Private companies in India need to set aside a fixed proportion of jobs for people from marginalised sections, a statutory government panel has recommended, reviving the debate of extending employment quotas to private sector.
The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) advised enacting a legislation that would make it mandatory for private entities, including cooperative and philanthropic organisations, to reserve 27% of all hiring for people from the so-called other backward classes (OBCs).
“It has been a long-pending demand. Job opportunities in government and public sector are shrinking and it is the duty of the private sector to provide reservation to marginalised sections of the society,” NCBC member Shakeel-uz-Zaman Ansari told HT.
He confirmed that the commission forwarded the recommendation to the department of personnel and training (DoPT) and the social justice ministry.
Quotas are the rule in government jobs and schools in India with politics often holding sway over who gets benefits, while critics urge for a transition to need-based programmes that provide advantages based on economic or geographic conditions.
The NCBC, headed by Justice V Eswaraiah, has argued that the private sector does not follow “positive affirmative recruitment” policies as advocated by previous governments.
While the BJP-led government had been silent on the issue, union minister Ram Vilas Paswan last week once again raked up the demand for reservation in the private sector. The Congress and Left parties too have raised the matter several times in the past.
The move, if implemented, can potentially trigger howls of protest from industry bodies which have consistently opposed any form of legislative job reservation system and favoured a voluntary “affirmative action” initiative to offer opportunities to such people.
“Reservation requires to be provided in the private sector, not only for SCs (scheduled castes) and STs (scheduled tribes) but also for OBCs,” the NCBC said.
The commission’s mandate is limited to the OBCs and its recommendations are “ordinarily” binding on the government unless it has some strong reasons to reject the advice, experts say.
Over the last decade, the private sector has added far more jobs than the government and state-owned organisations.
The number of people employed in the government has fallen from 18.2 million in 2006 to 17.6 million in 2012, according to official estimates, a decline of 3.3%. This compares poorly with job creation in the private sector that has added an additional 3.13 million jobs during the period— a 35.7% growth from 8.77 million in 2006 to 11.9 million in 2012.
Private companies largely follow their own hiring rules based on specific skill and industry needs. For instance, the top blue chip private companies mostly make their fresh recruitments from business schools and engineering campuses, as opposed to state-owned enterprises that have to reserve jobs for people from the scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs) and OBCs.
The commission has said that private companies have been taking a large number of benefits from the government and “every possible advantage for its growth but sufficient candidates” from the SC, ST and OBC categories were not getting entry into the private sector.