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India Inc.'s Plan on Affirmative Action

Here is an outline of the India Inc.’s plan on how the lower castes and the poor in India can be uplifted to more fully participate in the country’s progress!

The Government wants industry to actively assist and participate in helping the underprivileged move up the economic ladder — quota or no quota. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has responded with a detailed plan on affirmative action (AA), which its says, was a better alternative than quota in private sector.

The CII’s plan is based on rural industrialisation, scholarships, job creation and skill development for the underprivileged.

The detailed presentation will form the bulwark of the J.J. Irani panel’s report, which will be submitted to the Prime Minister. On Friday, CII president R. Seshasayee and his deputy Sunil B. Mittal met the PM, making their initial pitch on the subject.

The CII Affirmative Action plan, a copy of which is with the Hindustan Times, focuses on several issues. Firstly, it says quota would be detrimental for industry’s health. Giving the example of IT companies, it says if reservations were forced on them, client companies could come under pressure from their shareholders to cancel offshoring contracts.

Also, western governments might use quotas as a non-trade barrier against the IT industry — as they have against the carpet industry.

Outlining the AA programme, the CII has proposed revamping of the financial system to promote enterprise.

It has pointed out that credit provided by nationalised banks faces problems, both in distributing it and servicing it. In this context, it has underlined the need for self-help groups (SHGs) to design appropriate financial products.

There is also a need to create centralised database of micro-enterprises. With support from CII members, there was a need to undertake a study to identify standards for micro-finance institutions.

On job creation and skill development, the CII says it would implement a nationwide skill development programme.

“Those who have studied at least up to Class VIII will be given the opportunity to learn vocational skills. Vocational skills must be imparted and is all important to ensure employability,” the CII says. Also, CII companies will give scholarships to students from backward families.

The CII will work through institute management committees to upgrade 100 ITIs identified in the first phase to improve employability.

Through its social development council, it will work with NGOs and SHGs so that the successful members from these groups are encouraged to set up their own enterprises.

In the Northeast, CII is working with various state governments to revitalise arts and crafts in villages.

It will now take this initiative a step further by getting its member companies to work with Khadi Village Industries Corporation to provide better access to markets.

Urging India Inc to function in an enlightened manner, the CII says, “Corporates don’t need to provide charity – they need to do it in their self-interest. They need to help micro-enterprises and help SHGs move up the value chain.”

The central and state governments have been urged to adapt the outsourcing model more vigorously.

This will help in creating large number of micro ventures and make the government system more accountable and performance-driven.

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Desh Kapoor

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