Monday, 30th October 2017

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Sops to spur firms to recruit Dalits

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  • Published 24.12.09

New Delhi, Dec. 23: India Inc. doesn’t want a job quota forced down its throat. So the government has come up with an alternative and a bit of wordplay — “positive discrimination” — with tax exemptions and other benefits as carrots.

An official said the Centre was thinking of an incentive-linked scheme to ensure better placements for Dalits in the private sector, a plan similar to benefits it has proposed for corporate houses that employ religious minorities on a large enough scale.

“All these affirmative initiatives should be seen in the larger context of the proposed equal opportunity commission aimed at ensuring equal representation for all irrespective of sex, religion, caste, race, birthplace, descent and language,” said the official with the social justice ministry. “All these actions have the potential to redraw the future of India.”

But he made it clear it wouldn’t be at the cost of merit. “We are not asking companies to sacrifice merit. We are just asking them to give preference to a Dalit candidate if he or she is equally good as anyone else. It will not amount to reservation but it will be a kind of positive discrimination,” the official said.

Implicit in the words positive discrimination was the hope private firms would find the proposal more palatable than a job quota which industry rejected outright saying it would scuttle “meritocracy”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to intervene by saying affirmative action shouldn’t be “pushed down anybody’s throat”, though he reminded corporate houses of their social responsibilities.

The official said the government would consider incentives like tax exemptions for companies that give preference to Dalits and added that the corporate affairs ministry had been assigned the task of working out the benefits.

The ministry, he added, was in touch with industrial houses, including the Tata group, which has reacted positively.

The suggestion, mooted by the ministry in line with the UPA government’s commitment to uplift weaker sections, follows the minority ministry’s incentive-linked scheme for corporate houses for employing religious minorities.

Under that plan, expected to be implemented by the end of next year, the government would train a certain number of minority job seekers for private-sector employment at its own cost, a source in the minority ministry had said.

Sources in the social justice department said their ministry, too, was working on a public-private partnership model to encourage private sector companies to step up hiring from disadvantaged sections, particularly Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. “We are planning to give training to candidates keeping an eye on the requirements of the private sector job market,” the official said.

While ministry officials fine-tuned the plan, a Dalit organisation said its leaders would go on a fast-unto-death for private sector job quota.