NAC flays decision to shrink opportunities panel | delhi | Hindustan Times
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NAC flays decision to shrink opportunities panel

The National Advisory Council (NAC) — the Sonia Gandhi-led panel that steers the UPA’s social agenda— has faulted the government’s decision to cut the scope of the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), a poll promise of the ruling Congress.

delhi Updated: Sep 17, 2010 01:39 IST
Zia Haq

The National Advisory Council (NAC) — the Sonia Gandhi-led panel that steers the UPA’s social agenda— has faulted the government’s decision to cut the scope of the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), a poll promise of the ruling Congress.

The NAC has sought a “status report” on the EOC from the minority affairs ministry along with its views, a step that the NAC usually follows before taking up an issue formally.

In August, a Group of Ministers (GoM), an interministerial panel tasked with overseeing the creation of an EOC, wanted its jurisdiction restricted to only minorities and the private sector kept out of its scope.

Without these two crucial mandates, the EOC would be a shadow of what it was intended to be, according to experts.

The EOC was originally meant to be an overarching panel acting as an anti-discriminatory legislation for not just minorities but for all groups whose identities can invite discrimination, such as Dalits, the specially-abled, sexual minorities and women, etc.

The minority affairs ministry is reworking the EOC draft legislation in light of the Group of Ministers’ decision.

Director in the ministry, Ashish Joshi, declined details on the ministry’s response to the NAC, but said: “Equal Opportunity was first mooted by (Jawaharlal) Nehru in his ‘Discovery of India’, where he said ‘backwardness of any group is not due to inherent failings in it, but principally (due) to lack of opportunities’. The EOC is an important agenda of our ministry.”

Viewing the Group of Ministers’ decision critically, the NAC said in its note: “The implications of this (a minorities-only EOC) are incredibly dangerous for our polity… It is also unjust to all other deprived groups.”

The Equal Opportunities Commission Bill, when passed, will give India its first equality law designed to prevent discrimination from taking root.