New Delhi: Unfilled vacancies under reserved categories, increasing social inequalities, need for reservation in private sector — these are some of the observations by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) that prepared a report commissioned by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on the progress of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs & STs) in seven decades since Independence.
The report also dismissed the ‘creamy layer’ concept, saying their number is “insignificant” in a population of over 200 million.
“The objective of this report was to analyse the exact situation of SCs & STs and where they have reached in the last seven decades. The DICCI submitted a draft to the ministry with some suggestions in February so the government can create policy support. The final draft will be submitted soon,” Milind Kamble, founder-chairman of DICCI, told ThePrint.
R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, confirmed that the ministry has received the draft report. “We have the draft report but the final report is yet to come. We will send our comments this week,” he said.
Unfilled reservations, no creamy layer
According to the draft report, accessed by ThePrint, despite reservations for SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), these seats in government jobs and education have not been duly filled.
“Even one third of the reservation vacancies could not be filled up in the first 25 years. It took 40 years to fill 50% of the ‘Group A’ reserved vacancies and 30 years for ‘Group B’. In ‘Group C’ it took 45 years to reach full scale of reservation,” the report observed. At the same time, the Scheduled Castes have lost 3,18,969 jobs due to privatisation, it added.
In terms of jobs in educational institutions too, these vacancies are largely unfilled, with 75 per cent and 55 per cent vacancies for SCs in universities for the post of professor and assistant professor, respectively, lying vacant, according to the report.
Rebutting the concept of a ‘creamy layer’ referring to socially and economically affluent members of these communities, the report said there is no such thing. “The total Scheduled Caste “Group A” and “Group B” employment in the public sector is about 3,38,606. Their political representation in the Legislatures is about a thousand individuals. This is the Creamy Layer of Scheduled Castes. In a 200 million plus population this is an insignificant number,” the report said.
Reservation in private sector
The report also pushes for reservation in the private sector.
“Our research has shown that even if employment opportunities under reservations go up to their fullest capacity, they cannot even cater to more than 1 per cent of the population. To benefit the entire population, the only source is entrepreneurship opportunities that we have identified in many areas,” DICCI president Ravi Kumar Narra told ThePrint.
“One, create reservations in civil contracts, mechanical contracts, irrigation. This can cater to the majority of the population even in the rural areas. Whenever there are mega projects, the government can give sub-contracts — that work has to be reserved for SC/STs. Second, the government can create reservations in dealerships in railways and airports where vendors and stalls are needed. Finally, the franchisee model that includes ones like KFC for instance — if they can stipulate that staff will have some reservation for SC/STs,” he added.
Job losses during pandemic
The report has noted that while SC-STs own micro and small enterprises, there is zero ownership of any medium enterprises by people of these communities.
“The Scheduled Castes own 76,06,560 micro and small units, but do not have a single medium unit,” it said.
Even in land ownership, the scales are tipped in the favour of upper castes, according to the report. “The Scheduled Castes average land holding is smaller than half of the National Average Holding of 0.592 ha,” the report said.
During the pandemic too, these communities have been hit the hardest in terms of job losses. The report noted that while only 7 per cent upper castes lost jobs during the pandemic, “it was 20% for the Scheduled Castes; 15% for the Scheduled Tribes and 14% for the OBCs during the peak period of the pandemic”.
In its suggestions to the ministry, the report has recommended a special recruitment drive to fill vacancies, a special law in the class of Labour Laws regulating jobs and job security for Scheduled Castes in the private sector, and creation of self-employment and wage employment avenues to minimise their employment for casual labour and dependence on MGNREGA.
The report also recommended that “Central and State Governments and the Public Sector Banks should vigorously encourage the Scheduled Castes start-ups to ensure that they set up 29-30 lakh MSMEs in half a decade to match their presence in the sector in proportion to their population”.
Focus on implementation
DICCI officials said the suggestions in the report only require policy change. “These reservations don’t require any investment from the government, rather only a policy change is required to help these communities. If a person is born as SC in 1947 and their condition hasn’t changed in 70 years then what is the purpose of independence?” Narra said.
However, experts ThePrint spoke to said the focus should also be on sincerity in implementation of the existing provisions.
“What is needed is sincerity and honesty implementing the constitutional provisions and mandate. Earlier tactic of converting the reserved posts into general posts by not filing them till the term ended so they can be converted to general seats ended after the SC’s intervention. But this has led to a situation where you have done this for so long that the numbers that should have been there in universities and elsewhere are simply not there,” said Apoorvanand, professor, Delhi University.
He also said budget allocations need to increase. “Without budgetary allocation and clear policy, how do you encourage people to go for self employment? Where is the training or education or even the money to invest?”
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)