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Industry plan to pre-empt quotas

New Delhi, April 20: The corporate sector is hoping to dissuade the government from trying to ram a proposed caste-based job reservation scheme down their throats by drawing up an alternative “action plan” that seeks to uplift socially backward classes.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the apex industry forum, has formed a task force headed by J.J. Irani to submit a plan that will be implemented by India Inc.

The task force will submit its recommendations in eight weeks. It will focus on education, skills development, employability, entrepreneurship and social development of the underprivileged classes.

The industry also cautioned against any proposal to enforce reservation through legislation. The corporate sector has been agog with speculation on such a law ever since the Prime Minister sought affirmative action, though he had stressed that the initiative should be “voluntary”.

“Mandatory reservation in any form is not conducive to competitiveness of industry. It is not acceptable,” said R. Seshasayee, the newly-elected president of CII at his inaugural press conference. “We are asking the industry to build capacity for the underprivileged classes. But no form of reservation is favoured.”

He said the private sector should address issues related to employment and trade apprenticeship to ensure more avenues for the backward classes. “There should be no discrimination while competing for jobs,” said Seshasayee.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has suggested a public-private partnership “to empower Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Class youths to get a fair deal in the job market”. This proposal also focuses on education.

Companies like Maruti Udyog Limited, Tata Motors and Ranbaxy expect CII to spearhead the talks with the Centre.

“I am not shouting, but I strongly believe that mandatory reservation will take us down the wrong path,” said Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Auto.

Adopting a more cautious stand, a spokesperson for Reliance Industries said: “This is an issue on which the government will decide after extensive discussions with industry. We are confident that they will take the right decision.”

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