The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay formula vs Gehlot quota

Srinagar, May 30: The Madhya Pradesh chief minister has favoured a nationwide “diversity law” over his Rajasthan counterpart’s recent proposal of job reservation for the upper-caste poor.

Distancing himself from Ashok Gehlot’s 14 per cent quota move, Digvijay Singh said he favoured a law to promote employment of persons from the weaker sections in the private sector.

Digvijay, now attending the two-day Congress chief ministers’ conclave here, was unconvinced about the rationality of the Rajasthan government’s decision. According to him, upper castes accounted for more than 14 per cent of government and public sector unit jobs at present; fewer job openings were available in government and PSUs and, most important, there was no constitutional provision to provide reservations on economic criteria.

Digvijay felt the time was right to enact a diversity law on the lines of the one that existed in the US, which required private sector entities to maintain a profile of their caste- and social category-wise employment patterns.

The profile would reveal how various caste and social segments were represented in the private sector, which was fast becoming the main source of employment generation in the country.

Digvijay also proposed a set of guidelines and incentives for private institutions to help them promote diversified recruitment.

Institutions run fully or partially on government grants could be told to follow the existing Central quota policy. Others who availed of government subsidy, in form or the other, could be encouraged to recruit from a cross-section of society. The subsidy could be made conditional to adhering to diversified recruitment, the chief minister said.

Digvijay’s proposed diversity law is nothing new for it echoes the oft-made political demand to extend reservation to the private sector. His aversion to the Gehlot formula not only shows the Congress chief ministers’ sharply divergent strategies for the November Assembly polls, but also reflects the AICC claim that the 14 per cent quota is only for Rajasthan.

Unlike Gehlot, Digvijay is from the upper caste and, thus, cautious enough not to send the wrong signals to the backward classes in Madhya Pradesh.

Already on the backfoot over the acute power and water crises in his state, Digvijay is wary of sparking another potential problem in an election year.

“It is not that we have not considered reservation for the weaker among the upper castes,” Digvijay said. “Way back in 1984, the Ramji Lal Commission set up by the state government had recommended 4 per cent reservation for these sections. But we also know that there is no provision in the Constitution to implement such recommendations.”

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