CII to name ombudsmen on affirmative action soon: Mittal

By Arvind Padmanabhan and Nayanima Basu


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New Delhi : Maintaining that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remark on corporate salaries had been taken well by India Inc, Sunil Bharti Mittal, the new president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said the lobby group will soon appoint ombudsmen to monitor progress on affirmative action.

"We will formulate a code of conduct on affirmative action for our members. The idea is to have some tangible and measurable targets that can even be placed on the annual reports of companies," said the Bharti group chairman.

"This will serve as a role model for the captains of industry. In fact, we will also have ombudsmen on affirmative action and may even think of some form of an award," Mittal told IANS in an interview.

He said in some parts of India and in some sectors, minorities, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe members were already represented well. "In some areas like IT and telecom it may be low. Skills have to be developed and we will."

Addressing the annual general meeting of the industry lobby Thursday, the prime minister had said that industry must become pro-active in offering employment to the less privileged sections of the society at all levels of the job ladder.

"The representation companies give to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, other backward classes, minorities and women in their workforce must increase. I am encouraged by CII's Report on Affirmative Action," he had remarked.

Reacting to another comment by the prime minister that Indian companies should resist excessive remuneration to senior executives and discourage conspicuous consumption, Mittal said in some industries lower salaries were not possible.

"In some sectors there is a shortage of trained manpower in India. So we have to import and pay global scales. But the point the prime minister made and we agree was don't flaunt your wealth since it can create social unrest," Mittal said.

Asked how he would manage the perceived divide in corporate India over foreign equity in the retail trade industry, since his own tie-up with Wal-Mart has been criticised, Mittal said he has inherited and will follow CII's position.

"Our position is permit foreign equity in retail trade. CII welcomes foreign direct investment. But do that is a calibrated manner, do that in a phased manner so that existing players are not hurt," he added.

Mittal, who transformed his Bharti group from a small cycle parts manufacturer to India's largest private telecom service provider, said his focus during the one year as CII president well be on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"The CII-LM Thapar Centre for Competitiveness will be our flagship institution in this regard," the 49-year-old first-generation entrepreneur said, referring to the institute that serves as a one-stop shop for all the needs of SMEs.

The centre has been providing consultancy to SMEs by promoting clusters with the idea that they can learn and grow together, he said. "Our target is to increase the number of such clusters from 75 to 150 by the end of this fiscal."