New Delhi, Nov. 7 -- 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 capabilitie...