Sunday, December 10, 2006

Reservations XIII: How Indian industry discriminates

I didn’t think I would write another one on this topic, but then I never thought that I would write the first twelve of them either. In this section, I want to address how hiring at some of the private Indian industry seem to further the caste-based-discrimination.

How does Indian industry participate in continuing the discrimination?

Many of us believe that discrimination is overt- that you consciously discriminate the other person because you got to know his/her caste. That’s not how it actually works. Discrimination works in many subtle and subconscious ways, and they all constitute discrimination. Here, I give you an example of how hiring happens in an Indian industry.

Imagine a software company X that goes to a college Y to hire its students 'from the campus'. You get a bunch of young people writing an entrance test. Only those who exceed a predetermined score are called for the next phase- of an interview. After the interview (that may include group discussion and few other tests), company X shortlists the candidates and rolls out appointment letters to these students and hope they do eventually turn up on the joining date. [It’s another story that some of these students never show up on the intended date.]

Now, what’s happening here? First, the entrance test does not take into account the issues of cultural and social diversity of the students. It has been argued long ago that most IQ tests are culturally biased. Even if we all agree on this shortcoming, we do not take necessary measures to correct this bias through other means, such as selecting students from different pools of cultural and social groups. I illustrate this by giving an example. When a medical student applies to an American university, he does not necessarily get the admission based on his scores in the entrance test. He is pitted against others in the pool he represents. Therefore, an Indian is competing against other Indians or South-Asians, a Pacific Islander is competing against others in his group, a Black American is competing against others in his group and so on. [It doesn't vary even if all these students are coming from the same American high school or college]. This process is designed in such a way that while those who excel in the entrance test are given due consideration, the others who come from minority groups are also represented in a certain predetermined or agreed percentages. The same process, in a different form, is also used by American industry where an adequate representation of such minorities is an important goal and achievement. Most Indian companies do not follow any of such methods in its hiring. Therefore, though we seem to give reservations at education institutes we seem to obliterate those responsibilities after their graduation. Those who seem to pass these entrance tests are usually coming from the same single group that always had the social advantages. And those who could not make it are those who alywas had the social handicaps and which could not be overcome in a few years of education. So, in effect, you have a very small number of socially backward students passing these entrance tests.

Second, the interview process eliminates most of these socially backward students from the race. In an interview (or a discussion group), most often, the socially advantaged groups (read, upper caste Hindu) fare well. They seem to display the necessary behaviors and body language, have necessary communication skills that an industry looks for. Without giving due weight to other factors such as his/her social class, economic class, religious background, etc, the company X is not making an attempt to consider these aspects of a student. Most backward-caste and other minority group candidates get booted out in this phase. What you get at the end of this phase are primarily upper caste Hindu group. This is reflected in statistics in many Indian industries as well.

So, by not taking these 'other factors' into consideration during the entrance test and interview process, most Indian companies seem to further the discrimination in a very subtle and subconscious process. Most of us may not know the other person’s caste or social class, but by looking solely at his percentages, entrance test scores, and interview performance, we tend to miss the larger picture of including socially backward groups and minorities. If one were add suggested parameters into the process such as economic and social class, religious background, sex, etc, we can work towards a fairer representation of different classes.

Therefore I urge Indian industry to either include voluntarily the necessary parameters based on socially backward groups, minorities, sex, etc, or be ready to implement the policies as mandated by the Indian government.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Sujai

    I want to share this with you. It is not directly related to the topic of your entry. Nevertheless, I believe it may help you in your research of the caste system

    http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/t_es/t_es_goyal_education.htm

    I am keen to know what you think of it.

    Regards
    Vinod

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Sujai

    Here's something else I came across on which I'd like to know what you think -

    Source-
    http://groups.google.com.sg/group/soc.culture.indian/browse_frm/thread/942abfeb4d4465e9/6ad8a03417ddfec8?lnk=st&q=dharampal+India+backward&rnum=8&hl=en#6ad8a03417ddfec8


    Title: Home truths, colonial lies - Interview
    Author: Max Martin
    Publication: Down to Earth
    Date: June 30, 1997


    A noted Gandhian historian, Dharampal, has enquired into various facets of
    pre-British Indian society. He has authored several books, including
    Indian Science and Technology in the 18th Century and The Beautiful Tree.
    In a conversation with Max Martin in Delhi recently, he spoke on India's
    achievements in agriculture and science, the efficacy of indigenous
    systems of local governance and the deleterious effects of British rule


    On agricultural productivity in India before the imposition of the British
    system:


    Sketches and descriptions of tools give us an idea of productivity in
    agriculture and seed varieties in previous centuries. According to data
    collected by the British, agriculture productivity was quite high around
    AD 1800. In the journal Edinburgh Review, the average produce per acre in
    India is quoted as three times higher than Britain's.


