tata affirmative action programme
assessors’ recognition 2012
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Contents Case study
Three Tata companies
showcase their best
practices in the 4Es
Overview (education, employment,
tata affirmativE action programmE employability and
assEssors’ rEcognition 2012 entrepreneurship) of
July 6, 2012, saw the first Tata Affirmative Action Programme the Tata Affirmative
Assessors’ Recognition at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai Action Programme
12 in thE right
MD and CEO, Indian
Hotels, shares his
views about a range
of issues related to
within the Tata group BrEaking castE hiErarchiEs
Chandrabhan Prasad, social
thE virtuous anthropologist and commentator on
cyclE of positivE caste in India, talks about what it means
Discrimination to be a Dalit in India and how capitalism
R Mukundan, MD, can help break the caste conundrum
Tata Chemicals, talks
about how the Tata
Programme is being
Tata Power MD Anil
Sardana says that Dalit capitalism for
collaboration of Tata social BalancE
companies will enhance Milind Kamble, DICCI chairman,
the effectiveness of explains the rationale for DICCI and
the group’s affirmative its expectations from the Tata group’s
action efforts affirmative action programme
Cyrus Mistry, deputy chairman, Tata Sons, B Muthuraman, chairman, Group Affirmative Action
commenting on the affirmative action programme Forum, and vice chairman, Tata Steel, delivering the
during the assessors’ recognition function welcome address
uly 6, 2012, saw the first Tata involved in the initiative, saying, “By undertaking
Affirmative Action Programme affirmative action in your companies you are
Assessors’ Recognition at the Crystal rectifying a historical injustice and helping to right
Room, Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, the discriminatory wrongs faced over centuries
an event that had senior Tata executives and by the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe
affirmative action assessors in attendance. communities, something that is long overdue.”
The group’s 95 assessors (84 of who were Mr Muthuraman also quoted Ratan
present at the event) were recognised for their Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons, to underscore
efforts in assessing the 28 Tata companies that “the importance of facilitating integration
participated in the Tata Affirmative Action through the affirmative action programme
Programme (TAAP) in 2010 and 2011. rather than just giving easy entitlements”. He
The felicitation began with a welcome also emphasised that we must enable equal
address given by B Muthuraman, chairman, Group opportunities through the affirmative action
Affirmative Action Forum, and vice chairman, programme without sacrificing merit.
Tata Steel. He applauded the efforts of all those A brief overview of TAAP by Ajay Kumar,
A panel discussion in progress. L-R: B Muthuraman; Anil Sardana, MD, Tata Power; Raymond
Bickson, MD and CEO, Indian Hotels; Philip Auld, CEO, Trent; AK Chattopadhyay, MD, TRL
Krosaki Refractories and R Mukundan, MD, Tata Chemicals
was followed by presentations on best practices examples of how the Dalit communities have
in the area of affirmative action at three Tata been deprived of their rights and discriminated
companies — Trent, Tata Consultancy Services against in matters of equity over the centuries.
(TCS) and Tata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDD). He also explained why it is imperative for Indian
A panel discussion that followed helped set companies to engage in affirmative action in the
a perspective on the affirmative action initiatives larger interest of the nation.
undertaken by various Tata companies, with the Milind Kamble, chairman, Dalit Indian
panelists discussing the activities undertaken by Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI)
the companies and their views on the initiatives. and Chandrabhan Prasad, eminent commentator
The panel comprised Tata Chemicals MD on issues of the Dalit communities, spoke
R Mukundan, TRL Krosaki Refractories MD subsequently. They urged Tata companies to
AK Chattopadhyay, Trent CEO Philip Auld, Indian improve on their supplier diversity chain and to
Hotels MD and CEO Raymond Bickson, Tata work more with Dalit vendors.
Power MD Anil Sardana, and Mr Muthuraman. The highlight of the programme was the
Each of the CEOs spoke about some of the recognition of the assessors. Cyrus Mistry, deputy
affirmative action initiatives undertaken at their chairman, Tata Sons, presented certificates of
companies and why they think it is important. appreciation to the 26 teams of assessors.
Later, the discussion was thrown open to the Commenting on the group’s affirmative
audience, which resulted in energetic dialogue. action programme, Mr Mistry said that he is
Trent, TCS and TPDD then presented accounts extremely proud to be part of a business group
of their best practices in affirmative action. that acts so energetically on its faith in justice
These practices, selected by a jury including Tata and affirmative action. “We take many things for
executives as well as external experts in social granted and it is important to give back to society
development, are focused on specific areas of the many times over. We cannot work through
4Es — education, employment, employability compliance; we must work through compassion
and entrepreneurship. and commitment. We have a long way ahead but
Dr Mohan Gopal, director, Rajiv Gandhi the momentum should continue,” he said.
Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi, The event concluded with a vote of thanks
gave an enlightening speech on historically by NK Sharan, vice president, Tata Quality
derived social inequity. He gave several Management Services. ¨
Three Tata companies — Trent, Tata Power Delhi Distribution and
Tata Consultancy Services — showcase their best practices in the
4Es (education, employment, employability and entrepreneurship)
that form the backbone of the Tata Affirmative Action Programme
n the 2011 application and the Tata Affirmative Action Programme
assessment cycle of affirmative — comprising Dr RA Mashelkar, former
action, three Tata companies director of the Council for Scientific and
were awarded for their initiatives Industrial Research; Dr S Parasuraman,
in helping to improve the lives of director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences;
scheduled caste and tribe (SC and Homi Khusrokhan, former MD, Tata
ST) communities. In particular, these Chemicals, and director, ICICI Bank;
companies were recognised for their and B Muthuraman, chairman, Group
focus and best practice in one area each Affirmative Action Forum, and vice
of the 4Es — education, employment, chairman, Tata Steel — decided on the
employability and entrepreneurship final awards to be given.
— that form the backbone of the Representatives from the three
affirmative action programme within winning companies described the
the Tata group. best practices undertaken at their
Trent received the best practice respective companies at the first-ever
award for employment, Tata Power Tata Affirmative Action Programme
Delhi Distribution for education and Assessors’ Recognition on July 6, 2012,
Tata Consultancy Services for its held at the Crystal Room at the Taj
employability programme. The jury for Mahal Palace in Mumbai.
T he jury found Trent’s example of
recruitment from marginalised scheduled
caste and tribe communities to be worthy
Although Trent has increased the ratio of
employees from the SC and ST communities
over the years, it has not been an easy task.
of emulation. Currently, about 17 percent One of the challenges that Trent faces is a
of its staff of 6,500 belongs to the SC or ST high attrition rate; this is common in the
communities. Trent hopes to increase this ratio retail business due to the nature of the job
in the coming years. which requires a lot of physical activity and
As part of its endeavour to institute compares poorly with a desk job in the BPO
sustainable development initiatives in favour industry. Additionally, the company also faces
of marginalised communities, the company the challenge of an underdeveloped talent pool
has set a target for recruiting employees from among the SC and ST communities.
the SC and ST communities for its retail stores Notwithstanding these problems, the
across the country. Providing equal opportunity company has made significant progress in
employment to all sections of society forms a employing SC and ST candidates by weaving
core part of Trent’s recruitment policy. affirmative action into its growth strategy and
Beneficiaries of the Star and Diya initiatives
Candidates trained under the Saksham programme with their certificates
recognising the need to do so. Further, even job training where candidates are also given a
as it works towards meeting set targets for stipend. The trained candidates are also tested
recruiting from these communities, Trent is and given certificates by Trent, which adds
also working towards enhancing the career value and helps them in their job hunt. To
opportunities for employees recruited under date, Trent has helped train a total of 449 such
its affirmative action initiatives, helping them youth, of who 309 are from scheduled castes
to improve their skills to make them eligible to and 69 from scheduled tribe communities. In
move ahead in their careers. the area of entrepreneurship too, Trent plans
to develop some of the existing vendors chosen
SakSham, an iniTiaTive in under the affirmative action programme as
capaciTy-building role models. It also plans to work closely with
“Besides providing employment opportunities to suppliers, including weavers from marginalised
the local youth we also provide training through communities, to enhance entrepreneurial skills.
our employability programme, Saksham, which Trent has also initiated financial support
was initiated in 2009,” explains Sanjay Rastogi, programmes for marginalised communities
head, corporate HR, Trent. — organising collections at its stores during
Saksham — which means ‘capable’ Christmas and Diwali, under the Star and Diya
in Sanskrit — is a unique and pioneering (traditional lamp) initiatives, respectively.
vocational training programme that Trent Customers are encouraged to contribute a
has started in association with several partner small amount, put up a star on a Christmas tree
nonprofits. Under this programme, youth or light a diya.
from SC and ST communities learn about the The proceeds collected go towards
retail sector and acquire skills that improve providing financial support through nonprofits
their employability, not just at Trent but also for educational scholarships, midday meals,
at other retail organisations. The programme’s infrastructure development and other
syllabus has been developed by Trent and has resources for disadvantaged schoolchildren.
been approved by the National Commission of “In the year 2011-12 we supported 23
Vocational Training; the training programme nonprofit projects and approximately 5,000
includes store visits, guest lectures by business children through this education and nutrition
leaders, peer integrated learning and on-the- programme,” says Mr Rastogi. ¨
TaTa power delhi diSTribuTion
T ata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDD)
serves about five million people in north
and northwest Delhi, including a large section
Delhi government schools. Nearly 40 percent
of the population residing in the slum clusters
and resettlement colonies in the area served by
that has been historically marginalised, both TPDD belong to the SC or ST communities.
socially and economically. The company found that children
TPDD has undertaken several affirmative from these communities had a high school-
action initiatives focused on education. dropout rate. This, together with the fact
Education improves employability, states the that these communities have limited or no
TPDD proposal for affirmative action, and financial resources, and in the social context
hence most of its activities have focused on of decreasing demand for unskilled and
these specific Es — education and employment. semi-skilled labour, placed the youth at an
TPDD received the best practices award for increasingly disadvantaged situation, lowering
education, and was particularly recognised their opportunities to enter the mainstream
for the scholarship scheme it introduced at workplace or contribute to the economy.
