If a recruitment advertisement issued by a vendor of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp. left you speechless, you are not alone. The ad, placed in a newspaper by RK Associates, said it was seeking 100 male candidates of the Agarwal and Vaish communities, who had a “good family background". Caste-based selection is not just illegal—except in cases of affirmative action in favour of the historically downtrodden—but also shocking in modern India. While caste, as a concept, may once have been seen to have vocational underpinnings, it is plainly irrelevant to an individual’s proficiency and, thus eligibility, for a job.

Unfortunately, despite laws against discrimination, hoary notions of caste-determined capabilities persist. Organizations with formal structures of governance do follow the rules, but small entrepreneurial ventures tend to escape scrutiny. To be sure, the company has apologized, and its HR manager has reportedly been fired. But the incident still serves as a wake-up call: That framing laws is not enough, and their effective implementation is important. It will help if caste assumptions that fly in the face of scientific truth are duly abandoned.