//Affirmative action, not quota, in private sector

Affirmative action, not quota, in private sector

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, November 30, 2006
The Sachar panel has recommended incentives for the private sector to get them to improve minority participation. The report talks of 'affirmative action' but does not recommend reservation.

In a specific recommendation on 'incentives for improving diversity', the committee has suggested that companies providing opportunity to all communities should be branded as 'Equal Opportunity Institutions' and should be eligible for government incentives.

It said such initiatives on diversity should be part of the 'corporate social responsibility' and that some affirmative action can help initiate the process.

But the champions of reservation do not have much to cheer. The report terms a separate quota 'constitutionally untenable'. When the issue was debated in the committee, everyone agreed that Muslims should benefit from reservation but there were differences over who among Muslims should get it. Some argued that this facility should be available only for 'Dalits,' others demanded reservation for all.

According to the 61th National Sample Survey, the OBC population among Muslims is 40.7 per cent and it is 43 per cent among Hindus. But of the total 40.7 per cent OBCs in India, 34 per cent are Hindu OBCs and 6.4 are Muslim OBCs.

But the committee believes that the percentage of OBC Muslims will increase if all backwards in the community are included in both the state and central list of Other Backward Classes.

The report says backward groups, including the Ashrafs and Ajlafs, should be identified with help from the Anthropological Survey of India.

The committee wanted backward Muslims to get benefits similar to Hindu OBCs. Only Arzals, who share a traditional occupation with the SCs, have been recommended for reservation since they were "cumulatively oppressed". "Arzals are widely believed to have been Hindu untouchables who converted. The change in religion has not brought about any change in their social or economic status," the report said.

To improve employment opportunities, the committee sought more jobs for Muslims in teaching, health services, police forces and in banks. In a bid to fix accountability, the report recommended that each government department should furnish details once every three months on its website about the money spent and action on schemes for minority welfare.

A different kind of affirmative action has been recommended in government schemes. To help minorities get loans, the committee recommended that they should have better access to institutions like NABARD and NMDFC.

All districts with 25 per cent Muslim population or more should be brought under the Prime Minister's 15-point programme, the report said. A special package for development of these districts should be started, it said.

In a bid to further improve inclusiveness, the panel has recommended that financial incentive should be given to builders to providing housing to diverse communities.

Email Chetan Chauhan: [email protected]