What is India Editorial

Now for Meritocracy
in the Private Sector

A venal political class, unable so far to destroy India's spirit of entrepreneurship, just might succeed by introducing caste-based job quotas in the private sector, warns ARAVIND SITARAMAN 

India has the world’s largest democracy and except for a brief period, this democracy has been well preserved and functioning. Challenging conventional wisdom, the nation has several reasons to be proud of its achievements in the last several decades. At the time of independence it was an economic, social, and structural basket case. It has since grown steadily to become the world’s fastest growing economy, the third largest economy in PPP terms, a computer software giant, and many more. This is despite continued deterioration in the political class, law and order, and deficient infrastructure. A careful analysis will show that all these achievements (barring agriculture) has really taken place only after the economy opened up in the 1990s under the current Prime Minister serving as the Finance Minister.

In a short span of 15 years, the country’s private sector has graduated from a protected oligarchy to a global competitor. Auto parts are manufactured in Chennai and Delhi for auto manufacturers in Detriot, Germany, and Japan. Software is being developed in Bangalore for companies in the Silicon Valley. Business Process outsourcing is now a major revenue earner and its shops are in many major cities for companies all over the developed world. Indian steel is now being exported and is competing on quality and value; not just price. Indian car manufacturers are spreading their wings in Europe. Indian companies are buying other foreign companies in Singapore, Europe, and the United States to gain market share, market foothold, expertise, technology, or people. Indian companies have units in other parts of the world including the United States, Europe, China, Korea, and Singapore. This is a true tribute to Indian industry, ingenuity, management style, competence, and efficiency.

All this could have been possible only because the Indian companies were free to pursue their economic goals, friendly economic policies, favorable investment opportunities, and a rapid globalization of the Indian industry.

Unfortunately, these historical achievements are under threat because of the political convenience of a few. A modern crop of politicians seeking exponential personal growth have adopted strategies of dividing populations to overcome their lack of skill, education, or other conventional means. Dalits, minorities, language, religion, state, region, labor, etc. are only some modes by which they have divided people promising the innocent masses a windfall. Surely, the windfall is just one way to these politicians.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government, a ragtag marriage of convenience, has an honorable Prime Minister (PM) who is held hostage by these political villains. They have forced him into setting up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into the possibility of getting reservation for the socially backward in the private companies. Reservation in India is a political vote affecting issue. The more someone supports it, the more votes they get. This is because the whole concept of reservation is based on one parameter — caste. The economic situation of the candidate, the education level of an individual’s parents, performance of the individual, place of origin and domicile of the individual, etc. are irrelevant.

Hence, a Brahmin born to uneducated parents living in a backward area who scores 99% will not stand a chance in prestigious engineering or medical colleges. While a person born to well educated, rich, higher-caste non-Brahmin parents will get such education even if he were to score less than 50%. For a scheduled class or tribe (SC or ST) candiate — whatever his economic, social, and environment status, a pass score is essentially enough to get a seat in these colleges.

At this point, I must point out there are several brilliant candidates from poor, disenfranchised, and marginal families who need the attention and support of the state. Why should it matter what their caste is? Admittedly, candidates from the SC or ST communities are largely socially challenged and would have a harder time catching up with mainstream society. Does that mean that we should compromise on quality of our engineers, doctors, and scientists? Surely, there are other means by which they can be assisted; economic assistance, mentoring, special coaching classes, recognition, infrastructure, etc. are some tools that are within the control of the nation to help these communities.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu (TN) is the best example of such bigotry policy that got reservation in that state up to 81%. This got them into power a few times. But the policy of division that they started has now snowballed into more and more groups clamoring for attention, space, and special treatment. India is becoming a nation where everyone is an exception — not exceptional but just an exception. Now communities where there is no caste distinction or so-called “discrimination” are asking for their share. Since the Government job pie is shrinking with globalization, these people want more.

The Communist parties, hell-bent on taking the nation backwards as they have done West Bengal and Kerala, are demanding a cessation of liberalization. In other words, they want more Government jobs where people do not work but get large salaries, bonuses, and pay hikes every year. The Laloo and so-called “secular” brigade want reservation in the private sector. The reason for this clamor is simply to get a status quo, roll back of economic progress, and a degree of anarchy that they know how to manage. How does it help the common man? It doesn’t! The Government and private sector reserved jobs are handed out to their political functionaries through political interference, exit of multi-nationals, fleeing of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), loss of jobs, loss of taxes, more Government borrowing to spend, higher financial deficit, lowering credit quality, higher interest rates, bankruptcy of the Government, change of Government, and it is someone else’s problem. This will take us back to 1990 where India had to mortgage gold for short term credit.

These are the same people who wreaked havoc in 1990. And, it was the same man who is now Prime Minister who rescued the nation as the Finance Minister. A reversal of our progress will be harder and more expensive than before. The Prime Minister must stand up to those who claim to be his supporters. He must not let the work he initiated in 1990 be undone under his watch.

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