Affirmative Action in Private Sector
Even without having achieved substantial economic growth with justice as envisaged in the five-year plans, the Democratic Republic of India has ventured into New Economic Policy (NEP) and Privatization of Public Sectors. Needless to state therefore that the chunk of Indian populace, particularly those marginalized and oppressed due to historical reasons, remained neglected. This has perpetuated caste and various other forms of discrimination and gross inequalities. It is all the more important to know the economic and social status of the marginalized where the thrust of various welfare organizations and policy makers be directed.
The contrary is however true. It is assumed that whatever little progress the SC/ST’s (read marginalized) have achieved is due to the welfare state for having assigned the most important and active role in the process of socio-economic development. Statistics of the same is available in the various report of National Commission for SC/ST’s and other surveys carried out from time to time. The available record in terms of recruitment speaks volumes that the participation of this section of Indian population is inadequate.
There are safeguards in the Indian constitution for SC/ ST’s viz., Directive Principles of State Policy, social, educational and cultural, service safeguards and by providing statues and legislations. However, the very participation of the marginalized group proportionate to their population in the organized services/ sectors of the state i.e. Judiciary, Press, Education and Defense is still a distant dream. On the contrary, their presence as agricultural laborers, menial jobs, illiterates homeless, landless ones is disproportionate.
The issue is whether the sector with no state control, with no safeguards/ directives would achieve substantial economic growth and provide justice to the marginalized. The next is whether private sector is purely a private sector without any base or whether it is an establishment carved out from the already set-up public undertaking. It has been observed that the majority of them been carved out of the already existing ones on the grounds that the PSUs were making losses, but many profit making ones have been privatized making the argument redundant. In a recently-held meeting with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment with industry barons, most of the industrial houses have opposed to the reservation in private sector vehemently. Let’s assume for instance that the policy of reservation will not be there then what steps are there in the mind of the government to encompass and accommodate such a large section of society for their upliftment (leave aside bridging social, economic and political inequalities).
The issue is not of privatization alone but of the policies and processes mandatory for the developing economies under new world regime i.e. World Trade Organization. How will they affect issues of equity and participation of people for capacity building and affirmative actions for the disadvantaged sections. Although the policies of present UPA government as per the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) is very clear about the policy of privatization of public sector, it is equally unclear about the importance of affirmative action and rightful direction of the state towards public sector by making mandatory constitutional amendments and legislations.
Therefore the issue is not only of affirmative action but also of participation of marginalized sections of society in the areas where state is withdrawing from its responsibilities. This is Herculean both for the Government and the people of this country for seeking employment, resource sharing, capacity building of the people, rights of livelihood and sustainability. In absence of affirmative action, it will be back to square one where there shall be poverty and illiteracy. The prospect of the marginalized joining the mainstream of development will be bleak, not only for historic reasons but others and it will be the same old tryst with their destiny.
[Dr. Nand Kisore More is a Faculty at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Central university Lucknow]