15 examples of discrimination in India

Check out if you know of citizens subjected to discrimination. A new Bill against discrimination lists some common forms and points out that existing provisions have failed to protect citizens

Photo By Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo By Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Political Bureau

A comprehensive anti-discrimination Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last week by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The law is meant to cover both the public as well as the private sectors and seeks to make public servants like the police accountable for their failure to prevent discrimination.

Prepared in collaboration with Tarunabh Khaitan, an Associate Professor in Oxford who has been campaigning for such a law in India for the past several years, Dr Tharoor pointed out while introducing the Bill that “Cases of discrimination continue to be witnessed…they are frequently directed against Dalits, Muslims, Women, Persons of different sexual orientations, 'Hijras' , persons with disabilities, persons from North-Eastern States, unmarried couples and non-vegetarians, among others”.

The Bill of course will require bi-partisan support in Parliament and active support of the Union Government before it gets through a Parliamentary Standing Committee and gets passed by Parliament. It will be only the second Private Member’s Bill to be passed by Parliament if it does become the law.

One of the highlights of the draft is the painstaking listing of various kinds of discrimination citizens are subjected to and examples thereof.

Kinds of discrimination

Direct discrimination

  • An employer refuses to interview a candidate because he belongs to a Scheduled Caste. This is direct discrimination in relation to caste.
  • An employer fires a female employee after her marriage because he makes the assumption that married women do not make efficient workers. This is prima facie direct discrimination in relation to sex.
  • A hospital hires only female nurses based on the assumption that women are more caring than men. This is prima facie direct discrimination in relation to sex.
  • A housing society advertisement offers apartments on rent to married couples. This is prima facie direct discrimination in relation to marital status.
  • A university has a policy of conducting random security checks of student hostel rooms. In practice, this policy is only invoked to check rooms of Kashmiri students. This is prima facie direct discrimination in relation to ethnicity, descent and linguistic identity.

Indirect Discrimination

  • An employer pays part-time workers at a lower hourly rate than full-time workers for doing the same work. A majority of part-time workers in his establishment are women but a majority of full-time workers are men. This is prima facie indirect discrimination in relation to sex.
  • A housing society only rents out apartments to persons with a Master’s degree. In the relevant geographical area, persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes are substantially less likely to have Master’s degrees compared with others. This is prima facie indirect discrimination in relation to caste.
  • A milk delivery company has a policy of not supplying milk to butchers. Most butchers in that locality are Muslims. This is prima facie indirect discrimination in relation to religion.


  • A schoolboy, who refuses to play sports, is called a 'sissy' by his teacher. This is harassment in relation to gender identity.
  • A co-worker sprinkles 'holy water' on a machine previously operated by a colleague belonging to a scheduled caste to 'purify' it. This is harassment in relation to caste.


  • A khap panchayat orders villagers to stop all interaction with the families of a couple who belong to different religions. This is boycott in relation to religion-cum-marital status.


  • An employer operates separate canteens for upper-caste Hindus and all others.
  • A Hindu boy is threatened with violence unless he breaks off his romantic relationship with a Muslim girl.
  • An adult consenting couple, walking hand in hand in a park, is set upon by a mob which, on discovering that they are not married, forces the woman to tie a rakhi on the man's wrist.
  • A young woman has her movements restricted and monitored by her family because she is seen at a cinema hall in the company of a young man belonging to the same gotra as herself.

Discriminatory violence

  • A woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste is stripped and paraded around a village. This is an act of discriminatory violence in relation to caste and sex.

Dr Tharoor pointed out that the existing provisions meant to protect citizens against discrimination had failed. “Existing constitutional protections against discrimination under articles 14, 15, 16 and 17 are not sufficient and need to be strengthened with additional statutory protections in order to realise their intended purpose. The constitutional directives under articles 38, 39 and 46, as well as the Fundamental Duty of all citizens under clauses (c) and (e) of article 51A are also intended towards ensuring equality among all,” reads part of the objective laid down in the draft Bill.

This article was updated at 2.25 pm on March 17 to add a link to a related interview.

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Published: 17 Mar 2017, 1:46 PM