It’s not just colonialists and Orientalists and militants of Enlightenment who think there is such a thing as caste discrimination in India. Check out Siddharth Singh in the Times of India a couple of weeks ago for instance.
Not many would argue that there is no caste-based discrimination in rural India, or that there was no such discrimination historically in India. The fact is that certain castes, such as the Dalits, have been socially excluded from full participation in the Indian society and economy over the past few centuries. There is documented evidence that in India’s villages, Dalits continue to be denied equal access to public and private goods such as water bodies, roads, land ownership, markets, financial institutions, and jobs. As a result, members belonging to such castes exhibit poor social indicators such as higher rates of poverty, lower literacy levels and higher infant mortality. However, that is rural India. What about modern, urban India? A casual glance at the matrimonial sections in our Sunday newspapers shows that caste plays a major role in our social spheres, but is there active discrimination in the modern private sector economy?
Since profits and efficiency are the guiding principles in a market economy, the claim is that only the most efficient workers are employed, leaving no room for discrimination on the basis of caste and other identities. For instance, in 2007, The Economist magazine claimed that “There is no strong evidence that companies discriminate against low-caste job applicants.”
However, such articles miss the research which does show that Dalits and other backward castes are in fact discriminated against even in the modern private sector.
Now imagine you’re born a Hindu boy who doesn’t have to worry about caste because he had the good luck not be born a Dalit…