    Data from south India on paddy production in the 10th century - the Chola
    period - and data from the 17th century about the Chengalpattu area
    indicate that just 10 per cent of the cultivated land produced as much as
    five to six tonnes per hectare. The authenticity of the data. obtained
    from palm leaf inscriptions, is accepted by historians. It is not
    difficult to account for the high yield. We had better hybrids, better
    seeds, and a better climate than most countries in Europe.


    On our knowledge of mathematics, and science and technology in the 18th
    century:


    Eighteenth century British records suggest that Indians knew algebra.
    Their knowledge must have developed over a considerable period of time,
    possibly centuries.


    Steel and iron were being used in some of our buildings. In Kashmir and
    in south India, steel was used in temple construction. Most of this was
    indigenously produced. We had a good knowledge of metallurgy. Data
    suggests that production of iron and steel was quit high. My estimate is
    that our production potential was about 200,000 tonnes a year. But we
    probably produced only about 20,000-50,000 tonnes per year. There were
    about 10,000 furnaces for metal-working across the country, including ones
    that could be transported by bullock cart to areas where iron ore was
    available. These could only hive been made by professionals such as the
    Agarias.


    On living standards before British interference in the functioning of the
    social economy:


    Around 1805-06, Lord Monroe collected data on social classes in
    Bellary-Cuddapah (Andhra Pradesh). On the basis of this data, he devised
    the income categories - upper middle and lower. However, I do not think
    that there was any such thing as mass poverty.


    The British reduced the wages of servants and workers in urban areas. In
    the 18th century, wages were regulated throughout Bengal. Cases of
    non-compliance with the regulation were dealt with strictly. Both workers
    and employers could be punished: the workers for claiming more, and the
    employers for paying more wages than permissible. These regulations
    continued till about 1774.


    The British went so far as to control social institutions. They took over
    the management of temples. Although these were not closed down, their
    expenditure was reduced by as much as Rs 3,000 in some cases. Similar
    restrictions were imposed in all areas where Indian society was developed,
    including medical institutions.


    On tradition and the functioning of the caste system in the political
    economy:


    There was equality among people in all communities. Although jati
    vyavastha or the caste system was part of the social fabric, castes were
    equal in political terms. There was little competition on an individual
    level. Members of a community were equal. Ritually, some might have been
    superior, but they were politically equal. Even if there were half a
    dozen communities in a locality, each community would function in its own
    capacity.


    On decision-making relating to matters of social concern:


    Every caste had a say in matters of social concern. P Buchanan travelled
    from Madras to Kanara, observing the way Indian society functioned. The
    journey took over two years, and the findings were published in a number
    of well-illustrated volumes. Buchanan points out that even the pariah or
    the casteless had a say in matters that affected them as a group.
    Historians say that Indians in the 17th century were very much given to
    seeking public opinion. Other travel accounts of earlier periods also
    reveal that Indians discussed social matters publicly.


    On the status of untouchables, backward castes, and south:


    In Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu in the 1820s, boys in schools were
    categorised as brahman, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra and 'other castes'.
    Still, more than 30 per cent of the boys in the schools run by the local
    community were included in the 'other castes'. This means dalits had
    access to schools. However, this was not the case in every district or
    state - in Andhra Pradesh the figures were lower.


    On gram swaraj and the undermining of institutions of local government as
    a result of British rule: Schools were run by local communities. Some
    20-30 per cent of the land under agriculture was set aside to fund
    infrastructural development and institutions in localities. This would
    include the setting up of irrigation tanks, schools and temples, and their
    maintenance. It would also include policing. The accounts of a village
    called Uttar Meru in Chengalpattu district are given in detail in some
    10th century inscriptions. The inscriptions also give us an account of
    the functioning of the village assembly. It was probably a brahmanical
    assembly. Other assemblies might not have been so formally organised.


