CASTE AND THE CORPORATE SECTOR

In the early economies, the service sector was primarily underdeveloped because governments failed to respond to the growing demand for services. However, with the shift to market economies, the service sectors have grown rapidly to meet the rising needs of the emerging private sector. The structure of an economy can be seen by comparing its share between the three main sectors- agriculture, industry and services in the country’s total output and employment. Though agriculture is a developing economy’s most important sector, as the per capita income rises, agriculture loses its prominence giving way to the rise in the industrial sector and subsequently to the service sector.

The service sector constitutes a large part of the Indian economy both in terms of employment potential and its contribution to national income. Liberalization of the Indian economy initiated during the early 1990s proved to be an important turning point for the country in many different ways. Private enterprise was allowed and encouraged to expand into areas of economic activities that were hitherto not open. This expansion was not merely in terms of growth rates and profits, India also experienced an important ideological shift during the 1990s. The process of economic liberalization has also been criticized by ideologues of the historically marginalized sections of Indian society, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, apart from the advocates of the farm sector. The expanding role of the private sector in technical and professional education may also mean a shifting of the quota system in higher education.

A modern democratic India was to evolve into a civil society that was to be politically secular and caste-free. That is the closed and hierarchical structure of caste was to give way to an open system of stratification based on individual achievement and merit. The Indian corporate sector prides itself on valuing efficiency, merit and talent. But that fact is “caste and religion influence how merit is defined in India and that doesn’t augur well for the future of employment. Caste continues to be an important indicator of social and economic deprivation in India.  Caste and community based group identities continue to be significant not only in India’s democratic politics but also in its economy.

Caste and religion matter as powerful forces of discrimination in the private sector in India. There is indeed more opportunity to leave the bottom of the pyramid and move into the burgeoning middle class, primarily via private enterprise. According to proponents of capitalism, the private sector is above caste, class and gender, what matters is your talent and competitive spirit. The Indian government has adopted an affirmative action policy in employment to public sector units but there is no such policy for the private sector.

Discrimination on the basis of caste endures in the formal labour market of the contemporary India. Caste-discriminatory practices such as isolation, exclusion, bullying and harassment are also common within Indian corporates. The private sector industry argues that “we do not take into account caste identities while hiring employees”. They also claim that scheduled caste and scheduled tribes are already in employment in private sector industry. But the facts are that lower castes are restricted to menial, low paying and often socially stigmatized occupations while upper caste groups are concentrated in preferred occupations.

Thus, there is the notion of “glass wall”, where occupationally “bonded” castes face barriers to leaving their traditional occupations. Glass walls are the reasons most sanitation workers employed by municipalities belong to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. While at the other end of the spectrum, well-paid white collar, professional jobs are concerned by Brahmins, Kshatriyas and vaishyas (dvija castes). For example: job seekers from lower castes also face a lot of hurdles and cross a lot of obstacles on their way to get a job, sometimes doing odd jobs to cover their educational expenses during schooling years.

This is in sharp contrast to upper caste students doing internships (using their social connections) in prestigious organizations to ramp up their CV. Upper caste students also participate in a lot of extra-curricular activities, from college festivals to various competitions, which help them acquire soft skills required for professional jobs.

Due to historic reasons, upper castes possess high economic, social and cultural capital, which allows them to access economic opportunities and derive disparate benefits from them. Despite the upper caste constituting only 14% in India’s overall population share, they occupy over 94% of corporate positions in India. If diversity-gender, ethnic and racial-generates benefits to companies, it is reasonable to assume the same for caste diversity as well. Low caste diversity on corporate boards results in lower market value for firms. Caste backgrounds of employees can play a detrimental role in innovation, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. Lack of caste diversity leads to groupthink and poor recognition of market needs and sentiments.

A modern and developed India should indeed be a society free of caste. Caste, however, is not simply a traditional hangover. However painful this issue of discrimination is, facing the truth sets us free to actually do something. Denying the presence of caste would only work to shield that status-quo. It is only with recognition of this reality of caste that they proudly showcase for wider respectability. The private sector can thus become an even stronger force of social change so that India can continue to grow rather than flame out as a country of squandered promises.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.