Indian institutions are not diverse and are not representative of the population and this skews the outcomes they deliver to different segments of the Indian population.
Despite contrary empirical evidence from the Railways and Civil services, the dominant narrative in India is that improving the diversity of Indian institutions will result in a lowering of the quality of service delivered by them. This narrative is the prime reason why despite the increasing per-capita GDP in India, the human development index is low. Improving the diversity of Indian institutions will help reduce the development gap between underprivileged and privileged segments. Why would privileged segments allow this to happen and why is this important to all the stakeholders in India?
Data on representation in higher education in India (2015-16), taken from Pratap Tambe’s video presentation here.
Equality of opportunity for all segments in Indian institutions
If society does not have equality of opportunity for all segments, society will be less stable. The elite from underprivileged segments will educate, organise, and agitate for this. If we live in a policy state, where inequality is enforced through violence by the state, social life will become vulnerable to acts of violence by those suffering from inequality and state violence. The overlap of social and rising economic inequality in India is potentially explosive. The pressure on socially and economically backward segments will rise as the livelihoods of the masses are lost to exploitative capitalism. Rights granted to them on paper do not translate into practice and reasonable opportunities for a dignified life are lost due to lop-sided development. This builds up societal pressures that, if not addressed, may create violence against the model of development.
Any development model which enriches one segment of the population at the expense of impoverishing others may sound great in the short run if the enriched segment is in control of the media singing paeans of such a model.
Data on representation in Indian bureaucracy of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, taken from Pratap Tambe’s video presentation here.
But in the medium term, the stresses and lop-sidedness become more visible and those whose destinies are looted could unleash their fury. It is difficult to please all the people all of the time, but it is necessary to think about the wider population over a longer time horizon. Increasing the pressure at the bottom of the pyramid is far too dangerous for societal cohesion. The pyramid can topple over impacting the stakes of stakeholders inside/outside India including investors outside India.
Data on representation in central government Cabinets in India since 1952, taken from Pratap Tambe’s video presentation here.
India needs growth with redistribution
Redistribution without growth, as well as growth without redistribution, are both far too risky for India since they will cause violence. The only feasible development strategy for India is growth with redistribution. The most efficient way to enable this strategy is to invest in the human capital of the most talented people among underprivileged Indians and enable these segments to lead and succeed in the sunrise sectors of the economy. These folks need to educate themselves and generate intellectual property, organise enterprises using this IP and agitate to win in market competition to build wealth for themselves. Their talent will increase the growth of the economy. These folks will typically deploy their profits into ventures which benefit more underprivileged people, thereby increasing redistribution of the growth.
The talented people among the hitherto underprivileged Indians have begun topping in many courses in many universities. Some of them are getting into good jobs and gaining world-class experience. A few are breaking through glass ceilings and many, fearful of discrimination in typical Indian enterprises, are venturing out.
There is some empirical evidence that their ventures which last beyond a minimum threshold are more resilient than others. Due to their backgrounds, these folks have natural advantages in building and operating business models which are more aligned to sustainability imperatives and modern slavery regulations. There is potentially a strong business case for investing in ventures led by talented people among the underprivileged communities. The bigger business case for investing in this type of venture comes from the release of the pressure toward violence from increasing social and economic inequality.
This article reflects the author’s personal views and not those of his employer.