This triggered TPDD to take on the Shiksha
initiative of ‘Igniting aspirations and creating
livelihoods’ across the education chain for SC
and ST students. Under this scheme, TPDD
works with 26 government schools to select
and provide holistic educational support and
assistance, including the provision of mentoring
and counselling services for students. In the
three years since the scheme was started, not
only have all students passed the Class 10 and
12 public board exams, the number of students
receiving over 70 percent marks in these board
exams has increased significantly. Moreover, there
has been a noticeable improvement in all-round
performance, which has helped the students to
become more confident and competitive.
Technology Training for Beneficiaries of an adult literacy centre
TPDD also supports technical education and
has tied up with industrial training institutes,
polytechnic institutes, engineering colleges and
other centres of professional studies to offer
added advantage to the SC and ST students.
It has also mobilised employees to offer
their technical competencies for imparting
electricians’ training to the unemployed SC
and ST youths. Students from the marginalised
communities are selected for the courses on the
basis of means cum merit.
“This is a unique attempt in aiming to
support education in a holistic manner and
integrating the entire education chain. It includes
educational and financial support, mentoring
and monitoring of their performance at
different levels, creating role models for higher
education, enhancing quality of life, and creating Electrician training programme in progress
livelihoods,” explains Sushil Kumar Srivastava,
general manager, corporate sustainability. More in other organisations. Mr Srivastava adds,
than 1,000 students have been provided this “Affirmative action has been a unique socio-
support in schools and professional institutions economic business model for TPDD. We have
so far. Students also undergo induction-cum- implemented a host of need-based initiatives for
orientation training, which helps substantially members of the disadvantaged communities.”
in allowing them to be absorbed into the Apart from educational and employability
workforce and be accepted into the mainstream activities, the organisation has opened up
employment or livelihood eco-system. vocational training centres in the heart of the
While some of these beneficiaries have slum and resettlement colonies, providing
been hired by TPDD, most have got employed entrepreneurial opportunities to girls and
boys at their doorstep. Courses in stitching and while this improves the possibility of including
tailoring, beauticians’ training, mobile repairing, SC and ST candidates, the suitability and
computers and retail marketing have proved very selection remains rigorous as each applicant is
popular. This has led to the youth becoming more adjudged by the selection committee.
confident and has helped them gain employment Going forward, TPDD plans to further scale
and add to their family income. up the programme by evolving innovative models
TPDD has adopted the policy of positive of development, especially for empowering the
discrimination by transparently lowering the women from the marginalised communities, and
eligibility requirements for SC and ST candidates creating greater livelihood opportunities within
at induction levels. The company believes that their ecosystem as well as outside. ¨
TaTa conSulTancy ServiceS
T ata Consultancy Services (TCS) received the
best practices award for employability in the
2011 affirmative action assessment cycle. It was
regular recruitment process which is the norm for
any new entrant in the company.
TCS follows a conscious policy of no-
also recognised for its training programme in compromise in recruitment standards and hires
English communication and a range of ‘soft’ skills candidates based strictly on merit. This has
required in the corporate world. ensured that all recruits can easily integrate with
The programme has benefitted several young others in the company.
people from disadvantaged communities; of the
7,000 youths who have undergone this training Tackling challengeS genTly
since August 2010, 3,852 are from the scheduled Overall, while the programme has been successful,
caste and tribe communities. the company has had to face several challenges.
Developed by TCS, the 80- to 100-hour The recruits joining the company through the
training module targets unemployed graduates training programme are generally from small
and is intended to improve their English towns and sometimes from very remote locations.
communication skills, provide basic computer “One of the biggest challenges has been
training, impart learning in corporate etiquette, their reluctance to migrate to cities, even to the
sharpen aptitudes and inculcate self-confidence. nearest place where a TCS facility is located.
The training programme is highly interactive The challenge is compounded when it comes
and experiential, imparted through lectures, group to women candidates,” explains Saraswati
discussions, public speaking sessions, role-plays, Padmanabhan, associate vice president, TCS.
skits and so on. The trainees are regularly assessed TCS has partly overcome this challenge
and put through mock interviews to hone their by meeting the families of the candidates to
inter-personal skills. address their concerns, often taking the help
In order to improve the effectiveness of existing employees from that locality, and
of candidates from remote locations, where by providing and facilitating accommodation
exposure to English is almost zero, it is facilities for the candidates.
proposed to introduce a pre-training session, TCS has focused on sensitising employees
where they will be taught English through to the need for affirmative action through
stories they can relate to. The training ‘town hall’ meets and orientation sessions.
imparted is generic in nature so that it can This has been of particular use for recruiters
help the trainees in any job. Those joining TCS and trainers. A large part of the success of the
are generally placed in BPO data processes affirmative action programme has been due
across different locations in India. to the manifest ownership of the initiative by
The trained candidates are put through the existing employees.
