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Open minds can negate prejudices against casteism

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It is no surprise that the Class IV workers of JJ Hospital and other state-run hospitals are protesting against the insulting language allegedly used by JJ’s dean, Dr TP Lahane, against one of them

It is no surprise that the Class IV workers of JJ Hospital and other state-run hospitals are protesting against the insulting language allegedly used by JJ’s dean, Dr TP Lahane, against one of them.

In Dr Lahane’s defence, it is being said that the allegation is concocted, as the workers have not been given permanent appointments for years, and they bear a grudge against the administration. However, as there were witnesses to the incident, it is unlikely that it was the invention of some disgruntled employees. There is no call to bring in anyone’s social background in a work environment, and if Dr Lahane had an issue with the worker’s performance, there are many ways he could have addressed it, without using an abusive word.

In our enlightened times, to use a caste-based word in an insulting manner is nothing but abuse. At the same time, it is no secret that discrimination and abuse based on caste is rife all over the country, and formal education does little to dispel it.

Caste and class may be hard-wired into our social conditioning but it is, after all, conditioning — and it can be reversed. In a truly egalitarian society, people should be judged by their character and behaviour, and by their work performance at their workplace. Which ancient hereditary class one belongs to, is not relevant.

The reality, of course, is that it is deemed to be relevant in practically every aspect of our lives, no matter how illogical its application. But then, who said that logic had anything to do with life in India? The proliferation of quacks and others who make a quick buck out of people’s superstitions alone is proof that we are very far from being
a rational, logical society. However, at work, we have to don a different hat, regardless of who we may think we are otherwise. 

We have laws in place to ensure that caste-based discrimination and abuse is punished. But, laws can only do so much. To bring about real change, our thinking itself has to change. Otherwise, we will be taking two steps backwards every time an incident like this occurs.

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