The Telegraph
Thursday , November 1 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Plan for religion-based headcount in all companies

New Delhi, Oct. 31: The government is proposing to make it mandatory for all companies, in the private as well as public sector, to do a religion-based headcount of their workforce in an effort to check discrimination.

The minority affairs ministry is planning to bring a law that will require companies to reveal employee details, including religion and caste, under the proposed Equal Opportunity Commission.

“This will ensure equal opportunity for all and the government will also get a database about the religious diversity among the workforce. It will help us to tackle cases of discrimination against people from minority communities,” a senior official of the ministry told The Telegraph.

But sections of ministry officials fear that the move could run into controversy like in 2006, when the UPA government had ordered a survey in all government institutions, including the army, to ascertain the socio-economic conditions of Muslims.

The issue had caused an uproar in Parliament with the Opposition alleging that the government was trying to divide the army along communal lines.

“This is a sensitive issue and we need to proceed with caution. We have also spoken to a few corporate houses and they don’t have any problems with it. They seem to be more concerned about the controversies it may attract. We have convinced them that it is a very positive thing in the interest of minorities and is aimed at ending discrimination,” the official said.

Setting up the Equal Opportunity Commission tops the agenda of K. Rahman Khan, who has succeeded Salman Khurshid as minority affairs minister.

“The proposed commission will help us prevent discrimination along religious lines and examine diversity in institutions and ensure that all communities get equal opportunities,” Khan said.

In 2008, an expert group set up by the ministry had recommended such a commission to tackle discrimination through a system of incentives and disincentives.

But it could not be set up following disagreements over its powers because several existing commissions feared that they would become redundant.

For example, the National Commission for Minorities, which investigates cases of discrimination and violation of rights, felt it would rendered meaningless.

“Setting up of the proposed commission was first suggested by the government-appointed Sachar committee, which highlighted the poor socio-economic condition of minorities in the country and also the extreme backwardness and under-representation of Muslims in governance,” said another official of the ministry.

The commission is aimed at promoting diversity in education and employment by exercising the powers of a civil court and at curbing discrimination based on sex, religion, caste, race, birthplace and language.

“We will soon hold talks with officials from state governments on the setting up of the proposed EOC. We have to take everybody on board,” Khan said.