    On the political myth of the British contribution to national
    infrastructure:


    After the British took over, few things were left in the control of the
    people. Money set aside for repair and maintenance of irrigation works,
    as well as the revenues collected by temples, were diverted by the
    British. The militia was abolished. Accountants and revenue officers
    became servants of the government. Of the 30 per cent land devoted to
    infrastructural development, only three to four per cent was left at the
    disposal of the local community.


    Besides, no development work was taken up by the British. Subsequently,
    tanks and canals fell into disrepair. The irrigation system in south India
    was ruined between 1780 and 1840. Although the British realised this, they
    ignored it and diverted the money to construction of roads, rest houses
    and palatial bungalows.

    ReplyDelete
  3. More on Dharampal's writings

    http://www.india-forum.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1068&st=0

    Sorry, Sijai - I don't mean to spam you. If I had your email I wouldn't have posted it as comments.

    Regards
    Vinod

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am not impressed by this post. You have made lots of hasty generalizations. First you establish that the current selection process discriminates against the socially backward people (which is quite true), and then conclude that the "backward castes" are discriminated. Clearly this does not follow. I don't see how one can read "socially advantaged groups" as "upper caste Hindu". There are millions of upper caste Hindus who are socially backward, and millions of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians who are not.

    Secondly, if a construction company starts recruiting biologists so as to give proper representation to all kinds of people, it would be disastrous for both of them. While I agree that cultural diversity should be encouraged wherever possible, I disagree that it should be the primary aim of functioning.

    If the IQ tests are biased, I would suggest modifying them so that they provide fair grounds to all the candidates.

    What the universities in US do is let people of the same culture compete among themselves, not people from different castes or religions. So again, it is pointless to extend the benefits to people belonging to the said backward castes who are well knit into the fabric of modern society.

    In the end, I find that there are a few common fallacies you have committed in both the posts I have read. The most important one is that you seem to confuse socio-economic status with castes. Socio-economic status is applicable to individuals only, and castes is a very biased generalization which is often misleading. Belonging to a backward caste does not necessarily mean being socially or economically backward, and vice versa. In your future posts, please make a note of it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ambuj Saxena writes:
    I am not impressed by this post.

    Ambuj, I do not write to impress others. I really do not bother to know if someone is impressed by my writing or not.

    You have made lots of hasty generalizations. First you establish that the current selection process discriminates against the socially backward people (which is quite true), and then conclude that the "backward castes" are discriminated. Clearly this does not follow.

    Yes, it follows. If one were to characterize socially backward people as those coming from lower castes it clear follows. That's how I characterize it. [this is what is write in my earlier topics]

    I don't see how one can read "socially advantaged groups" as "upper caste Hindu".

    How else would you like to read it?

    There are millions of upper caste Hindus who are socially backward,

    Not really. You need to understand what socially backward means.

    Secondly, if a construction company starts recruiting biologists so as to give proper representation to all kinds of people, it would be disastrous for both of them.

    This is far fetched. I don't say that one should hire chimpanzees to increase the species diversity in a company. You do not understand what diversity means.

    While I agree that cultural diversity should be encouraged wherever possible, I disagree that it should be the primary aim of functioning.

    I never say that it is the primary function. Nevertheless, it still is one of the values.

    If the IQ tests are biased, I would suggest modifying them so that they provide fair grounds to all the candidates.

    No IQ test is fair, hence the recognition that they are inadequate. Hence the inclusion of other parameters beyond such tests. No matter how much you try such test will always be biased. That's general conclusion. Instead of correcting it, one has to expand it, by including other parameters- that's what US universities do.

    What the universities in US do is let people of the same culture compete among themselves, not people from different castes or religions.

    You are way off the target here. There is no 'culture' parameter that US universities follows. They actually follow the parameters such as 'race' though they may never use that word. It’s implicit from the groups they constitute for measuring such parameters. They have blacks, hispanics, pacific islanders, etc, which are not cultures but ethnically different groups. Why such categorization based on ethnicities (and not cultures)? Because of the strong correlation between disadvantaged and discriminated groups and ethnicities.

    So again, it is pointless to extend the benefits to people belonging to the said backward castes who are well knit into the fabric of modern society.

    I have no idea what you are talking about here. Are you legitimizing caste-based-discrimination by any chance?

    In the end, I find that there are a few common fallacies you have committed in both the posts I have read.

