The last person one would have expected to use his caste credentials to justify his ability to tackle professional upheaval is a CEO of a modern technology company. But Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka did the most absurd thing on Monday. Hours after a press meet, which was preceded by a meeting with shareholders, Mr Sikka said: “I am a kshatriya warrior. I am here to stay and fight”. By raising his warrior credentials, he added that developments in the technology giant over the past week didn’t weigh him down and that investors were concerned about the company’s performance and not the governance controversy. It is intriguing that despite his impeccable professional pedigree and wide-ranging experience --- prior to joining Infosys, Mr Sikka was a member of the executive board of SAP AG and the Global Managing Board ---- he had to use his Kshatriya background to make a point.
Modern companies such as Infosys publicly claim that while employing people they go by the qualifying requirements for jobs and don’t discriminate with any employee on the basis of gender, caste or religion. But comments such as this only give rise to suspicion that caste bias is alive even in companies that symbolise modern India. In fact, there have been some reports accusing the technology companies of biases, though the firms rubbished them. A couple of years ago, a leading think tank, the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore, claimed that the IT sector has an urban, upper-caste bias. The study attracted attention as it came in the midst of a raging debate on job reservations in the private sector. It based its claims on a sample survey that found 86% employees in the IT sector belong to the upper castes and only 5% have a rural background.
Unsurprisingly, the social media reacted unfavourably to the comment. Would it now be too much to ask Mr Sikka assuage feelings of those who may have been alarmed by such a statement, especially at a time when the country is trying hard to battle caste discrimination?