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Of discrimination and rights

The other day a private company decided not to recruit a young MBA and rather naively e-mailed him: “we regret to inform you that we hire only Non-Muslim candidates.” The candidate took the issue to the social media and television channels promptly went ballistic. The company quickly placed the blame at the doorstep of a HR-trainee.

At the core is the point of ‘discrimination versus rights.’ Most of us have grown up in a secular environment and while it will definitely appall us that someone loses out on account of his religion, there is a need to look into it more deeply. I know, in India religion is a relatively serious and sensitive matter, but instead of being argumentative, we must look at it from the other man’s boots.

A person cannot be discriminated on account of religion or gender is one thread. A second thread is that if you can have reservation (okay affirmative action if you want to be seen modern), you are automatically practicing discrimination in a different way. But more to the point is, “what are my rights?”

 

Look at it this way...

For a long time, factories did not encourage women to work inside the plant. Was it discrimination or plain common sense? Many organisations don’t want women to work late shifts. Is that discrimination or common sense? Some organisations don’t want married women to work where there is excessive travel. Is that discrimination or common sense? Some landlords don’t want to give their property on rent to bachelors or to those who cook non-vegetarian. Are they practising racism when they openly state the reason for refusal? A school refuses admission because either both parents of the student are working or because the student does not live within a radius of 3 km. Is that discrimination? You will notice that none of these refusals are strictly on merit. Some of them are based on their own perception of risk assessment. And risk assessments are almost always based on profiling.

In all this, notice that if I am an employer or an asset owner, I am entitled to my choices.

When an organisation, for instance, says it is rejecting a CA and instead wishes to pick only an IIM, a CA needs to seriously introspect why his profession receives that treatment. When America says that only an American born can be its president, are they discriminating? For a very long time, there was a glass ceiling and today too in many parts of the world a glass ceiling exists based on nationality, gender and education.

I would be the last man standing to reject someone based on religion, but I think everyone has a right to decide as to whom he would engage with in business or profession. Much of this is happening because of the environment around us. A surrounding that spawns hatred, perceived or otherwise, is fertile ground for this entire happening.

It now appears that a case has been filed against the firm. While this is irrelevant, the company was in news earlier when it distributed cars and jewellery for its employees during Diwali.

The matter will die down with a settlement, and the primary issue will  sooner than later, be forgotten.

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