Why global companies must pay attention to caste discrimination among Indian H1B workers

In the sacred ancient Indian mythology, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Hindu God Krishna describes four divisions of society to his friend and devotee, Arjuna. According to the Gita (4.13), Krishna says that he is the creator of everything and there are four divisions of social order. (The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is; International Society for Krishna Consciousness.)

  1. Brahmanas- Intelligent and good
  2. Kshatriyas- The administrators, the warrior class
  3. Vaisyas- The merchants
  4. Sudras- Labor class, the ignorant

The majority of Indians who immigrate to the United States belong to the upper castes. However, in recent years, the influx of lower caste people called Dalits, who fall below the Sudras in the social order has created a caste discrimination problem among Indian H1B workers in North America.

According to Equality Labs, an organization focused on ending the caste system, Dalits were originally asked to do bonded labor and agriculture and menial tasks like manual scavenging. They have long been called “untouchables” in Indian society.

Over the years, the United States import of highly skilled Indians in the H1-B visa category has led to them bringing in their ancient thought process as well. In India, the caste system is passed on to successive generations through an oral tradition and is firmly entrenched in the minds of most Indians, especially the higher castes. Indoctrinated by familial pressures, upper caste Indians bring a sense of superiority as they arrive in the US on H-1 B visas.

Upper castes form their own groups and sub-groups within organizations and have been widely accused of discriminating against Dalits who form around 3% to 5% of the Indian diaspora in the US.

Dalit’s are discriminated by upper caste Hindus based on their skin color, their last names and the absence of the Juneau, a white thread around a person’s body worn during an initiation ceremony as a Brahman.

It’s fairly easy to find out if you are a Brahman by gently tapping the shoulders of an Indian male and if you can feel the Juneau, you can understand that the person belongs to the upper caste. Another trick is to ask if the person is a vegetarian as most Brahmans are vegetarians.

A recent case from the State of California versus Cisco shows how alleged discrimination was conducted against a Dalit employee by his upper caste superiors at work. This lawsuit alleges that Cisco engaged in unlawful employment practices on the basis of religion, ancestry, national origin, ethnicity and race/color against a Dalit employee.

The allegation adds that a hostile work environment was created and less pay and fewer opportunities for employment were offered to the employee. This 22-page litigation has prompted several other Indian Dalits working at Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Dell, Netflix and Uber to file lawsuits against employers for alleged workplace discrimination. (Silicon Valley has a caste discrimination problem. Vice News. https://www.vice.com/en/article/3azjp5/silicon-valley-has-a-caste-discrimination-problem)

Silicon Valley is dominated mostly by White men followed by Indians since 70% of the H-1 B visas are taken up predominantly by Indians. Micro-aggressions, regional favoritism at the workplace based on language, caste and color are rampant especially in teams that are predominantly Indian. It’s fairly common for Indian managers to have their underlings work on Saturdays and Sundays even as their employers, global brands of repute, remain silent.

Moreover, tight-knit groups of Indians bind themselves together and practice the same old caste system that they had followed in their home country for years. There is the North-South divide, and rampant regional favoritism in hiring at workplaces dominated by Indian teams.

Ironically, American HR professionals in large multinational companies that claim Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) on websites do not have the cultural competency nor a basic understanding of India’s multiracial society.

According to reports, Dalits who perform extremely well in their jobs have been “patted on the back” to check if they had their Juneau on to make sure they were not Brahmins. (India’s engineers have thrived in Silicon Valley. So has its caste system. https://www.inquirer.com/business/indian-caste-system-silicon-valley-microsoft-apple-oracle-facebook-20201029.html)

To make matters worse, Dalits who come out of India’s famed Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) are stamped before they arrive in US immigration points by upper caste Hindus who blame them for having received admissions through affirmative action.

So, what can multinational companies do to handle this issue that has been corrupted at the source? Here are a few tips:

  1. Ensure that American HR practitioners have a basic understanding of India and its societal order.
  2. Make the hiring process blind. Nine out of ten times, long last names of Indians can reveal anything from caste to family status and even wealth.
  3. Try not to seek counsel from existing H1Bs in your firm even if they are well-placed, instead, find neutral sources that can help you.
  4. Ensure that hiring committees include a diverse mix of people


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making decisions.

India’s most beautiful, most literate, bans alcohol

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Life in Kerala after 6:30 p.m. Half of us prefer to walk straight, the rest are going…going….

I grew up in Kerala, India’s most literate, most beautiful, most cynical and most alcoholic state. Half of us walk straight after 6:30 p.m. while the rest prefer being slanted. Over the last few years, most of us prefer being slanted after getting drunk at exactly 6:30 p.m.

Why 6:30 p.m.? This is because a lot of us  are jobless (three times the national average) and we have chosen a fixed time of the day to ask our friends about our next drink. Our own, patented and self-created happy hour begins at 6:30 p.m. and we are so knowledgeable that our conversations are not just about local happenings.

We are the most literate in India that we can talk about the Middle East peace process better than the average American who would most likely think that Gaza is  an exotic candy. In fact, we can advise Obama on how to solve Syria, deal with Netanyahu (who most of his countrymen won’t know) and help him fix most of the world’s biggest problems. All, for a drink after 6:30 p.m.

Just to clarify, we are not just the most literate, we are India’s most cynical as well. Our mornings are filled with rich content and on average, we religiously read three newspapers and watch over a dozen television channels giving us great insight on what’s happening in the world. We are a very literate society, too literate that we have forgotten to understand our own problems.

So, you may ask what is our biggest problem? Well, after 6:30 p.m., a lot of our brothers and sisters have to get drunk. I mean, we think beer and wine are for babies. We prefer pure spirit (60% plus) and adore rum and brandy. In fact, a quarter of our State’s revenues (one billion dollars annually) comes from our methodical, disciplined and globally patented consumption of alcohol at 6:30 p.m.

We have made tourists so happy that we bring in more tourism in India than any other state. Our drunken state has created innovations in healthcare so much so that we have lots of hospitals focusing on one organ, the liver.

Drinking is a family affair for us. Our children taste spirit when they are just over 13 and we beat the rest of India here too. Most Punjabi kids begin at 17, but being so literate we have to stay ahead of the game. In fact, we had a nine-year-old get so drunk from his dad’s whiskey that he finally died.

I grew up in Kerala and I know a primary reason why the State loves alcohol. The climate, the culture and our exotic cuisine pairs up with any drink in the world. Moreover, we let pseudo-communists and pseudo-capitalists rule us every four years, keeping us in the same drunken state in Olympic years.

Most of our youth are unemployed and they are pampered with remittances from the Persian Gulf or elsewhere. This inflow prompts us to  spend on alcohol. And we love the world so much that we have to imitate the West and exceed their expectations on drinking.

I was in Kerala in late June this year and struck up a conversation with a senior police officer. Within ten minutes, he opened up a half drunk bottle of rum saying that he was happy he got his morning fix. And, mind you, the sun had just risen. By 6:30 p.m. he would have gobbled at least six to ten shots as a warm up to his sunset in God’s own country.

Irrespective of gender and social strata, Keralites have started taking to alcohol so much that hospitals are flooded with people facing health issues from grapes in their livers (cirrhosis) to depression and suicidal tendencies. Finally, our government has woken up and has started a phased ban on alcohol.

Our media actively promotes it but after 6:30 p.m., sadly, most of our TV personalities who preach the ban can be seen in an underground dungeon of the Trivandrum Press Club sipping whiskey and club soda.

Call us alcoholic. But we are the most beautiful, most literate…going…going…most slanted!