Should There be Reservations in the Private Sector and the Alternatives for Social Justice

The Vexatious Issue of Reservations in the Indian Private Sector

Every now and then, the vexatious issue of Reservations in the Private Sector crops up in India and more so, in the run up to the elections that are held every five years or less.

This issue that polarizes Indian society and policymakers apart from the politicians needs to be addressed by the wider stakeholders to ensure both social harmony and to avoid social unrest.

While its proponents claim that reservations in the private sector would be the logical progression towards social justice that the framers of the Indian Constitution envisaged, its opponents allege that this would be a disastrous step towards making the Indian Private Sector uncompetitive and render it to irrelevance in the global arena.

Indeed, the issue of Reservations in the Indian Private Sector has not yet turned into a full scale crisis mainly because it is often seen as a Shining Example of Meritocracy and an illustration of how no governmental interference can make India great again.

In contrast, it is often pointed out that the reason the Public Sector is so inefficient, barring the Navarathnas or the Nine PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings), is due to excessive stifling of its potential by the government.

Affirmative Action and the Need to Promote Social Justice

Having said that, there is also a need to promote Social Justice in a developing country such as India which is raven by extreme economic inequalities and class and caste inequities that make large sections of society marginalized and on the fringes.

Indeed, this is something that is true of the advanced countries as well where the United States has Affirmative Action that is targeted at racial minorities and seeks to ensure social justice through preferential college admissions.

Thus, a measure such as this can assuage both sides of the debate on Reservations in the Private Sector wherein the Captains of Indian Industry can be persuaded to hire more employees from the disadvantaged sections and from the marginalized social groups without Mandatory Quotas that they so vehemently oppose.

However, as can be seen from the American experience, Affirmative Action works to a certain extent and up to the admission post which the racial minorities face several implicit and explicit barriers.

Moreover, the United States does not have any such policy for the Corporate Sector and given the fact that Quotas in the Public Sector in India are seen as Crutches that hold the disadvantaged sections from realizing their full potential, even limited intakes targeted at marginalized groups would be hardly welcomed by India Inc.

Color Blind Hiring and How India Inc. Can Address the Issue of Social Justice

However, this does not mean that social justice should be left to the government alone to promote and there is a definite case for the Indian Private Sector to be more involved in this cause.

To start with, the Business Leaders can partner with Governmental and Private Educational stakeholders and ensure that the marginalized sections are provided with quality education which would help them to compete with the privileged sections on an equal footing.

In addition, they can also resort to Color Blind Hiring wherein the practice of screening resumes and short-listing them can be done without knowing the personal details of the applicant to prevent social biases from rejecting resumes of applicants from the disadvantaged sections.

Further, Color Blind Hiring can also be extended to the final face to face interview so that potential for mischief by vested interests in organizations can be avoided. Indeed, these measures are acceptable to some extent by the proponents of Reservations in the Private Sector as studies have shown that implicit and explicit caste biases do exist in the Indian Corporate Sector.

Middle Ground Needed

The point here is that we are seeking a Middle Ground between outright Reservations in the Private Sector that draw howls of protest from the Indian Corporate Honchos and on the other hand, the periodic bouts of the proponents of the measure threatening to pass legislation unless the Private Sector complies with their demands.

The reason why this issue is so important is that it is not only a heated election year (literally and figuratively) but also because some experts warn of mass social unrest unless this issue is addressed.

Indeed, already India has been witnessing spasms of social unrest over reservations in the government and in education and hence, without tackling the Elephant in the Room, namely Reservations in the Indian Private Sector, we are likely to see more violent incidents.

Moreover, there are ethical and moral reasons for the Indian Private Sector to embrace Social Justice and not become Ivory Towers for the Few whereas the vast masses are left behind in the economic race.

On the other hand, consideration of merit cannot be brushed aside as well and therefore, we argue that the Next Government takes up this issue on high priority.


Lastly, the Indian Private Sector needs to Walk the Talk where social justice is concerned and this means that it needs to incorporate policies and measures that it presently does for gender inclusivity.

In other words, just as it has made Diversity and Inclusivity a Priority, the next focus must be on Social Justice.

On the other hand, the proponents of Reservations in the Indian Private Sector too must be willing to Walk the Extra Mile and engage and debate without taking to the streets.

To conclude, uneven economic development often leads to fragmentation and polarization of societies which can ultimately lead to its disintegration through internal corrosion and implosion.

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