Dalit reservation in private sector should include legal safeguards of equal opportunities and non-discrimination

dalit manifestroThe National Coalition on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC-ST PoA Act), which is the apex body of more than 500 community-based social organizations across India, following a series of consultations in the past few months, has come up with the Dalit Election Manifesto 2014 for the 16th Lok Sabha elections. Running into 28 pages, reproduced below is the portion which argues in favour of providing reservation to Dalits in private sector:

Dalits continue to be one of the poorest segments of the Indian population. Many remain confined to their traditional menial and lowly valued caste occupations even today. They form a bulk of the informal, unorganized sector workers, who subsist on low wages with poor working conditions and no social security. They also continue to face widespread exclusion and discrimination in the arena of labour and employment. Policy and legislative measures to promote equal rights and opportunities for Dalits in employment, including reservations in government employment, have not made sufficient inroads into this situation to date. They continue to be significantly underrepresented in most professional jobs and in the private sector.

In particular, Dalit representation in India’s high industries, exports, imports and electronic industries sector is dismal. Moreover, public sector divestment is estimated to have left a large number of Dalit employees jobless. While reservations in government jobs exist, this does not yet extend to the private sector. Dalits remain restricted to caste-based manual labour occupations or congregated around the bottom rung of government services.

In 2004-05, 95% of SC/STs were in the unorganised sector, a sector that is synonymous with low wages and lack of employment or social security. The situation has not fundamentally changed in 2013. According to the Working Group on the Empowerment of SCs, over 1,13,450 job opportunities were lost by SCs in the central government in a period of ten years. A decline of 10.07% job opportunities was noticeable. This is in addition to the loss of opportunities in various state government employment sectors.

SCs are under-represented in the ownership of enterprises. SCs accounted for 16.4% of India’s population in 2001, but owned only 9.8% of all enterprises in 2005, which employed 8.1% of all non-farm workers.

At present, Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) constitute an overwhelming majority of the enterprises sector and contribute significantly employment generation. Among registered MSMEs, however, only 10.2% are owned by SC entrepreneurs in rural areas and only in 5.5% in urban areas. Moreover, 98.4% of SC enterprises are micro enterprises.

Therefore, specific legal, policy, programmatic and budgetary measures are required to ensure prohibition of caste discrimination in employment, removal of customary constraints on leaving traditional caste-based occupations, promotion of gainful alternative employment opportunities and full access to labour markets.

In specific terms, the following must be ensured:

1. Introduce special legislative measures

a) National and State Governments should enact equal opportunity and equality laws and other measures that prohibit discrimination in capital market, labour hiring, work place, private enterprises, etc.

b) The Unorganised Workers Social Security Bill should be adopted without any further delay and social security provisions for workers must be implemented urgently in the unorganized sectors as due to the current neo-liberal economic policy reforms the labourers have been at the receiving end.

c) Equal attention should be given to Dalit women domestic workers.

2. Develop and implement Special Employment Policies

a) Evolve Comprehensive Employment Policy covering private sector employment, with special emphasis on the Scheduled Castes, such as private employment market, private capital market, private education and housing, access to inputs, products and consumer goods market.

b) Give priority to SCs in MNREGS or similar schemes of employment and ensure that payment is made by ensuring minimum standard of wages and without any deduction by corrupt officials or political elements.

c) Implement the 4% procurement policy of the government effectively and ensure that the government develops and supports upcoming entrepreneurs to benefit from this policy.

3. Reservation in Private Sector

a) Extend reservation to private sector and ensure that it applies to multiple spheres, namely, private employment, market, private capital market, agricultural land, private education and housing, access to inputs and services, products and consumer goods.

b) Reservation in private sector should include legal safeguards of equal opportunities and non-discrimination. It should be in proportion to population and ensure putting in place adequate monitoring mechanisms.

c) The government should develop a policy to increase the share of Dalit employees in share capital of the private and cooperative sector.

d) The government should lay down a legally binding clause at the time of disinvestments of public sector enterprises that the new management shall observe and continue the reservation policy for appointment to various posts.

e) The private sector banks and financial institutions should be mandated to have a certain proportion in lending finance to Dalits in business enterprises.

f) Enact a comprehensive Act on reservations, extending reservations in those areas of the public sector so far left out of the ambit of the reservation policy, and also covering the private sector.

g) Institutions such as Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Associated Chamber of Commerce (ASSOCHAM) should lead efforts to ensure that the reservation policy is extended to the private sector.

4. Reservations and filling backlogs to SCs

a) Provide reservations to SCs in the Judiciary, Defense, and the Upper Houses in Parliament.

b) Fill all vacant scheduled-caste reservation posts with Dalit candidates and as recommended by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

c) Provide legal safeguards against caste-based discrimination and strategies for fair and adequate access to various markets in the form of reservation policy.

5. Entrepreneurial Opportunities

a) Create entrepreneurial opportunities in the private sector ensuring that credit facilities are made available to SCs to enhance their production and business and by establishing market linkages for sale and distribution.

b) Promote small business enterprises and make similar efforts towards ensuring that SC and ST entrepreneurs avail of contracts from public and private companies in proportion to their population percentages.

6. Skill Development and Trainings

a) Provide adequate and targeted vocational training initiatives in order to equip SC youth with new and alternative, gainful employment opportunities. This must be coupled with methods to reach information on such initiatives to SC communities in rural and urban areas, in order to facilitate their access to such opportunities.

b) Mobilize and channelize funds from the corporate sector for the skill development and training programme of the SC communities. The corporate sector should bemade to realize its social responsibility and should adopt villages having SC concentration for imparting training to SC youth in such trades, which can subsequently pave the way for employing them in such industries.

c) Ensure that adequate trainings are provided to augment the capabilities of the SC/ST employed persons as the employment proviso made for SC in all the private sector companies and enterprises as proposed in SCSP/TSP legislation.

Download the Dalit Election Manifesto 2014 by clicking HERE

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