class. Since the government has brought on reservations in Indian academia and government companies, they want to keep their bastion strong in the name of competitive Indian industry refusing to give up their positions to include minorities and backward castes. Though the Indian industry avers it is going to do it voluntarily, I do not trust they are going to do it.

So, let me answer the question above. In light of what has happened in this country, it is foolish to expect and believe that Indian industry will voluntarily implement policies to promote backward castes and minorities. Since, private industry in India is becoming a big employment provider, it is imperative that government of India impose clauses and provisions which mandate these companies to correct the imbalances in their representations and hire people from backward castes and minorities in an effort to maintain the representations at appropriate levels. A mandatory disclosure is needed. Measures such as not giving sops, tax benefits, government contracts, land benefits, etc, should be taken up to discourage the companies who do not maintain adequate representations.


  1. Dear Commenters:
    Blogosphere is a dangerous place. I usually do not write anything personal about me here, but since one commenter asked me to know the person behind these blogs, I thought it was polite to respond.

    However, my writings about myself and my personal life have been taken out of context in other parts of blogosphere and they have been mocked, ridiculed and derided.

    I do not appreciate that.

    Therefore, I deleted that post [I didn't know how to deleted my comments]. To retain the integrity of the article, I have taken liberty to post all of your comments in order. I hope you do not mind that.

    Thank you,

  2. Anonymous said...
    ON November 29, 2006 1:35 PM

    I don't think industry is swayed by only social obligation argument. It is incresingly shown to be in their buisness interest by emerging research that link inequality with growth, innovation with diversity in work place etc. The immediate threat facing domestic industries include 'sucking in' of mainstream talent by global forces.
    There is a Insecure manufacturing sector that need to move beyond present consumer base (which doesn't think twice before dumping them in favor of chinese goods). Simply, they can't help but acknowledge the huge but neglected market, hence the need to revise their strategy.

    Yes, the arguments of merit and competetiveness are there and will remain in rhetoric, but at present reality is too stark. When only 6 percent of Indians are 10th Pass, The talent pool is highly fragile, unreliable and mobile.
    IT industry is largely export oriented and essentially we are helping buisness of other countries streamline and be more competetive vis-a-vis ours. The share of IT services used within our own buisness remains abysmally low.
    The reasons are not hard to guess, much of our buisness is still affliation bound, 'connections' based, and labor exploitative. If we start using modern buisness process, then actually we will have to compete. In that sense 'merit' is a myth in Indian Industry.
    In my view the dominant strategy in Indian buisness is two fold- first to develop forward linkages by modernizing enterprise and second to deepen domestic market. Thats where social inclusive practices are considered.

    The shift in the political climate is just a trigger, though it can be argued that 'voluntary' declaration is just a preventive strategy

  3. Anonymous said...
    ON November 29, 2006 3:27 PM

    Sujai ,

    I wud love to see a blog or response to this that says more about You. I would very much want to know the man behind all these words. I take Your words at their face value , but still I am guessing many will be interested in knowing more about You. If you have already talked about the same some where please lemme know. Anyway I have always enjoyed reading your articles. Though I am not a good writer, I think I am a self professed Hermit.

    Thanks and hope to see more thoughts and discussions on your essays ( I like them that way , long and well articulated ).


  4. Essar:
    I have deleted the comments I posted earlier (reasons stated above in the first comment). You can always send me a personal e-mail anytime.
    Thank you,

  5. Ambuj Saxena writes:
    ON December 01, 2006 9:50 PM

    When I started reading this post, I thought that I would have a good time debating with you on pros and cons of reservations. By the looks of it, it seems that you were trying to prove that reservation in private sector should be mandated. However, after I went through your post, I couldn't find even a single argument that leads to the conclusion that reservations should be made compulsory. Logically, your argument was Non sequitur, i.e. the conclusion does not follow from the truth of the premises. Thus, I have to leave without anything to refute. Sorry. Thought that at least I should write why I haven't written.

  6. Sujai writes:
    ON December 02, 2006 1:38 AM

    Ambuj Saxena:
    Thanks for writing your opinions.

    I have written around 12 or more topics on my stand on reservations. This is just a continuation to those articles. My stand is 'pro-reservation' as seen from most of these articles.

    Coming to reservations in private sector, I do not encourage mandatory provisions. However, in absence of any voluntary activity, I do not see any other way to correct certain under-representations.

  7. Anonymous said...
    ON December 02, 2006 2:09 AM

    i agree with your view but reservations are said to be polical machines as far as I think being in India and studied over there. Resevations should be confined to some extent. If reserved communities are allowed to compete at colleges in reservations then only the best will come out of them and for sure they can get into any industry easily. Sowhy is reservation required at corporate levels. This is only for political uphand and I dont see any other motivation behind it.

    You were saying lets say there is reservation I have seen many instances if a candidate from reserved commune has good grade and he gets admitted in general category unless until there are no general category admissions. This makes the total point of reservation wrong. I dont see reservation benefitting India but destoying our ingunity and capability indirectly.

  8. Anonymous said...
    December 03, 2006 12:38 PM

    Hey Sujai , now by "Eat Your own dog food", You are Pro reservation, now can You tell me how You have implemented that in Your own company ? You defenitely should have , a man who has carefully worded all these blogs wouldnt be a hiprocrite .




Dear Commenters:
Please identify yourself. At least use a pseudonym. Otherwise there will be too many *Anonymous*; making it confusing.

Do NOT write personal information or whereabouts about the author or other commenters. You are free to write about yourself. Please do not use abusive language. Do not indulge in personal attacks and insults.

Write comments which are relevant and make sense so that the debate remains healthy.