Trainees at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences with the interview panel
Kolkata trainees with the trainer
In this initiative, TCS has partnered to students from scheduled caste and tribe
with several government departments and communities.
bodies dedicated to the development of the The TCS employees’ fellowship body,
so-called ‘backward’ and scheduled castes and TCS Maitree, has launched several social
tribes, district employment exchanges across development initiatives, including one
India, universities and colleges, nonprofit where employee volunteers teach tailoring
organisations as well as autonomous bodies and bag-making to women from scheduled
like the Indian Railways that have focused caste and tribe communities to help promote
affirmative action programmes. entrepreneurship skills and employability.
TCS has also undertaken other TCS aims to positively impact the lives of
educational initiatives targeting marginalised at least one million people (directly and / or
communities. This has mainly involved indirectly) by 2015 through specially focused
providing financial and infrastructure support affirmative action interventions. Based on
to educational institutions and financial as social and business needs, such initiatives are
well as help in kind (books, uniforms, etc) designed to be inherently sustainable. ¨
In the right spirit
orporate India has great potential
to improve the overall business
climate in the country. Engaging
in social justice issues would help
to correct the discrimination that sections of
the Indian community have faced historically.
Inclusive growth is the only way forward for
a country like India where the divide between
the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is enormous.
The government, on its own, cannot address
this issue. Increasingly, the private sector has
become the dominant generator of employment
and, hence, corporate entities must help create
platforms for providing equal opportunities.
A strong foundation for sustainable
growth comes from a socially just environment.
Social inequality has the potential to adversely
impact the business climate if not addressed in
a sustained manner. Further, it makes business
sense to pursue the affirmative action agenda.
The Tata group’s affirmative Employment, employee loyalty and interaction
with local communities can help in creating a
action initiative has come conducive business environment.
a long way in showing how While inclusive growth is necessary
for India, the affirmative action agenda
corporate India can help
must be nurtured carefully so that positive
achieve social equity. Here, discrimination is implemented in the right
Raymond Bickson, MD and spirit across all Tata companies. B Muthuraman,
chairman, Group Affirmative Action Forum,
CEO, Indian Hotels, shares his and vice chairman, Tata Steel, recently sent a
views about a range of issues 12-point checklist for CEOs to make certain
that the programme initiatives are headed in the
related to affirmative action right direction. Along with the review system,
within the Tata group. this would help ensure that the programme
implementation is on track and that all Tata Given the nature of our business, there
companies progress with equal speed. It
would also help in bringing about a cascading
is tremendous potential for providing
effect, garnering support for the affirmative opportunities for entrepreneurs under the
action agenda down the line. It also helps to
affirmative action initiative, in which we
allocate company resources appropriately.
The affirmative action agenda demands could leverage DICCI.
the commitment of the top leaders of every
company… and requires it to be patently
evident. We have to find ways to exhibit indian Hotels foCuses
such commitment both internally as well as on tHe 4es
externally by reaching out proactively to the In recent years, Indian Hotels has
masses. I would like to point out the examples substantially helped improve the
of Anil Sardana (MD, Tata Power) and employability and employment of people from
R Mukundan (MD, Tata Chemicals) who are the marginalised communities. Given the
totally committed and dedicated to the cause. nature of our business, there is tremendous
potential for providing opportunities for
Creating sustainable entrepreneurs under the affirmative action
platforms initiative, in which we could leverage
To further inclusive growth, apart from DICCI. Further, our hotels could support
generating employment in the private and the education of students from marginalised
government sector, we also need more communities resident in the vicinity of any of
entrepreneurs from the disadvantaged the hotels. This would allow us to address and
groups. Today, a large portion of the work in enhance our contribution to the first ‘E’ —
companies is either contracted or externally that of education!
sourced. Making the outsourcing companies
see the multiple benefits of partnering in from initiatives to strategiC
the affirmative action agenda is the key to moves
the success of this programme. This must, We have made the right beginning within
however, be done in a phased manner. the Tata companies. The initiative has
The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce picked up speed in recent years, involving
and Industry (DICCI) has mobilised the Confederation of Indian Industry, with
tremendous opportunities for Dalit DICCI giving further impetus.
entrepreneurs by providing a platform for However, there is a lot more to be
information and interaction. done to make this successful. Leveraging
Such platforms facilitate affirmative the strengths of Tata companies through
action initiatives by large corporations that partnerships would reinforce the agenda
may be looking to contract or outsource and make affirmative action a cultural
product and service requirements for their norm within the group.
