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The Indian Meaning Of Merit

By Chandrabhan Prasad

07 July, 2004
The Pioneer

Well then, the universe follows its own logic, whether or not we accept its rationale. According to its laws, there are eventually three kinds of people. One type either loves some thing or somebody, or, has outright hatred for the same. The second group is made up of those who either decide to be neutral towards some particular thing, or person, and sticks to that policy consistently. Finally, there are those who either laugh away some specific thing or group of people, and continue to giggle at their very mention for ever.

India's private sector qualifies by "merit" for a place in the third category. Dalit Diary finds it very difficult to hate the private sector. But there is no question of loving it. In condemning the issue of Dalits' representation in the private sector's work force, the spokespersons of India Inc. celebrate their one-line slogan: "Indian industry will loose it competitive advantage in the global market". The inference is that Dalits too are Indians, and hence, would not like Indian industry to suffer due to their "polluting" presence.

The Dalits would, however, want to seek a very simple explanation: What competition are we talking about? With who is Indian industry competing or desires to compete? Will our private industry compete with the US- based Boeing, which manufactures the Jumbo Jet, the largest passenger aircraft? In the last 35 years, some 1,200 Boeing 747 aircraft have flown 2.25 billion passengers, or about 40 per cent of the world's population. The company has 2.20 lakh employees, in which African-Americans and other minorities make up 18 per cent. The company has a diversity department which recruits African-Americans and others through special recruitment drives.

Will the Indian companies compete with Exxon-Mobile, the world's largest corporation with revenue worth $ 210.39 billion? (India's largest company, Reliance, is worth just $ 22.6 billion, and ranks 737th in assets). In Exxon-Mobile' total work force, African Americans and other s comprise 28.70 per cent over all, and 16.90 per cent at the managerial and official level. Or will Indian companies compete with General Motors, whose assets are worth $ 184.63 billion? In this company's total work force, there are 23 per cent African-Americans and 19.20 per cent at the top level. All Fortune 500 companies in the US practice Diversity to benefit African-Americans and other depressed classes.

All have diversity departments, and every one of them displays their diversity performances on their web sites. The Diversity extends in supplier-dealership categories as well. For instance, General Motors in 1995 purchased goods and services worth $ 2.20 billion from specific backward communities. It extended to reserving 320 dealerships to people from these historically excluded categories.

The recruitment diversity reflects in employment patterns of America's private sector. By 1998, African-Americans comprised 27.37 per cent of the workforce in America's organised private sector,roughly the same as their population share. Even at the managerial and official level, their share touched 12.95 per cent, and, in the professional category, 17.40 per cent. It will be quite in order to state that even the American media and Hollywood practice diversity. What Indian companies choose to hide, and what we actually know, is the a rea where Indian companies aspire to make a place for themselves.

The truth is simple, as simple as the truth itself. To choose an Indian idiom, many of us hire domestic help to wash utensils, clean our houses, or to cook food. Does that mean that we are ourselves incompetent for these tasks? Or, how would it look if our maid-servants went home claiming that they are competing with their employers? We don't wash our utensils, clean our houses, and cook our food because we don't want to do these chores. We relish our comforts and we have many more things to do.

Now, our self-congratulating private sector chiefs get the same treatment that we mete our to our maids. Just as we under-pay them, so do the American and western giant companies practice arrogant policies against the Indian entities.Thus, Indian and Chinese industry have the same role in global trade as house-maids have in our lives. In other words, if America makes a space craft, they ask Indian companies to supply the nut and bolts. For that too, the design and the material would often be supplied by them. All that the Indian companies would be required to do is contribute their labour with the limited genius they are perceived to be possessing.

The Indians are seen Collectively as a nation of good machine operators. At best, the Indians can be trusted with the work of manufacturing something with the specifics supplied from abroad. Indian industry is not trusted with the job of making a machine which can make machines. In that, an IIT graduate and a diploma holder from any of the third-rate Indian polytechnics, have the same role. And, for that, a Dalit IIT-ian, and Brahmin diploma holder, or a Brahmin IIT-ian, and a Dalit diploma holder have the same lowly position.

The element of "merit" comes into play only in terms of slipping into the position which entitles them to operate that machine. The truth has its own value. By being truthful, a person can avoid telling a host of lies, which in turn, makes life for liars very frustrating indeed. The Indian private sector can openly say that "the wealth we possess is not because we created it, it has been inherited, and we will continue with 100 per cent reservation for our children". Why lie unnecessarily, and remain the butt of jokes forever?