“What’s your full title?” This query – when requested of an Indian – is commonly meant to find out the respondent’s caste. In a society the place inflexible hierarchies run deep, the reply to an innocuous query can maintain the important thing to many doorways – particularly on the subject of employment.
Naming conventions in India are marked by specific connotations of caste lineage and at instances, even the intricate particulars of subcategories inside a caste group too. Right now, names are sometimes shorter, with a primary title and a surname which connotes the caste group to which the individual belongs.
A draft report commissioned by the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment recommends that final names revealing the caste, spiritual, or cultural backgrounds of candidates must be stored hidden throughout recruitment processes.
Ready by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Trade (DICCI) – an organisation devoted to preventing caste oppression by fostering entrepreneurship and provision of capital amongst dalits (who sit on the backside of the caste rating) – the report recommends this technique for each written exams and private interviews throughout all ranges of recruitment within the public sector.
This must be seen within the bigger context of the on a regular basis caste-ism that’s pervasive in India. The caste system is believed to have been codified within the revered Hindu code ebook, the Manusmiriti. Revolving across the notions of purity and air pollution, the Hindu society is split into 4 teams, the priestly class, the warrior class, the service provider class and the servile class. The Dalits, previously “untouchables”, are positioned exterior the system.
Throughout centuries, the system has advanced into a posh matrix, with tens of hundreds of sub-divisions. Nevertheless, the defining factor of the system – the legitimisation of differential therapy to individuals based mostly on start – remains to be intact. Iconic Indian jurist, politician and social reformer Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar famous that the caste hierarchy is marked by ascending order of reverence and descending order of contempt. Right now, the caste system performs an important function in figuring out an individual’s entry to alternatives, abilities and sources.
Leaving apart its logistical challenges, how far can the technique of nameless recruitment go to handle centuries of exclusion? The draft report argues that:
Within the absence of such direct info, social background of candidates is guessed to a fantastic extent from the names just like the Nayer, lyer, Iyengar, Naidu, Menon, Bandhopadhyaya, Chathurvedi, Gupta, Patel, Panda, and so on.
Curiously, these frequent Indian surnames point out not solely the caste place of their bearers, but additionally their regional id. For example an individual with the surname “Rajput” in northern India, the place the stated caste is numerically and socially dominant, would signify extra social energy in comparison with an individual with the identical surname within the south.
The surname “Bandhopadhyaya” – usually spelled in its anglicised model as “Banerjee” or variations thereof – is an “upper-caste” Bengali Brahmin surname. This reality is frequent information – and few Indians would fail to establish it as such. However not all Bengali surnames are as simply deciphered. For example the final title “Sarkar” or its variations are sometimes called a title relatively than a surname, as a result of it has been bestowed on people below the Mughal regime. Right now this final title is utilized by people throughout caste and non secular classes.
Rejecting caste-based naming practices and adopting generic or symbolic final names has been a longstanding technique inside the anti-caste motion throughout the nation.
What’s in a reputation?
Throughout India, final names describing caste-based occupations have generally been used as slurs to humiliate Dalit or Bahujan people, thereby reinforcing caste-based hierarchy and ostracisation. Because the mass political mobilisation of those teams within the 1940s within the south by the Dravidian Motion and the 1980s and 1990s within the north by the Lohiaites, many have discarded their caste surnames and now use a second first title as a substitute.
Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, chief of the Bhim Military and Azad Samaj Social gathering, has been featured within the Time record of 100 rising leaders.
Born right into a Dalit neighborhood, he has adopted the 2 names Azad (that means free) and Ravan. Ravan is a legendary determine introduced as a villain in standard North Indian renditions of the Hindu epic Ramayan, which celebrates the victory of Ram, an “upper-caste” king. This selection of names shows a potent mixture of assertion and subversion.
Appeals to discard caste-based final names have been prolonged to and accepted by dominant caste people as properly. That is in fact a double-edged sword. Discarding the caste title alone doesn’t undo social energy accrued over centuries and should actually serve to masks it.
Caste within the civil service
Affirmative motion insurance policies have been in place in public-sector recruitment for the reason that early 20th century. This has concerned a stipulated illustration of marginalised caste teams such because the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Different Backward Courses (OBCs). All of those teams are deemed to have traditionally been denied social, financial and academic progress.
However information reveals that the allotted quotas have by no means been crammed. For example, within the Class A, or high-ranked posts, as of 2015, 13.3% had been SCs – fewer than the quota of 15% that had been required for the reason that affirmative motion reforms in 1950s. In the meantime, as of 2013, 8.37% had been OBCs as in opposition to the stipulated quota of 27% for the reason that 1990s, when the quotas had been carried out.
The quota system solely gives for entry-level illustration. In apply, “lower-caste” teams obtain near zero illustration in senior civil service roles. For example, as of March 2011, there have been no SC secretaries and solely 4 ST secretaries out of 149 in the entire civil service. In 2019, the quantity remained dismal with one SC, three STs and nil OBCs within the 89 secretary-level posts.
Latest modifications to the implementation of some quotas have shifted the main focus from illustration of marginalised teams to merely addressing financial weak point. The brand new criterion prioritises a short lived situation which is assessed utilizing annual revenue and wealth relatively than a extra entrenched social actuality, which is social and academic deprivation. Insurance policies which have foregrounded particular person rights over neighborhood illustration additional irritate the image by shrinking the variety of “decrease castes” coming into the forms.
To make issues worse, the vitriolic opposition to affirmative motion by many “upper-caste” teams has tilted public discourse in opposition to the struggles for caste justice. In opposition to this dire backdrop, how far can the proposed recruitment reforms go?
Whereas “blind” recruiting can certainly work in opposition to current caste prejudice, such a measure is inadequate on the subject of reforming the structural dimension of caste energy. Names alone are usually not the repositories of caste privilege. Pores and skin tone, accent, fluency in English, familiarity with pop-culture references, and meals habits are a number of the outstanding proxies by way of which caste is often gauged in an unstated trend.
With important structural limitations to training and equal alternative, all the things from the varsity or faculty one attended to the candidates’ internship expertise and hobbies will be learn as proxies for caste standing. The set of candidates who can afford to take part within the civil service recruitment course of constitutes a small, rarefied pool. Inside this the proposed measures can prolong the potential of equal alternative. However within the larger image, it would stay a drop within the ocean.
The authors don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.