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Industry begins caste count

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GAURAV CHOUDHURY AND GARIMA SINGH   |   Delhi   |   Published 27.04.06, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, April 27: India Inc has started a subtle process of a “caste headcount” of its workforce.

With the controversy over job quotas in the private sector taking political centre stage, several top Indian companies have begun an internal survey to find out the current status of caste representation in their workforce.

“Unlike the government, there was no column for castes in our job applications. But with the issue again cropping up, we are now conducting a survey of sorts internally to find out how many of our present employees belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” said a top industrialist here.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has also reportedly sought to know from its member companies the representation of different castes in their current pool of human resource.

“We have started sending out mailers to our member companies. These will constitute a major component in the final matrix of suggestions that would be formulated by the affirmative action task force headed by Dr J.J. Irani,” said a CII source.

The task force will submit its action plan in eight weeks. The plan “will focus on education, skills development, employability, entrepreneurship and social development”, said a CII official.

The new CII president and managing director of Ashok Leyland, R. Seshasayee, said in his organisation, a similar survey had yielded interesting results. “We found out, to our pleasant surprise, that as much as 55 per cent of our current employees belonged to the SC/ST/OBC community.”

In a Tata group company, too, “a survey is currently underway to establish the caste headcount”, a top executive said.

Industry appears vehemently opposed to any form of “compulsion”. “Most of our members are involved in some form of corporate social responsibility project. So far, these projects have been devoid of any caste-based approach,” said a top industrialist and a member of the CII national executive council.

The issue of job reservation came under the spotlight after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged companies to make their employee profile more “broad-based and representative” of all sections of the population. But he had spoken of affirmative action taken voluntarily.

The Prime Minister’s comment came at the inaugural plenary of the CII’s annual session.

Soon after, a delegation led by Seshasayee called on him in what was described as a routine meeting. But a source later said: “The issue was definitely a part of the discussion. The focus, however, was on empowering socially backward classes.”


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