    Fallacy is a strong word. It makes sense when discussing a mathematical theorem or a scientific proof. It doesn't bode well to use such words in opinions.

    The most important one is that you seem to confuse socio-economic status with castes.

    I do not. The whole of Indian system does. Every intellectual who has known this does. Every law made in the country does. Every legislator does. In India, it is well understood that there is a strong correlation between socio-economic status and one’s caste. Hence, all policies are bases on caste as criterion.

    Socio-economic status is applicable to individuals only,

    This comes as news to most of us who are well read and experienced. The social and economic status applies to groups, which then translates to individuals. I haven’t seen a single social theory which suggests that social status is applicable to individuals only.

    and castes is a very biased generalization which is often misleading.

    I don't get this. Are you suggesting that there is no such a thing as caste?

    Belonging to a backward caste does not necessarily mean being socially or economically backward, and vice versa.

    Yes, it does. Hence, all provisions are based on caste as the criteria. There is a strong correlation between the two. The socio-economic backward communities are lower castes in India.

    In your future posts, please make a note of it.

    I am not sure what I should make note of. Most of your argument is unintelligent. Its clear that you have not read my earlier posts. Why I urged you to read them is because they form the premise. What you are doing is attacking the conclusions and corollaries without reading the premise.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Vinod,
    Thank you for the links.
    Since your links are long, I am reprinting them for the convenience of other readers.

    Infinity Foundation

    soc.culture.indian

    Dharampal

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good post Sujai. I think many of the posters who are arguing against reservation in this post and the one about corporate responsibility can't spot the difference between economic backwardness and social backwardness. One even argued that there are millions of socially backward upper caste Hindus. Yes, there are economically backward upper caste Hindus, but, they are socially advantaged. Why? Because they are surrounded by an environment that does not discriminate against them. They don't have to struggle for basic amenities such as drinking water from the village well or tank, they don't live in segregated areas, their children are not discriminated in schools, they can find even meager employment easier than truly disadvantaged, they also have access to relatives or community members who are economicall/politically/socially powerful.

    I work for a US company that is one of the best when it comes to diversity and inclusion. I have been with the same company for years and it has never hurt them in any fashion. Some of the reservation deniers would be perplexed by this, but the concept of "merit" is quite different in forward-looking US businesses. It is not based on the marks scored on some standardized test.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous:

    Thanks for your comments and for sharing your experiences.

    Some people are not able to distinguish between social backwardness and economic backwardness. They seem to mix them both. In fact, many Indians seem to believe that people are backward only because they are poor, or because they are not trying hard enough.

    CNN-IBN showed examples of how some people struggled and became 'successful' (which according to them is getting into IIT). They reason that anyone or everyone can become successful by trying hard. Then they conclude that we don't need reservations.

    Its funny to hear comments like that. Its like saying there is no need for affirmative action because few blacks have become 'successful'- Martin Luther King became a leader and Muhammad Ali became a boxer.

    I think the problem lies in education- especially primary education. Most Americans are taught the evils of slavery, ignominy of discrimination. These topics are discussed in schools. They also discuss why civil rights movement took place and significance of Martin Luther King, etc.

    For some reason, we seem to shy away from teaching such things to our kids.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, some would teach it. How would they be able to ask marriage from same caste, if you teach your kids that caste system is evil?

      Delete
  9. thanks for suggesting that since some people are born duffer they should be allowed to dissect other people as doctors for the sake of giving jobs and merits for free cuz in a democracy everything is free for all.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nihit Saxena, There are a number of rich 'duffers' whose money gets them into Donation medical/ Engg colleges and they pass out by bribing/cheating. So do they have the right to dissect you and your family????

    ReplyDelete
  11. no but that doesnt give some poor duffer the license to dissect them either

    ReplyDelete
  12. do you think many hr managers will accept a person from another caste for his child even if well qualified?
    for those who won't accept, they simply keep their bias at home?

    unless, we stop advertising caste in matrimonial, we have not stopped discriminiation. simple.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree that there is a lot of discrination against at every subtle level... but why should a company care in removing inequalities in its society... they only care what gets them to more money... in western countries, people have responsibility against their country and society and work for betterment... but in india we separated those two things country/society is different from oneself. our universities, people , society herself are oriented in a way that you dont have to care about others in your society/country... the path leads to gutter and that is what happening in india...

    ReplyDelete

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