NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 23, 2006

Just as India's economic growth is blossoming, the country faces a new threat to its prosperity -- from within. New Delhi's plans for an extensive affirmative action program, which would require businesses to hire more members of India's most disadvantaged communities, are gaining steam. Passing such a law would be a costly mistake, says the Wall Street Journal.

India has been through this before.

  • Those on the lower rungs of India's traditional caste system already receive preferential treatment for public-sector jobs, college admissions and political positions through government-mandated quotas.
  • In the state sector, up to 49 percent of new employees must be taken from the lower castes.
  • Now, New Delhi wants to force the private sector to follow suit by reserving a set number of jobs for these groups.

One would've thought that India's experience with public-sector quotas would've taught its bureaucrats that affirmative action does not lead to increased employment for the disadvantaged, says the Journal.

Many of the public-sector positions reserved for lower castes remain vacant, due to a shortage of skilled candidates. For example, the report of the National Commission on the Working of the Constitution in 2002 noted that at senior levels of the Indian bureaucracy, the Government had filled about 60 percent of the positions reserved for these groups. A private-sector experiment along similar lines would likely meet the same fate, says the Journal.

Source: Salil Tripathi, "Caste-ing the Net Too Wide," Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2006.

For text (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Government Issues