The importance of caste!

Dr Sagarika Kamath
Assistant Professor
Manipal University, India

Dr Rajesh Kamath
Assistant Professor
Manipal University, India

As young doctors being trained in hospital and health administration, we had a class in Organisational behaviour where the professor began saying that caste was a very important factor in any organisation. It was important for the caste to be right, the professor pontificated. If attention wasn’t paid to caste, then no matter how good the organisation was, it wouldn’t last. Organisations that didn’t pay any attention to caste became uncompetitive. Caste was all important. Several of my classmates couldn’t believe their ears. We were in an educational institution that prided itself on its principles of equality, equity, social justice and welfare of the underprivileged. Casteism was anathema. This was among India’s foremost institutes of social sciences. Exactly half the class came from underprivileged backgrounds or from castes that had been classified by the government for, among other purposes, affirmative action, as historically disadvantaged. There was an air of disbelief at what was happening. How could someone say that the caste had to be right?

Healthcare was caste intensive, he continued. Maybe it wasn’t apparent now, but we only had to start working and we would realise the importance of caste. Top management is always concerned about caste. Your bosses will be concerned about caste. In no time, you will also become attuned to the all pervasive importance of caste! One of the students could take this no longer. Sir!, his hand shot up, I do not agree with you. How can you say these things about caste?! The professor seemed perplexed. If the caste is high, he continued, can the common man afford healthcare?

Afford? Caste? It then slowly dawned on us that what the professor with the Tamilian (Tamil Nadu is a state in southern India) accent meant was “Cost”, but his accent made it “Caste” to our non-Tamil ears. With this realisation came relieved laughter. The tension vanished. Caste didn’t matter, thankfully.

Competing interest statement : We declare that we have no competing interests.

Contributorship statement : Both the authors have conceptualised, drafted and proof – read the contribution.