Colonialism and Welfare

Colonialism and Welfare

Social Policy and the British Imperial Legacy

Edited by James Midgley and David Piachaud

The British Empire covered three centuries, five continents and one-quarter of the world’s population. Its legacy continues, shaping the societies and welfare policies of much of the modern world. In this book, for the first time, this legacy is explored and analysed.

Chapter 5: Caste, Corporate Disabilities and Compensatory Discrimination in India: Colonial Legacy and Post-colonial Paradox

N. Jayaram

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


N. Jayaram India has a wide array of preferential schemes and programmes for ameliorating the life and status of the historically disadvantaged sections of her population. They are, therefore, described under the banner of ‘compensatory discrimination policy’, a variant of affirmative action (Galanter, 1984). These schemes and programmes include: (a) reservation of seats in political institutions (Parliament, state legislative assemblies, and local self-government institutions – the panchayati raj institutions and municipal corporations); positions in government jobs and seats in educational institutions receiving government funding; (b) concessions and relaxation of qualifications for admission to educational institutions and in government employment; and (c) special provision of facilities. These schemes and programmes are authorized by constitutional provisions that permit departures from commitment to formal equality. While the substantive targets of this policy – their beneficiaries – are individuals, the identification of these individuals is in terms of specified group affiliation – self-defined and defined by others. These groups are called ‘castes’ and ‘tribes’. It must be emphasized that the Constitution of India is framed around the concept of ‘the fundamental rights of citizenship’. These rights are deemed to inhere in the individual, rather than in castes or ethno-religious ‘communities’. Viewed in this light, it is paradoxical that the implementation of programmes under the compensatory discrimination policy has contributed to perpetuating rather than eliminating the claims of caste and tribe for an increasing number of Indians. It appears that India is caught in the whirlpool of caste: the more it seeks to overcome caste through caste-based compensatory discrimination,...

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