The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry have volunteered to implement an affirmative action plan to promote employment of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates in private sector companies.
Although the specifics have not yet been worked out, industry made it clear that it was strongly opposed to any legislation to force the issue.
Industry took this stance during a meeting with the department of industrial policy and promotion in the commerce ministry.
At the meeting, it was decided that the industry chambers would set up councils to promote persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
It was also proposed that an ombudsman of the chambers of commerce be formed to monitor and guide companies in this.
Industry has agreed to set targets for itself on affirmative action, including training more than 10,000 people and creating 100 entrepreneurs from among the disadvantaged, in a year.
Industry's views will be conveyed to the task force on affirmative action headed by TKA Nair, principal secretary to the prime minister.
Stating this, Ajay Dua, secretary, department of industrial policy and promotion, said the chambers' representatives would be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss affirmative action in six months.
Meanwhile, reports quoted Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath as saying that the government might consider enacting a law if the private sector failed to fulfill its commitment on affirmative action.
"The legal option is always open if companies do not fulfill their commitments on affirmative action," Nath said at a function.
JJ Irani, formerly chairman of CII and MD of Tata Steel, who was present at the meeting, said industry opposed the proposal to bring in a legislation on reservation of jobs in the private sector.
"Imposition of quotas through legislation will divert the attention of industry from reservation. Industry is against reservations and the chambers have decided to take voluntary action to improve employment of backward sections," he said.
In its presentation, Ficci suggested the government should promote special manufacturing clusters in districts with high population (over 40 per cent) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes people besides providing fiscal incentives.
The body has identified 27 such districts that could be developed for the underprivileged and indicated the industries that could be developed in these districts, given their resource endowments.
"We would like to partner with the government in developing industrial bases in these districts," Amit Mitra, secretary general, Ficci, said.
The CII said it was committed to partner the government in a spirit of public private partnership on a voluntary basis on initiatives in affirmative action.This model, it argued, could be used to improve employability of those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and build entrepreneurs from these communities.