Thursday, August 23, 2007

The caste system 2.0

There has been a little spotlight on Indias caste system recently. Here and here.

For those who came in late, here is a guide to how caste functions in Indias IT industry. It is sort of like a parallel universe and most of you wont know it exists, but it does. Because international journos say and I am also saying, with repeated assertion, it has to exist. As Sherlock Holmes would have put it, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Heres the insider information on it.

So how do you get into this industry. Simple, your caste does it for you. You are either born into IT or you are not. Mostly, as a fresher you caste your vote write an exam, which is basically a method to find out your caste. So, many companies require you to pass written exams. Behind the puzzles, behind the technical questions is, really, a caste numeric code that you have to crack or you end up cracking it as part of your genetic caste DNA. (sort of like learning Parseltongue). You can crack it only if you are a member of some of the secret clans. That was how it was intended. Later on, with the worldwide web, many people posted these secret combinations out there (look inside my blog) so the tests were useless which is why they introduced interviews - so that they could cast(e) you in the right role.

The interview is usually carried by the highest ranking heads of each caste in the company. It doesn't matter what you are qualified as. What does matter is your surname, your caste certificate (don't have one? better get it.) and some secret rituals. This is called the HR round - which is a actually a CE round - a Caste Examination round - the HR is just to confuse people. Just so that people think that they are doing a great job, they do something before this round - what is known as a technical interview. Here they ask you obscure puzzles, ask you to write code, but believe me (or them above), all that is useless. What they really really want to know is your caste. How they know it is by the way you solve those puzzles. (Now you know why some of you were recruited despite the fact that you were fractured? Thank your cast(e).)

Firstly, if you observe very closely, every IT company has two (or more) entrances at the back. Some of these entrances are hidden in nearby pan shops, bus stops, foundries (yes, where they cast iron) or nearby places of worship. Each is manned by an appropriate caste security guard and each gate has passwords. Therefore some gates have pundits as guards while some have warriors. Don't be too scared. If you can prove your caste at the entrance, you will be let in. Foreigners have a separate entrance that is, really the front of the company. The real chaps get in (did I hear someone say dissapparate) from all these secret entrances.

Every company has 14 canteens manned by 14 different kitchens. You see some castes do not eat strawberry, while some have an aversion to cauliflower. They sorted it out by creating multiple kitchens. Also, employees on bench from these castes work in these kitchens.

Then, once you are at work, the caste bias is all too evident. Some castes get faster internet connections, some slower. They also get the bad projects. Desk allocation, building and floor allocation is all as per caste. Indeed in some of the companies business units are allocated on the basis of castes.

So, the high caste people get all the accounting jobs - where they don't have to mingle with people you see. The warriors defend the company both internally and externally and here they have to fight a lot - with customers, with rival companies, rival teams and sometimes within themselves. The traders do all the estimates and the warriors have to justify those estimates or the accountants boil them in oil. Guess who does real work - you got it? The accountants, warriors and traders, well, they just expropriate the cubicle spaces of the "real workers" and charge them rent for it. Promotions are purely caste based. Period.

Tip of the day: This applies only to "some" firms that operate in India that the above journos know of. I have not been able to track them down. Most "other" firms which I know of do not believe in caste - they actually never ever ask you about it. They, apparently, believe in a forgotten practice called Merit, sort of like Sanskrit. Very few know it exists, fewer still practice it, but apparently it is very effective. Now if the government has its way, they will have to do away with it.

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