businesses. They could consider DICCI- Another important step would be
registered members for any requirements information-sharing and creating awareness
without compromising on quality and merit of affirmative action activities within the
before looking for options in the open Tata companies.
market. DICCI, for its part, can play a The actions already taken are setting
proactive role in constantly seeking and us on the path to make the essential move from
registering members and enhancing their an ‘initiative’ approach to a ‘strategic’ approach,
capabilities to ensure they can offer a large and helping us to successfully continue our
gamut of products and services. journey in the right direction. ¨
The virtuous cycle of
On the private sectOr’s rOle
It is commonly held that social justice is
the government’s responsibility. However,
as industry is the main driver of the Indian
economy post liberalisation, corporate
India should engage with social justice
initiatives like affirmative action. Businesses
cannot thrive unless the society around is
prosperous. Social and economic justice
is at the core of industry’s sustainability.
Affirmative action takes forward the
industry’s role in responsible corporate
At the heart of the affirmative action
initiative is the empowerment of the socially
disadvantaged to have a fair share of the
fruits of economic growth and move the
debate to building merit and social justice.
This voluntary process of affirmative
action in entrepreneurship, employment,
R Mukundan, MD, Tata employability and education needs even
greater attention going forward.
Chemicals, talks about
how the Tata Affirmative On pOsitive discriminatiOn
Existing social injustice has historical roots,
Action Programme is
at the heart of which is a hierarchical caste
being implemented at Tata system. To break that structure, we need to
exercise positive discrimination. Positive
Chemicals and the challenges
discrimination can work for the community
confronting the effort. and for the company if it’s undertaken with
the aim of bolstering opportunities for One of the new initiatives planned is to
disadvantaged groups and addressing social
integrate the affirmative action agenda with
barefoot agronomics services... another
On stakehOlders’ rOles
plan is to take up advocacy... with external
All stakeholders need to provide
equal opportunities to economically- stakeholders.
challenged sections. The economic
challenges faced by scheduled caste and
tribe communities are often due to our On new initiatives
traditional caste-based systems. We need One of the new initiatives planned is to
to undertake steps not only to educate integrate the affirmative action agenda with
and improve the employability of such barefoot agronomics services, which is built
marginalised communities, but also to around skill development. We also plan to
generate employment and encourage develop the Dalit vendor database at Tata
entrepreneurship among them. Chemicals, with inputs from all purchase
heads and DICCI. Another plan is to take up
On prOmOting dalit advocacy for affirmative action with external
entrepreneurs stakeholders — community leaders, nonprofit
The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce forums, government and panchayat bodies,
and Industry (DICCI) is a very active body and business forums.
representing Dalit entrepreneurs. The
Tata group has been actively involved in On achievements
promoting DICCI initiatives. But the time Progress in increased awareness about the
has come for us to set some voluntary targets importance of the affirmative action agenda
within the group. The notions of swaraj has been good; there is a steering committee
(self-government), sarvodaya (progress for for affirmative action and there are champions
all) and antyodaya (uplift of the poorest of for the programme at every location.
the poor) can be seen as entrepreneurial The leadership at all levels is involved in
paths to inclusive growth. structured reviews of the initiative. We have
integrated the affirmative action agenda with
On the 4es our corporate social responsibility work; we
At Tata Chemicals, we have focused on even have a separate budget for implementing
three of the 4Es — education, employability the programme.
and entrepreneurship — leading to the The next step would be to integrate the
fourth ‘E’, employment. Our education affirmative action agenda with our growth
initiative, Shiksha Maitreyi, focuses on strategy, undertake related advocacy and
education for girls. Our employability institute specific qualitative and quantitative
initiative, Badhte Kadam, aims mainly to metrics to measure the impact.
enhance the employability of youths and
women among the disadvantaged. On the rOle Of leadership
In encouraging rural entrepreneurship, The CEO and leadership have a central
we started the Udaan Entrepreneurship role in building the initial commitment
Development Programme, which provides on affirmative action and over a period of
business training, technical assistance, market time building ‘a culture of caring’ in the
linkages and loan linkages with financial organisation. The affirmative action agenda —
institutions to young entrepreneurs from the or positive discrimination — is at the heart of
scheduled castes and tribes. being a ‘company that cares.’ ¨
Going beyond the mandate
and doing more than what is
expected has been a proud
Tata tradition, says Tata
Power MD Anil Sardana,
adding that the affirmative
action agenda will succeed
only if the top leadership in
Tata companies aggressively
espouses the cause for
inclusive growth not because
of any government diktat but
because of the ideal.
