Reservation in Private Sector for Dalits a Political Stunt

Sunday Pioneer,

26th Sep 2004

Political stunt

Vivek Kumar, Asst Professor, Sociology, JNU
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

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

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
Asstt. Professor
Centre for the Study of Social Systems
School of Social Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi - 110 067

Tel. : (0091) - 011- 26704425 (O)
- 26713350 (R)

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