New Delhi: Making a strong pitch for the formation of Equal Opportunity Commission without any change in its mandate, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the body will boost the government`s efforts for affirmative action to help the disadvantaged sections of society.
"If EOC comes, affirmative action will get a shot in the arm. Right now affirmative action is all about advocacy, motivation, pushing, cajoling people. EOC will ensure that
both private and public sectors respond to affirmative action plans of the government," Khurshid told a news agency in an interview.
The formation of EOC, which aims at ensuring affirmative action for all deprived groups by enforcing diversity index for both public and private sectors, was recommended by the
Sachar Committee that went into the socio-economic conditions of minorities and has been on the priority list of both the UPA I and UPA II. It is now under consideration of a GoM.
However, even after two meetings of the high-profile GoM chaired by Defence Minister AK Antony, differences still persist over the mandate and location of the ministry.
While a number of existing national commissions looking after scheduled castes, minorities, women have apprehended that EOC can encroach upon their mandate, there have also been sharp differences on whether the EOC should function under Ministry of Minority Affairs or Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment headed by Mukul Wasnik.
Khurshid refused to give a time-frame for EOC formation.
"There is no timeline. GoM has never given any time line...the sooner the better. It`s a dramatic step and I don`t think one should take a dramatic step in a hurry and then
regret later. We have to keep all stakeholders convinced and take everybody on board and then move in a consensual manner," he said.
Claiming that "things are moving", Khurshid said he has no problem in the process taking some time.
Khurshid at the same time maintained, "Sometimes when you delay you have apprehensions, sometimes even if you pass, you have apprehensions, then you have to sit down and explain.
Nothing is perfect. So you have to take it up to a point and then you have to just take the plunge and say if there is need to improve it, we will improve it.
"Competition Commission Act has been amended twice and will be amended once more. Sometimes it becomes inevitable."
He also downplayed the differences over EOC`s location saying, "There are no differences. There is a dialogue. The baby is more important than the water. We are interested that the mandate of the Equal Opportunity Commission remains comprehensive to include all disadvantaged sections and not just minorities. It is not very important under which ministry the EOC is located."
The Group of Ministers (GoM) chaired by Antony has already held two marathon meetings to discuss the issue in January and March this year but no consensus has emerged.
The third meeting of the GoM was supposed to take place on May 6 but had to be cancelled due to the engagement of ministers in important legislative work.
A new date for the meeting is yet to be fixed.
The draft bill for the EOC, which was to be tabled in Parliament in winter session itself, is unlikely to see the light of the day even in the Monsoon session beginning
While Khurshid`s ministry, which had drafted the legislation, is insistent on the mandate remaining comprehensive, other ministries have mooted the idea that EOC should be confined to looking after minorities.