Why must Indian companies engage
with social justice issues like
affirmative action for the scheduled
caste and tribe communities? Isn’t outsource the issue to government. This is
that the government’s job? becoming increasingly important in light of
Social and economic inequality is clearly one the fact that employment opportunities in the
of the major threats to sustained economic government sector are coming under pressure
growth. If Indian industry and businesses have and it is the private sector that is driving the
to flourish, we need an environment that has country’s growth agenda.
equilibrium and inclusivity. Indian industry As with all important causes, any effort
must take ownership for this and not look to in this space will be successful only if business
leaders wholeheartedly espouse this cause, This indirectly generated employment makes
not out of fear of government diktats, but it all the more important that Tata companies
by recognising and supporting the ideal of actively work to sensitise their own employees
inclusive growth, as this is at the very heart of as well as all third party vendors and contractors
what our country and, indeed, the Tata group that have their own workforce. This can create
stands for. Going beyond mandates and doing a powerful momentum by creating sustainable
more than what is expected has long been a livelihoods and leading to a virtuous cycle.
proud Tata tradition.
One of the greater challenges
The group’s affirmative action for affirmative action is to create
policy commits Tata companies to Dalit entrepreneurs. Apart from
extending positive discrimination partnership with DICCI, what other
to scheduled caste and tribe steps would you suggest?
communities in employment and DICCI has been helpful with regard to mapping
entrepreneurial partnerships. the needs of companies through measures
Can this work equally for the such as the database of entrepreneurs who can
communities and the companies? partner with companies in specific areas.
The very fact that Tata companies It would greatly enhance the effectiveness
have committed themselves to positive of these efforts if Tata group companies were
discrimination — ie, preference for members to collaborate and jointly award contracts,
of disadvantaged communities, provided merit which can be taken up by these entrepreneurs.
and other things remain equal — means it’s For example, companies located in close
a win-win situation for both the companies geographical proximity may pool their printing
as well as the community members. The and stationery requirements and award a
companies can be assured that they are not contract to a single DICCI entrepreneur. In this,
diluting their standards in any manner while the there is even a possibility of helping a willing
disadvantaged community members can hold individual become an entrepreneur by investing
their heads high as they have got opportunities some seed capital. More such avenues need to be
not on sympathy but their own merit. explored and pursued proactively.
Besides this, there are several other
Recently, B Muthuraman, chairman opportunities to support young people from
of the Group Affirmative Action scheduled caste and tribe communities by
Forum, sent a 12-point checklist for supporting initiatives they may take up — such
CEOs on steps they could take to as running telephone booths, auto-rickshaws,
further the agenda in the immediate shops or retail outlets, service workshops, etc.
future. Has the checklist helped?
The checklist has definitely helped in terms of Which of the 4Es does your company
clearly defining how CEOs can aggressively push prioritise? What are the new
forward the agenda for affirmative action. While initiatives planned?
we have been actively working along these lines, We are actively working on all 4Es. We have
the checklist gives more concrete direction to a number of initiatives in each ‘E’, but two
the efforts. initiatives of note are focused on education
and employment — an education initiative
With many Tata companies undertaken in collaboration with the nonprofit
outsourcing processes, how Pratham and the rural BPO started in Khopoli
necessary and feasible is it to in partnership with Mannat Foundation.
persuade outside companies to adopt The Pratham initiative was started as an
the agenda for affirmative action? experiment in Alibag in Maharashtra in 2008,
for over five years now. How good is
It would greatly enhance the effectiveness the progress and what are the three
of the affirmative action efforts if group steps you would like Tata companies
to take in the next year?
companies were to collaborate... such
I think a good start has been made on this
avenues need to be explored and pursued agenda. Over the past five years, starting from
proactively. the adoption of the Tata Group Affirmative
Action Policy in 2007, awareness of the
affirmative action agenda has steadily increased
covering 149 local children belonging to the and we are now seeing participation from an
‘Other Backward Caste’ (OBC) communities. increasing number of companies in the group’s
On positive response from the local community, overall efforts. The annual affirmative action
it was decided to replicate this effort in Maithon assessment exercise, as well as recognition of
in Jharkhand, but with a distinct focus on top-performing companies, has also helped
affirmative action. in this regard.
Started in May 2009, the Maithon project The three steps that I would personally
aims to improve the learning levels of children like to see Tata companies take in the next year
in the 6-14 age group (classes 1-5) in basic would be to:
maths and languages; started in 100 villages, l Take up at least one major affirmative
the project has been scaled up to cover the action initiative in each of the 4Es and do a
entire district. The further goal is to provide deep-dive into every aspect of the initiative
subject-wise academic support to children in in order to obtain substantial, tangible
classes 5-7. benefits from each; make these benchmark
Local government schools have been programmes, setting standards not only
targeted as the poorest of the children, a within the group but also for Indian industry.
significant chunk of who are from scheduled l Establish group-level synergies across supply
caste and tribe communities, attend these chain and vendor development.
schools. The Maithon project also involved l Adopt at least one school catering to the
training of teachers. In this, too, preference was marginalised communities.
given to candidates from scheduled caste and
tribe communities. Finally, for the affirmative action
The partnership with Pratham has now movement to become stronger, how
been successfully expanded to projects in important is it for the top leadership
Odisha and Tiruldih in Jharkhand. to be visibly committed?
