New Delhi: Is the private sector next?
There has been a lot of discussion over implementing reservations for weaker sections in the private sector, which thus far is not bound by legislation on reservations. After the Supreme Court’s nod to 27% reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) in government-run higher education institutes, observers are scrutinizing whether the idea of affirmative action by employers will gain any momentum. Currently, public sector companies already follow laws to reserve 27% jobs for OBC candidates.
The court’s decision capped off several years of efforts to diversify the Indian workplace. In the last five years, private companies in India, including Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Sriram Fibres Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, and the Tata group and Lalbhai Group have been striving to make their offices more inclusive, experts say.
“Many organizations in India are tracking their employee demographics and consciously driving diversity-based recruitment,” says Ganesh Shermon, head of human capital advisory service at consultant KPMG India.
In 2006, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) set up a Council for Affirmative Action to focus on weaker sections and created a code of conduct, which has been adopted by 579 member companies.
Though voluntary, affirmative action programmes are driven through entrepreneurship development, enabling employability skills, education and workplace interventions.
“The message is percolating down to companies,” says P. Dwarakanath, director (group human capital), Max India Ltd, and a member of CII’s Council for Affirmative Action.
CII has so far trained 22,580 scheduled castes and scheduled tribes candidates to make them more employable.
Experts say the private sector will need to take up more responsibility on their own because with liberalization, the sector has more jobs, and the government and public sector companies, which have been largely providing employment to the weaker sections, are not hiring as aggressively.
“It is in the interest of organizations to have an inclusive and expansive workplace because this is the only way companies can keep up with increasing demand for talent,” says A. Sudhakar, executive vice-president (human resources), Dabur India Ltd.
Industry supports a voluntary system rather than legislation. “It ensures that people are hired only on merit and there’s only positive discrimination,” says Shermon.