Affirmative action Rahul's new mantra
By Santwana Bhattacharya - NEW DELHI
Published: 29th Sep 2013 10:00:55 AM
After verbally tearing up an ordinance awaiting presidential consent and throwing it back at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s moving to rope in the captains of industry for some ‘affirmative action’ so that the private sector can be nudged into diversifying their workforce. In other words, they will be asked to give the “weaker sections”— SC/STs and minorities—more representation in corporate jobs.
This is going to be Rahul’s second gambit into government policy terrain, influenced by NAC activists. In this again, sources say, Rahul will be asserting himself without leaving it to either the PM and the government or Congress president Sonia Gandhi to do the formulations.
It is not the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry or the PMO, but the Congress Scheduled Caste Cell which is formulating the discussion paper on this issue set to be unveiled next month. A former joint secretary at the NAC, K Raju, who’s been inducted as the head of the party’s SC/ST cell, has been given the task of authoring the paper on affirmative action.
“We’ll be having our first interaction with stakeholders, captains of industry and social sector groups who have been working on SC/ST representation in corporate sector jobs within three to four weeks,” said Raju.
The ‘affirmative action’ for diversification of corporate sector workforce to increase employment opportunities for Dalits and minorities, was first initiated during UPA’s first tenure. But the initiative was still-born, since the ‘affirmative action’ proposal started acquiring tones of compulsory reservation.
Raju, however, is careful to underline that Rahul’s initiative is only about “affirmative action’’ and not job reservation. “We’re preparing data to see whether reservation in education and employment has had its desired result,’’ he said. Both CII and FICCI have been roped in as host platforms for interactions with the likes of Amiz Premji, the Tatas and the Mahindras.
Five top corporate honchos from the employment generating sectors have been identified—IT, manufacturing, civil aviation, hotel and hospitality sector and telecom—have been identified. “We’ve realised that to send across a message, it is important to tap leaders of the industry and not the small players,” another close aide of Rahul, who liaisons between the party and the Social Justice Ministry, said.
However, it seems, it is not lost on Rahul that the biggest employment generator for Dalits and backward communities are the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. Census data shows that “MSMEs which are owned by Dalit entrepreneurs tend to employ more SC/STs, so we will also be focusing on how through targeted intervention these can be increased,’’ Raju added.
All efforts are being made to bring this “new idea of empowerment’’ to fruition by the end of this year, so Congress can go to polls with yet another bonanza in hand. But, this time it won’t be Sonia Gandhi or the PM who will get the credit. This will be Rahul’s first solo show.
The Congress may be acting coy about projecting him as PM aspirant, but he himself seems to have left some of his inhibitions that stopped him from assuming a ministerial position in Manmohan’s Cabinet or a pro-active role within the party’s decision-making bodies. He’s now ready for intervention on issues close to his heart, a trusted Rahul aide said.
It’s not an open power struggle though, aides insisted. However, they do not deny that Rahul suddenly appears to be in a hurry to make his mark in politics prior to the 2014 elections. For this, he has set up his own parallel units within the AICC, by inducting people he can vibe well with.