Manmohan Singh to hold meeting on affirmative action

December 22nd, 2008 - 1:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS) Amid reports of lay-offs by the corporate sector in the wake of economic slowdown, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has scheduled a meeting with all apex chambers here Monday evening to protect the interests of workers from socially backward sections of the society.The meeting comes against the backdrop of Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes stating that an estimated 65,000 people lost their jobs between August and October, as India Inc has been hit by the by recession in key economies.

Representatives of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) are scheduled to attend the Monday meeting.

The three chambers have categorically said that they would oppose any law forcing private companies to reserve jobs for members of SCs, STs and other backward classes, arguing that the social problem needed to be tackled by industry and government alike.

“We expect a follow-up on the proposal for some tax breaks for units in places where there is large SC and ST (Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe) population,” an official in the Prime Minister’s Office said, referring to the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

The government had offered a 10-year tax holiday to companies that set up manufacturing units in areas dominated by SCs, STs and other backward castes like Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

The government had recently sharply hiked the income limit to ascertain the “creamy layer” among other backward castes to make more people from socially deprived groups eligible for affirmative action for government jobs and college admissions.

Families earning more than Rs.450,000 per annum are now to be considered “creamy layer” among OBCs, up from Rs.250,000 earlier, as per the decision taken by a meeting of the union cabinet in October, chaired by Manmohan Singh.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been putting much emphasis on affirmative action by the industry for SCs and STs to upgrade their social and economic lot.

Manmohan Singh had himself put job quotas in the private sector on the national agenda by calling on industry to voluntarily extend affirmative action, saying it was time India Inc acknowledged the value of diversity and broad-based its workforce.

The prime minister’s principal secretary T.K.A. Nair heads the coordination committee on affirmative action that monitors the implementation of affirmative action by the industry.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) of the ministry of commerce and industry is another unit dealing with industry on the issue of affirmative action.

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