It was sometime in 50s. My two uncles were having their schooling at Birla Institution in Pilani. The companies of Birlas used to bear all expenses including food and dress, with perhaps a small pocket money too. My grandfather was working as teacher in the school of the jute mills of Birla. The company had the scheme for educating the wards of the employees. I knew many from the families of the lowly paid employees getting benefited by the scheme. Otherwise they would have found it difficult to educate their children in so good an educational institute in Pilani. I was reminded of these affirmativr actions of the big business houses in good old days, when I read about the voluntarily proposed affirmative actions that the companies under the umbrella of CII and FICII will be taking.
The present government adamancy or threat to introduce quota for OBC and SC/ST in private sector reminds us the nationalization drive of Indira Gandhi to get popular at the cost of the nation’s economy. Though organized sector hardly employ 2% of the total workforce, but still this reservation bogey of the government is to create a visible image of following the progressive and socially inclusive policies. Indian companies and its associations are unequivocally against legislation for reservation. And it presented a voluntary affirmative action plan for its members. Some salient features are:
Give preference to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates, if they possessed skills equal to that of a general category aspirant.
Focus the action plan for affirmative actions on education, skill development, employability, entrepreneurship and social development:
1.Create 100 entrepreneurs from among SC/ STs every year.
2.Sponsor coaching for 10,000 students for entrance examinations in 10 universities and professional institutes that will be enhanced to 50,000 by 2009.
3.Institute 100 scholarships for study in premier institutes
4.Institute 5 scholarships for studies in overseas universities in year 1; to scale up to 50 in 5 years.
5.Individual companies will reserve seats and institute scholarships in schools run by affiliates
Disclose in the balance sheets the number of SC/ST employees hired during the year.
Though all these steps are worthwhile, some other actions will be more beneficial for the employees in general and weaker section in particular:
1.The companies must go to adopt and start more and more trade schools. There must be sufficient number of good trade schools to accommodate all willing students who appear or pass class X.
2.As a social responsibility, the HR of the company must encourage and motivate the employees of weaker sections to get their children educated and go for trade training at least, if they fail to get into higher professional educational institutes even after coaching.
3.CII and FICII with banks must ensure that all students of weaker class if selected for a professional school will get the financial assistance or loan on easy terms.
4.As an extension of assistance for entrepreneurship, all the professionally qualified and interested persons from weaker section will get easier financial assistance from different financial institutions to start a business.
While most of the bigger companies are doing something to educate and train their employees, but it’s main thrust is to make them useful for their own companies. The HR must also emphasize to create an atmosphere for the education for the next generation employees.