In India, low-caste and minority individuals often have difficultly ascending the social ladder. Discrimination against the low-caste individuals has been extensively documented. In order aid these disadvantaged groups, the Indian government has increased the quota for low-caste and minority physicians at state-run hospitals. The International Herald Tribune (“Doctor’s Strike…“) reports that “22.5 percent of jobs at government hospitals go to low-caste Hindus and students from ethnic minority backgrounds,” but the new proposal will raise the percentage to 49.5%. In response, many physicians and medical students have called a strike which threatens to cripple services at major state-run facilities.
While giving opportunities to the disadvantaged may be socially desirable, affirmative action will (at least initially) give preferential job treatment to less productive physicians. Balancing the trade-off between increasing the opportunity for the disadvantaged and allowing employers to hire freely is a delicate matter.