The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Relief policy on PM’s lips

New Delhi, April 18: A day after the Supreme Court called for a “statesman-like” approach in tackling issues like the Narmada dam, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for a “credible mechanism” to avoid confrontation and asked industry to ensure that development is not perceived as a “threat to lives and habitats”.

Using the platform of the annual conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to start a development-versus-displacement debate, Singh also touched upon another sensitive issue: job reservation in the private sector.

But the Prime Minister steered clear of controversy, stressing that the initiative should come “voluntarily”.

“I urge you to assess at a firm level, the diversity in your employee profile and commit yourself voluntarily to making it more broad-based and representative of our nation, at large. Such affirmative action on your part can be a crucial component of the inclusive society... we all hope to build,” he told the captains of industry.

The corporate sector has been so far saying that it would promote efforts to train and improve skills of aspirants from the backward sections so that they can find employment in private companies on their own merit.

Some industrialists were fairly vocal against any move for mandatory reservation. “The government may feel good or bad but such an approach will only take the economy down,” Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Auto said later.

On development ' one of the most controversial issues in states like Jharkhand and Orissa which are banking on a slew of big-ticket investment proposals ' the Prime Minister asked the industry to ensure that projects are undertaken in “a cost-effective, environment-friendly and least disruptive manner”.

Singh said the issue of “development, displacement and environment” should be addressed in a manner whereby all stakeholders benefit to some degree. “We need to quickly evolve a credible mechanism whereby these issues do not generate confrontations.”

The Prime Minister seems to be preparing the ground for a uniform policy on rehabilitation, though he did not elaborate. The government is working on a blueprint for central public sector units that acquire tribal land for development, the key factor of which is a proposal to allow the displaced to put the compensation package to vote.

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