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Calling private unlimited

What Mr Singh in his statement suggests is something of a partnership with industry. This does not ? and should not mean ? injecting the debilitating PSU ailment of quotas in the private sector.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 00:46 IST


When the Prime Minister makes an appeal to the captains of industry to “seriously consider enhancing educational and employment opportunities for weaker sections, investing in their skill enhancement and promoting their employment in an affirmative manner”, it is odd to find warning bells ringing all around. Nowhere in his address at the annual conference of the CII did Manmohan Singh use the word ‘quotas’ in the context of the private sector. What he did was ask companies to assess the diversity in their employee profiles and commit voluntarily to make it more “broadbased and representative”.

However, there may be an understandable reason why, despite Mr Singh’s invitation to India Inc. to ensure that no segment of society gets left behind because of their caste, creed or gender, many ears have heard a clarion call for job reservations. His party colleagues like Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and HRD Minister Arjun Singh have been blunt about their methods of choice when it comes to social justice. The former has stated his belief in enacting job reservations in the private sector by constitutional amendments and bringing in a new law; the latter has gone on an overdrive to reserve seats in institutions of higher reservations. In our view, both Mr Pawar and Arjun Singh are wrong and seem to be driven by what they believe will be the easy payback route of vote bank politics. Prime Minister Singh, on the other hand, has been nuanced and rational about the need to ensure that no one gets left behind as the country surges ahead. In fact, he has turned down Mr Pawar’s suggestion, and there is no reason to believe why he would succumb to gesture-politics all of a sudden.

What Mr Singh in his statement suggests is something of a partnership with industry. This does not — and should not mean — injecting the debilitating PSU ailment of quotas in the private sector. India Inc., whether one is comfortable accepting this fact or not, has become a driving force in the development of the new India. It is only logical that this engine is brought tighter into the loop of this developmental process and that the benefits of this economic success story is channeled to weaker sections of our population. To mistake such talk of ‘welfarism’ for a veiled attempt to ‘force’ reservations down the private sector’s throat is as wrong as replacing merit with something else that can harm India’s future as a knowledge-based, economically charged nation.