Tata Power is also looking to partner with In order to generate the requisite buy-in as
the National Institute of Open Schooling, set well as build awareness of the affirmative
up by the Union Ministry of Human Resource action agenda, it is imperative for the CEO
Development, to offer distance and open and top leadership in all companies to lead
learning courses with a special focus on students from the front. It would be very difficult to
from tribal communities. convince various stakeholders on this issue
We are also exploring an entrepreneurship — which is of prime importance but also
scheme wherein a group of women from tribal complicated and complex on account of the
communities near our Jojobera operations site various sensitivities involved — without the
will be engaged to manufacture bricks out of the implicit and explicit advocacy of the CEO and
fly-ash which is produced from the plant. top leadership. It is this commitment that will
ensure that all stakeholders get aligned to the
The group has been engaged with individual company’s goals as well as the overall
the affirmative action programme group agenda. ¨
What are your responsibilities as
a visible spokesman for the Dalit
As a weekly columnist, I have the rare privilege of
having a platform for my opinions. But it saddens
me that the mainstream media gives space for
only one voice from among more than 161 million
Dalits. The mainstream media should not be
fearful of opinions of the ‘other’.
Truly speaking, I am not an authorised
spokesperson for the community. I am not elected
to represent Dalits. In the Dalit intellectual world,
my voice is in a minority. Most Dalit thought
leaders, politicians and activists want legislation
to enforce affirmative action on India Inc. I have
been talking of persuasion and partnerships. To
me, what is good for Dalits and Adivasis ought to
Chandrabhan Prasad, be good for India Inc as well.
social anthropologist and What, in your opinion, are the
commentator on caste in India, challenges before Dalits today?
Segregation and stereotypes are the two
pens the only column on Dalit
biggest challenges Dalits face today. Dalits
matters in a national English are not visible on Dalal Street because of
daily. Here, he talks about historical reasons. By tradition, Dalits were
forbidden from money-making. Not that
what it means to be a Dalit today’s India Inc practises discrimination
in India and how capitalism as a business policy. It’s just that there exists
a social disconnect between Dalits and the
can help break the caste mainstream of society — which includes
conundrum. India Inc — and that disconnect can be
ended by India Inc only. Dalits always seek accomplishing that historic task.
desegregation. Yes, the Tata group can walk a few steps
Stereotyping is really terrible. When we more… as they have in the past. A raja of Baroda
talk of bringing Dalits and Adivasis into the expressed his faith in a young BR Ambedkar
supply or vendor chains of companies, almost and gave him a scholarship to study abroad;
instantly, the response is questions about quality, Ambedkar proved him right. The Tata group gave
price, delivery schedules, etc. Such responses a scholarship to a young KR Narayanan and was
are full of assumptions. Dalit entrepreneurs also proved right in its faith.
are seen in certain ways. Even when we talk of Some Tata companies are working with
employability, for example, the focus is on ‘skill Dalit entrepreneurs as part of their vendor
development’. This too is suggestive. extension programme. If this can be further
extended to setting up joint ventures with Dalit
What is your advice to the Dalit entrepreneurs, it will ink a new history for India.
community on the links between The Tatas today have historic opportunities
economic and social equality? in expanding the social characteristics of Indian
Let me put it this way: So long as social markers capitalism. Without Dalit capitalism, Indian
are the determinants for quality of existence, capitalism will always be seen with suspicion.
Dalits can never claim social equality. Social
markers are fixed by birth and, hence, social What are the socio-economic
rank is non-negotiable. But when economic changes currently taking place
markers replace social markers — as has been within the community?
hinted at post the 1991 economic reforms — We conducted two studies for the Center for
social rank can be negotiated. the Advanced Study of India, University of
My advice to the community is: Enter Pennsylvania, United States. One was a survey of
money-making with a vengeance. 20,000 Dalit households in Uttar Pradesh (UP),
India, covering a complete census of two blocks
You once said that affirmative action — Bilariaganj block in Azamgarh district in
can only advance a few Dalits. Can eastern UP, and Khurja block in Bulandshahar
any other initiative be more effective district in western UP. In both blocks we
in fostering social change? covered all the Dalit households.
