OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
In an effort to put on the fast track implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations, the Government has decided to set up an expert group to look into grievances regarding alleged discrimination against Muslims. The five-member committee, to be headed by eminent jurist N R Madhav Menon, will be under the Equal Opportunities Commission, announced last week by the Government as part of the Action Taken Report on the Sachar Committee recommendations. The Menon Committee will draft a charter for the Commission and legislative framework for the Commission.

Interestingly enough reactions from some media savvy Indian Muslims have been cynical of the Government’s latest move. The move to setup this commission is accompanied by another equally strange decision by the Government to issue guidelines on recruiting Muslims for Government jobs in Muslim majority areas.

Offstumped compares and contrasts the Government’s move to setup a EOC with similar commissions that has been around in the United States and other countries.

The popular definition of Equal Opportunity is an approach intended to provide a certain social environment in which people are not excluded from the activities of society, such as education, employment, or health care, on the basis of immutable traits.

So what do we mean by immutable traits ?

race, age, or disability

Note there is no reference to religion.  Now the Equal Opportunity Commission in the U.S. came about during the JFK regime primarily to enable bringing suit on behalf of alleged victims of discrimination against private employers primarily on account of race, age and disability. A similar government body in Belgium and UK have gender discrimination and racial discrimination on their charter but not so much so religion. The Australian commission has a slightly broader charter with aspects like pregnancy and marital status.

In sharp contrast the Indian Government’s move to specifically moot the setting up of such a commission in the context of alleged discrimination against a specific religion raises questions on what kind of Equal Opportunity the government is aspiring to achieve.

Now there is an interesting angle to the Equal Opportunity debate in contrast to Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action is about factoring one’s identity (be it race, gender, or in the Indian context caste, religion) and determining if past discrimination was limiting present participation. Now Equal Opportunity is really about preventing present discrimination by ensuring that differences are purposefully minimized and policies such as hiring don’t take into consideration race, gender or in the Indian context religion.

If the Government’s recent advisories on hiring more Muslims in Muslim majority areas is anything to go by it appears that  this distinction is blurring.

So thanks to the UPA we are now headed towards communal Affirmative Action in the name of Equal Opportunity. But for the BJP there seems to be no political challenge to this perverse interpretation of Equal Opportunity.

Offstumped Bottomline: With elections in the air the politics of Social Justice and its underlying Culture of Entitlement have taken a decisively communal tone. To moot the need for a Commission in the context of sops for a specific religious community means this is neither about Equal Opportunity nor about Inclusion. It will further perpetuate the Ghetto.


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