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To Gain 10, Dalits Must
Score 12.5 Points

By Chandrabhan Prasad

08 August, 2004

If one were to survey 10 non-Dalits, all possessing fairly rational bents of mind, and ask them: "A non-Dalit employer has interviewed a Dalit and a non-Dalit management graduate. Both earn 10 points each on a 15 point scale, but there is only one vacancy - which one will get the job", chances are that most will answer in favour of the non-Dalit. Similarly, if one were to take a survey among 10 Dalits, also fairly rational types, and ask the question: A non-Dalit employer has interviewed a Dalit and a non-Dalit management graduate. The Dalit candidate earns 10 points and the non-Dalit 7.5, but there is only one vacancy - who will be chosen". This time too the answer will be: "The non-Dalit candidate stands a better chance".

Strange as it may appear, but this is the true Dalit experience. If this hypothesis is proven correct, then it leads into a thesis which is frightening to the future of this country. India's varna/ caste order demands the supreme loyalty to its own interests. What if the interests of caste and that of India come into sharp conflict and one has to make a choice? We can only guess but data from available daily phenomenon where caste considerations have the upper hand in recruitment to jobs certainly gives interesting pointers. Why should a Dalit, who scores equally with a non-Dalit candidate, be ignored considering the kind of hostile social setup in which he grew? Or, why should a non-Dalit who scores 2.5 percentage points less than the Dalit candidate get preferred? The interviewer/ employer can at best offer two explanations: (1) That the difference between 10 and 7.5 is too fine and so, either candidate, given the opportunity can perform equally well or worse at the workplace; (2) that what difference could a more qualified Dalit bring to the fortunes of the company if the company is already earning Rs 100 crore a month? An additional Rs 5 lakh made from recruiting a talented Dalit is not a big deal. Don't both these arguments employer work against India's national interests? If this was an isolated case one could still sympathise with the employer.

But, if it is phenomenon, then it alone explains as why India has less than one per cent share in world trade. This is a monumental disgrace for a country of billion plus people. Lest one allege that this is just a mind ploy to advocate Dalits' entry into the private sector, we can explore some more concrete instances where caste interests predominate. The evil of the dowry system has ruined many a parent. Hundreds of young brides are burnt every year. Consider cases of average non-Dalit parents. Despite all male chauvinism, a father always wants his daughter to get a prosperous, decent groom. Survey 10 of them with a modest income with daughters having fairly good education. Unable to find a match through formal social networks, they avail the matrimonial columns of newspapers. They get responses, mostly from school teachers, clerks, or small-time grocery shop owners to match their own social and financial backgrounds. Just for the sake of exposing the hypocrisy of the so-called "forward" castes, a Dalit organisation offers a list of 10 Dalits as prospective grooms: College lecturers, engineers employed with IOC, ONGC, NTPC, BHEL, and whose parents are already settled in decent housing societies and who don't want any dowry. What are the chances? Most non-Dalit parents would still sacrifice the interests of their own blood and go for school teachers, clerks, grocery shop owners. The same holds true for male children as well. A non-Dalit would prefer a bride from his own caste who is a school teacher over a Dalit girl who is a university lecturer. This is not intended to demean school teachers, clerks, grocery shop owners and glorify others, but only to illustrate how caste interests tend to prevail over fundamental logic.

In societies all over the world, many individuals, in moments of crises, may sacrifice societal, national interests in favour of their own existence. In sharp contrast, in India, individuals sacrifice their own interests in favour of the caste order. If such individuals can stake the interests of their own children, they can easily stake the interests of India as well. Since in India, the core identity of an individual is his caste, and not his own individuality, it becomes a defining social phenomenon where dominant castes would prefer interests of their varna/ caste over the interests of India. By any yardstick, the varna/ caste order is a bane, and not a boon for India. In such a hostile social setting, the Dalits still find their way. I am often reminded of what my scholar friend D Shyam Babu once commented when we were staying in Dr LN Berwa's house in the Maryland, US: "To gain 10, a Dalit must score 12.5 points whenever he is pitched in competition with non-Dalits".






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