Today morning in response to government’s decision to elevate Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel, to the No. 1 position, there was a joke that was forwarded on whatsapp- Patels asked for reservation and they got entire Reserve Bank. Yes, I understand it’s a joke but somehow I was unable to laugh. I understand that it was not meant to criticize any particular community or person but what disturbed me was the association of the RBI-Governor designate to a particular community, based on his last name. May be I am overreacting but I do find it sad and disturbing. Therefore, I am still unable to laugh.
To be very frank, I was not too aware of the credentials of the RBI Governor-Designate till this morning, but what I find disturbing is that the first thing that came to our mind was that he was a Patel! Urjit Patel. His credentials and experiences and all other titles fell short of his last name, Patel. He had led the panel that recommended landmark changes in the Indian monetary policy including a switch to inflation-targeting (like his predecessor Raghuram Rajan, who is referred to as a inflation hawk) , but the first thing that goes around is about him being a Patel. His Bachelors degree from the University of London, his MPhil degree from Oxford University and his Doctorate degree from Yale only came second to him being a Patel. His experience as an economist at IMF, his experience as deputy IMF resident representative of the country, his experience as the adviser to RBI, his experience as executive director and member of the management committee, IDFC, his experience as non-resident India economics fellow at Brookings Institution, Washington DC, his experience at RIL in macroeconomic risk assessment and his experience as adviser (energy and infrastructure) at the Boston Consulting group all came only second to him being a Patel.
Honestly, the joke may have been a created without much thought by someone who just made the connection based on recent political proceedings. May be I am seriously overreacting. May be, I don’t know. But I still cannot avoid the thought that subconsciously the divide of caste, creed, gender, community is too deep rooted in us. I shudder everytime I am introduced to a Bengali in a non-Bengali state of India and people tell me – hey he is also from Bengal, apke desh ka hai (he is from your country). Harmless statements probably, but somehow I feel it carves out another barrier, another division in our minds, deepening our sectarianism. I am an Indian and India is my country. So why is it important if I am a Sharma or a Patel or a Chowdhury or a Fernandes or a Khan. We are all Indians. Moreover, for any job, what is more important is our qualifications and experience and skill set for the job and not our caste, religion and last names. A chef needs to know to cook, a scientist needs to know science, a dancer needs to know to dance, a singer should be able to sing, a judge should know the law. Their last names really should not matter. Their association to a religion, community, geography, caste, language should not matter. We should be judged by our qualifications and not affiliations to a community.
India is a diverse country with a population of over 1.25 billion living in 29 states and 7 union territories. With more than 2000 different ethnic groups, the country is an amalgamation of different and rich cultures. Its historical, geographical and cultural heritage inspires diversity amongst its people. But the diversity is our strength and lets not make it our weakness.