With its eyes fixed on the minority vote bank, the UPA government on Thursday cleared a proposal to set up the much-awaited Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), a statutory body to check discrimination against minority communities in jobs and education.
The EOC had been one of the major recommendations of the Justice Sachar Committee, which went into the socio-economic backwardness of the Muslim community. The Cabinet approval, however, is for a much watered down version of the EOC than the original proposal.
Initially touted as the “ultimate equaliser that an unequal Indian Society can get”, the EOC will now deal with only minority rights as the government failed to resolve the turf wars between different ministries over the mandate.
The Ministry of Social Justice had argued that since the EOC was supposed to deal with the larger issue of social justice and equality, it should be under its purview. The Home Ministry contended that the EOC would be an overlapping commission and should therefore be kept under its wing. The ministries of Women
and Child Development and HRD also vied to be the EOC’s nodal ministry since the body was slated to be the big brother of all commissions and eventually replace the Human Rights, SC/ST and Women’s commissions.
The EOC’s mandate now would be to make binding recommendations to ensure that no minority community is discriminated against on religious grounds. It will also deal with grievances like denial of accommodation or buying rights to minorities in housing societies.