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Reservation In Private Sector
For Dalits A Political Stunt

By Dr.Vivek Kumar

01 October, 2004
Sunday Pioneer

The Congress-led UPA Government has started a dialogue on affirmative action including reservations in the private sector for Dalits. It is quite possibly the first time in modern politics that a Central Government has pushed forward an agenda without genuine public demand. What is astonishing is there has not been a single move by the Dalits for such reservation but even so the Government is trying to build a consensus on the issue.

Second, this policy was declared in Maharashtra, which is going to the election polls in October. But we all know that it was in Maharashtra that Dalits have led the longest movement of "Namantar Movement" for getting Marathwada University's name changed after Babasaheb Ambedkar.

So the logical question is if a Government was not able to change the name of a university after a long movement, how is it ready to give reservation to Dalits in the private sector even without any demands by them? For this reason, it seems to be more or less a political stunt by the Congress party, which has no long-term plan for the Dalits and has lost its credentials among them at national level in general and in Maharashtra in particular.

Though there is a need for the policy of affirmative action in the private sector because of a shrinking number of Government and public sector jobs due to privatisation, liberalisation globalisation, and disinvestment, Dalits are not convinced that the policy will see the light of day in the near future.

Judging by the past record of the Congress Government, it has not been able to fulfil the allotted quota of reservation (15 per cent for the Dalits under Article 335 of the Indian Constitution in the central Government and public sectors) even 57 years after the commencement of the reservation policy. Mind you, this quota has been enshrined in the Constitution. Second, the various governments took 44 years to identify other backward classes and to begin the implementation of reservation for them. Then how can Dalits believe that the Government will implement a reservation policy that is not yet born?

That is why the whole exercise looks more like a political stunt and it seems the Congress wants to hide its own sins of not implementing the reservation in the Government and public sector and plans to shift the debate to the private sector.

If it were sincere and seriously believed that reservation is necessary for the uplift of Dalits, then it should have taken concrete steps toward filling the backlog of vacancies within the Government. What is it waiting for? The Government should immediately remove the administrative hurdles before this plan.

Various reports have shown a vast reservoir of educated and trained Dalits in every field. For instance, there are some 6,32,689 Dalit graduates today. Out of them there are 30,193 BE and 12,615 MBBS. Therefore, the Government machinery has to find some other lacunae for the posts still vacant in different sectors. The long established excuse that candidates are not available or not suitable does not hold.

Instead of taking these aforementioned steps, the Government of the day, through its Dalit faces like Meira Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan, is unsuccessfully trying to have a dialogue with only the private sector. The private sector is abusing the whole community as devoid of merit. These politicians do not have any authentic data to build an argument on the issue of reservation in the private sector. In fact, they do not have any answers for the questions raised by the private sector players asking whether it is a step against industrialisation.

Furthermore, they are unable to explain why the jobs are withering away in the Government and the private sector as depicted by the Government's own document, 'Economic Survey 2003-2004'. How can they still talk of reservation in the private sector? Do they have any answer to what the Government is doing with the money earned through the disinvestment of the public sector units? Are they allocating a certain portion of it to the welfare of the Dalits because they had a share in the form of reservation in the public sector?

These are, therefore, a few important issues which the Government should discuss to create confidence among the Dalits. It needs to make the masses aware of the reservations first in the Government/public sector. Private sector can come later. The Government should understand the spirit of the reservation policy and not make it a programme of poverty alleviation by extending it to every sector and to every caste and community, while failing to declare any modalities for its implementation.

Dr. Vivek Kumar is Asstt. Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences ,Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi







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