Caste, 'quotas' and discrimination in India


affirmative action
creamy layer
higher education
market rationality


Ashwini Deshpande is Professor of Economics at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India. Her Ph.D. and early publications have been on the international debt crisis of the 1980s. Subsequently, she has been working on the economics of discrimination and affirmative action issues, with a focus on caste and gender in India. She has published extensively in leading scholarly journals. She is the author of "Grammar of Caste: economic discrimination in contemporary India", OUP, hardcover 2011 and paperback 2017, forthcoming; and "Affirmative Action in India", OUP, Oxford India Short Introductions series, 2013. She received the EXIM Bank award for outstanding dissertation (now called the IERA Award) in 1994, and the 2007 VKRV Rao Award for Indian economists under 45.

In this interview she talks about her work on caste-based ‘quotas’ or ‘reservation’ (terms for affirmative action in India) and their impact. Her work helps demolish several of the myths around quotas and assumes tremendous significance in a polity where reservation policy faces severe opposition from the elite even as it drives electoral politics in many regions of the country. In view of recent developments on university campuses in India, such quantitative work at the interface of sociology, economics and social psychology, becomes important evidence supporting affirmative action and exposing myths of “merit”-based selection processes and “market rationality”.

Further details of Ashwini Deshpande’s current and previous work can be found on her department webpage:
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