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Quota: India Inc must think fast

The industry says reservation is not acceptable, for it is not the solution to the problem, writes Sandeep Bamzai.

india Updated: May 09, 2006 02:24 IST

Industry is moving with alacrity as it attempts to cauterize the job reservation wound. CII Task Force headed by Dr JJ Irani will meet on Thursday to essentially put together a roadmap for Affirmative Action (AA). Since the Task Force is to submit its report by June 15 to the Prime Minister, a sense of urgency has enveloped the group.

The Task Force includes former presidents Subodh Bhargava and Sunil Kant Munjal, as also Ballarpur Industries Chairman Gautam Thapar and the four regional Chairmen of CII — M Laxminarayan, Joint MD Mico (South); Bhushan L Raina, MD of Tinplate Company of India (East); Adarsh Gupta, CEO Liberty Shoes (North) and Farhad Forbes, Director, Forbes Marshall. Some senior functionaries of Tata Steel are likely to attend the meeting. The first meeting had taken place on May 2.

Sunil Kant Munjal, former CCI president and a member of the Task Force, told the Hindustan Times, “In many ways, the agenda of the meeting is to define the agenda for AA. What is it that industry needs to do? I reckon the bulwarks of the AA plan will have to be training, education and skill development. Skilled labour tools will have to be dramatically upgraded.” As such, CII’s Task Force will design a set of courses and send it out to its constituents for implementation. In fact, Munjal added that the courses could even be sent out to industry for a dekko.

Subodh Bhargava, known not to mince words, said, “CII’s position is very clear. Reservation in any form is simply not acceptable for it is not the solution to the problem of uplifting the socially underprivileged. I agree that the underprivileged need to break their own form of glass ceilings by becoming officers and executives, but let me tell you that there has never been any social bias against them. Industry is willing to work with government to build capabilities and bridge gaps, but at no time can they ram anything down our throats.”

Bhargava is of the opinion that a three-stage process needs to be evolved. He thinks that corporate India could play a very important role in bettering primary education for the underprivileged. At the same time, he feels that financing and training, both vocational and managerial, with an emphasis on building up faculties in higher educational institutions, is something that India Inc could definitely participate in. Finally, he wants industry to help through a collaborative model in entrepreneurship development and building. But, he is quick to add, “This issue has to be rationalised, it cannot be thrust down on us, there has to be a dialogue. If that doesn’t happen, then we would have to look at other alternatives. In my view, this is a failure of governance. It is only when push comes to shove that industry is asked to take care of the welfare measures.” Bhargava, like Munjal, wants industry and government to create a collaborative model. Munjal summed up by saying, “Affirmative Action is the only way to go. We cannot accept reservations, but at the same time one cannot ignore the underprivileged either.”

A middle ground will have to be found, otherwise, as Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Auto told HT, only recourse will be to move court.