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The Other Scary ‘n’ Word- Nepotism

By Aditi Bali

The discourse over nepotism is not new to the society. It is often highlighted in the movie industry due to its visibility. Recently, discussions about inequalities in opportunities faced by those without a family name in the business have broken out like wildfire. However, nepotism is not limited to Bollywood but is pervasive in all industries and is awarded in the society. The most elementary definition of nepotism would be favoritism in the appointment of jobs. Nevertheless, it is also the presence of strong alumnus societies in colleges and universities, and referral bonuses given to employees among other things. The very existence of nepotism poses a threat to meritocracy.

Nepotism is fuelled by the concept of familiarity which can be understood by the functioning of Bollywood. Several actors such as Arjun Kapoor, Ananya Pandey, and Sonam Kapoor to name a few, survive in this cutthroat business without talent solely due to their renowned family name. It cannot be denied that producers cast ‘star kids’ in their movies over other actors. However, till the time viewers do not start giving equal importance to ‘outsiders’, producers would bank on these star kids who would sell their film, regardless of their below-average acting. This becomes a hindrance in the rise of other aspiring actors. The modelling industry’s functioning is somewhat similar too. Kendall Jenner, the fashion icon of the millennials, rose to popularity due to her family i.e. The Kardashians. Her modelling career was fuelled by nepotism and luxury brands take advantage of her pre-existing fan base and offer her work instead of employing new models to be the face of their campaign. The notion of familiarity can also be understood in terms of how the diamond industry in India functions. Most of the people involved in the diamond business are members of the same community. It is due to what can be labelled as -reciprocal nepotism, wherein people tend to trust members from their social community.

Another debate that often surfaces is whether inheritance can also be termed as a sub-division of nepotism. Parents bequeath businesses to their children but is this an act of love and affection, or does it come under the radar of nepotism? Critiques of nepotism often argue that bias to certain people based on the actions done by their parents is unfair because those worthy of the position are often left in the dark and are not given opportunities to showcase their skills. On the other hand, it is also argued that humans while assuming the role of parents want to see their children take forward their lineage. The idea of nepotism dates long back and is derived from Darwin’s theory of evolution, as man reproduced to forward his gene pool and social community. One of the primary reasons Cyrus Mistry became the chairman of the Tata Group was because the esteemed businessman, Ratan Tata does not have any children of his own. Though his competence to run the business empire is not the topic of discussion here, the reason he got the position was that nepotism was out of the question by default.

Consider life as a race. Yes, it cannot be denied that nepotism gives some a head start; however, does getting a head start ensure that that person wins the race? No. Coming to cricket, Sunil Gavaskar is among one of the world’s most renowned Indian cricketers throughout the history of the game. His son, Rohan Gavaskar also made an entry in the same field but could not make a mark. This provides a perfect example of how the family name is not the only thing, but talent, as well as personal skills, play a humongous role. Shifting our discussion to the field of politics, the prominence of the Indian National Congress in Indian politics throughout history exhibits dynastic family politics. The party has seen political success under the reign of the Nehru and Gandhi family ever since 1947. The voters are aware of the ruling style of influential leaders like Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi and have associated their offsprings i.e. Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi ( second generation ), and Rahul Gandhi ( third generation) with a similar style of leadership. However, in today’s time, Rahul Gandhi is considered to be an inefficient leader. This proves that it takes more than just a family reputation to succeed in a field.

Thus, comparison in these cases highlights how nepotism is not always favourable. To say whether nepotism is good or bad is very difficult but to put it merely, nepotism is a big grey area. The ones favoured by it would define it as well, while those who face disadvantages due to lack of ‘influential contacts’ would deem it as bad. The definition of nepotism is giving opportunities to those with influence, but that does not necessarily mean stopping other deserving people from getting work. The question that should rather be asked should be- How much nepotism is too much? Another question that should be asked is – Why does nepotism only become significant when 1% of society comes under scrutiny? The answer lies in the visibility and consumption of content. Sectors like politics, film making, or other creative fields are often more visible to the common public as opposed to the corporate world. Hence it becomes easy to call out actors and politicians on their actions. Nevertheless, instead of just taking part in infuriating debates and attacking nepotists, as viewers and avid consumers, the solution lies in changing the way we consume information. Regardless, cut-throat competition exists in every industry, and though being ‘well connected’ might give some an edge over the others, in the end, talent and hard work is what makes a person successful. The intricacies of nepotism are far too complex and cannot be understood in terms of ‘right or wrong’, but what can be agreed upon is that nepotism is a scary concept- in terms of who gets favoured.

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