The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Nitish Kumar's proposal for private sector reservation deserves a closer look

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The Big Story: Caste away

There are few systems of social apartheid as degrading as caste. In fact, 70 years after India got independence, one in four Indians admit that they practice untouchability.

India has taken steps to combat caste discrimination. It has given Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backwards Classes reservations in public sector jobs and government-run education institutions. Yet, in 2017, this is not enough.

The last major change to India’s structure of reservations was carried out in 1990, when the Union government under Prime Minister VP Singh decided to widen the reservation ambit from only Dalits and Adivasis and reserve 27% jobs/seats for a range of backward castes.

A year later, however, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s government initiated economic reforms. India’s economy, till now centered around the public sector, saw the rapid growth of private enterprise. In 2006, for example, public sector jobs were twice that in the private sector. By 2012, that ratio has shrunk to 1.5 – and its still dropping.

India’s system of caste reservations in public sector jobs, therefore, is getting outdated fast. To deal with the changed scenario, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has demanded a 50% reservation quota in private sector jobs on the basis of caste.

This is not the first time private sector reservations are being discussed. In 2004, the United Progressive Alliance had the measure as part of its Common Minimum Programme. Yet, the issue went nowhere, with powerful industry interests putting a lid on the debate.

This is not ideal. India’s private sector forms a crucial part of society and often benefits from public largess in the form of land, soft loans and subsidies. Given the pervasive role of caste in society, it is their responsibility to also put their shoulder to the wheel as well. Seventy years after independence, India’s development standards are abysmal with lower castes lagging behind significantly. India must, therefore have an urgent debate around how the private sector can help combat caste.

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Punditry

  • Mukul Roy is not a mass leader, and derived his power from Mamata Banerjee’s magic. Without that, it is doubtful whether he can display the organisational skills that the BJP expects of him, argues Avijit Ghosal in the Hindustan Times editorial.
  • While the government talks peace, the Sangh Parivar’s attitude towards Articles 35 A and 370 has heightened scepticism in Kashmir, write Christophe Jaffrelot and Oishee Kunduin the Indian Express.
  • Ahead of the Quadrilateral meeting, PM Modi must be cautious about bringing big powers into South Asia, argues Suhasini Haidar in the Hindu.

Giggle

Don’t Miss

Dengue politics in Bengal: A tiny insect has turned into a pesky problem for Mamata Banerjee, reports Sohini Chattopadhyay.

The suggestion that the number of dengue cases is being underplayed does not surprise public health specialists. Suppressing disease data is an established public health tradition in India, they say. In 2016, for instance, an Al Jazeeera investigation showed that India under-reports malaria by describing deaths from the disease as resulting from cardio-respiratory failure, or collapse of the heart and lungs.

On Thursday, the Bengali language daily Anandabazaar Patrika published a similar story: Anjana Kundu of Bongaon town said her husband was diagnosed with dengue but the doctor at a Kolkata nursing home wrote “sudden cardio-respiratory arrest in a case of sepsis and multiple-organ failure” on his death certificate.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.