Let’s be clear — if the Indian State could not We asked around 80 questions on
touch and transform all Dalits in the past six changing food habits, lifestyles, occupations,
decades, India Inc too cannot. All affirmative etc, for the period from 1990 to 2007. Our
action initiatives can, at best, help create a Dalit findings were that several caste-propelled
middle class. The world over, the middle classes hierarchies are breaking down. The trigger
turn role models to the ‘under’ classes. Dalits has mainly been the migration to industrial
can’t be an exception. India Inc can help extend centres and the remittances to families back
the Dalit middle class. home — this has been on a significant scale
thanks to the economic expansion following
What are your expectations from the liberalisation reforms.
the Tata group’s affirmative action Subsequently, we have been working on
programme and from India Inc? a book on the same subject. The study caught
European serfdom was destroyed by European the attention of a large number of social
capitalism. The world over, feudalism commentators both in India and abroad,
was destroyed by capitalism. In India too, including Nobel Laureate Prof Gary Becker and
capitalism-industrialisation-urbanisation will Nobel Prize nominee Prof Jagdish Bhagawati.
destroy the caste order. The Tatas, as one of the The second survey, still ongoing, is on Dalit
triggers of industrialisation in India, are already enterprises, focusing on their performance. ¨
Dalit capitalism for
It was on April 14, 2005,
the birth anniversary of
Dr BR Ambedkar — whom the
Dalits lovingly and respectfully
call ‘Baba Saheb’ — that
the Dalit Indian Chamber of
Commerce & Industry (DICCI)
was founded. Established
to help build the spirit of
young Dalits, DICCI is
involved in providing business
opportunities and empowering
its members through
knowledge and information
exchange. Milind Kamble, What was the reason for the genesis
DICCI chairman, explains the of DICCI? With the establishment of
DICCI, what is the message sent out
rationale for DICCI and its
to the Dalit community?
expectations from the Tata Dalits are leaders in most areas of public life
group’s affirmative action — political, social and religious. Dalit students
in colleges and universities have their own
programme as also from organisations as do Dalit employees and officers.
India Inc. Before setting up DICCI, I had long
wondered why there were limited business for a Dalit entrepreneur to begin his
initiatives by Dalits. This led to another or her own business today?
question: Are there any Dalit businesses at This slogan — ‘Be job givers and not job seekers’
all? Impulsively, I began looking around Pune was an instant hit. It is an attractive maxim for
city and found a few; I also found a few in those Dalits who are determined to bring about
Aurangabad and Mumbai. change. With a gentle push from DICCI, a great
By 2005, I had enough reason to believe number of Dalits can begin to believe that there
that Dalit entrepreneurs would benefit from a are people to support attempts to allow Dalit
dedicated business body. Thus, DICCI was born. enterprise to bloom.
It began with the sole purpose of developing
business leadership among Dalits. Now we have an In what ways will true social equality
all-India presence. DICCI’s efforts are bearing fruit in India be impacted by greater
across cities and across states. DICCI chapters are economic equality?
opening and Dalits have begun believing that “we Economic equality comes with equal opportunity.
too” can succeed. The DICCI headquarters at Pune Equal opportunity comes when we have a more
gets dozens of entrepreneurship-related queries equitable society. The market can be a greater
from Dalit youths each day. leveller. At DICCI, we think that in a market-
based economy, people think of life as it is in their
What will be the impact of Dalit own lifetime. In a non-market economy, whether
capitalism on the existing caste it is a feudal economic or a socialist or welfare
discrimination in India? economy, people think of life after death — where
The institution of caste evolved in a given social will their place be, in hell or heaven!
framework, which was rural and primitive, In a market-based economy, hell or heaven
and in a barter-based economy. In such a exists within people’s own lifetimes and, hence,
social context, the caste order evolved and the chase for money begins in that lifetime. In
discrimination thrived. that chase, people may even change their caste
With modernisation and urbanisation, the status if that helps earn more money. This is one
caste system underwent changes and brutalities way of creating social equality.
became cloaked in civility. It is not a coincidence
that the first historically documented triumph of What are your expectations from the
Dalits occurred in a city setting — when the 15th affirmative action programme of the
century Dalit saint Ravidas defeated Brahmin Tata group companies?
pundits of Kashi in a shastrarth (debate on state Since independence, India has extended patronage
craft). But, for the most part of its documented to Dalits. That might have been the need of the time.
history, India’s social structure has been ordered But how long can that continue? Six decades have
by caste and religious diktats. As India turns passed since independence… another four decades
more urban, industrial and capitalistic, the caste will make it a century.
order will lose its hold. The Tata group can trigger a new dawn of
We at DICCI believe that capitalism is not partnership with Dalits. This is not to say that any
just about money-making as it also produces Dalit entrepreneurs are big enough — either in
a more democratic social order — and a new business volumes or operational size — to claim
culture. But, without Dalit capitalism, Indian equal partnership with the Tatas. All the Dalit
capitalism will deny the democratic elements entrepreneurs put together cannot compare in
and refuse social balance and equity. size to the smallest of the Tata group companies.
But, the smallest plant in the Himalayas are as
The slogan ‘Be job givers, not job important as the most dense forests there. That’s
seekers’ has resonated with the Dalit our expectations from the Tatas — that we are
community. How easy or difficult is it equal in coexistence. ¨