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The Ambedkar Principles

Principles and Guidelines to Address Caste Discrimination in the Private Sector

The principles and guidelines are developed to address caste discrimination, which remains one of the most serious human rights issues in the world today.

They acknowledge the multiple forms of discrimination against Dalits in the private sector and include recommendations on how to eliminate such practices through an active non-discrimination policy and affirmative action, in line with international human rights standards.

They will enable national and multinational companies, as well as foreign investors, to contribute to eliminating caste discrimination in the labour market in South Asia where it continues to be a massive human rights issue.

Companies supporting the Ambedkar Principles are asked to work progressively towards their implementation and to regularly, preferably annually, report on their progress as part of their diversity or corporate social responsibility reporting, and also to consider engaging in some form of external audit.

The principles are built upon the urgent need in any society for positive or affirmative action for severely and structurally disadvantaged groups.

Employment and rights at work principles and guidelines to address caste discrimination

Implementing the 'Employment and rights at work principles and guidelines to address caste discrimination' implies that a company will be building on existing national anti-discrimination laws, policies and acts in the spirit of internationally recognised human and employment rights, while putting into practice the general commitments found in international standards, as referred to in the background section below. Companies adopting the Ambedkar Principles will:

  1. Include in any statement of employment policy a reference to the unacceptability of caste discrimination and a commitment to seeking to eliminate it.

  2. Develop and implement a plan of affirmative action for Dalits, paying special attention to Dalit women. Such a plan should include training on combating caste discrimination for all employees, as well as a special effort to recruit and train people with a Dalit background, especially if Dalits are under-represented as employees in relation to their proportion of the local population.

  3. Ensure that the company and its suppliers comply with all national legislation, particularly in relation to bonded labour, manual scavenging and child labour; pay specific attention to the role that caste relations might play in legitimising or covering up such forms of labour, and actively contribute to the implementation of existing anti-caste laws.

  4. Use fair recruitment, selection and career development processes, with clear objective criteria, and ensure that these processes are open to scrutiny from Dalits themselves as well as other civil society groups.

  5. Take full responsibility for their workforce, both direct and subcontracted, including in the supply chain, by seeking to detect and remedy any form of caste discrimination in employment conditions, wages, benefits or job security.

  6. Evolve comprehensive training opportunities for employees and potential recruits from Dalit communities (preferably integrated with other staff where possible), including language support for English deficient candidates, with the aim of enabling Dalit workers to fulfil their potential and where-ever relevant set targets for the number of Dalit employees.

  7. Designate a senior level manager to implement the policy who will aim to maximise the benefits of a diverse workforce and ensure that the policy, its monitoring and the related practices are carried through.

  8. Develop effective monitoring and verification mechanisms of progress at the level of the individual company, and also co-operate in monitoring at the levels of sector and the state, involving Dalit representatives including women in these mechanisms.

  9. Publish a report annually on progress in implementing the Ambedkar Principles, preferably in relation to an appropriate section of the Annual Report, and be open to answer questions on policies and practices regarding this issue by organizations and the general public.

  10. Put in place a protective system for whistleblowers in order to make sure that people exposing cases of discrimination or non-functioning policies against discrimination do not become victims of defending the human rights of Dalits and other discriminated groups.

  11. Appoint a board member with responsibility for oversight of this policy area.

  12. Make use of the Dalit Discrimination Check for assessment of caste-based discrimination in order to identify prevent and remedy discrimination and exploitation of Dalits in the workplace. Adapted to the Indian context, Indian companies and suppliers can use the checklist at

Community-related principles and guidelines to address caste discrimination

Companies who support the 'Community-related principles and guidelines to address caste discrimination', outlined below, will encourage and promote ownership of land and capital by Dalits, and broaden opportunities for skill development in the context of their social and economic rights. These principles should be a vital element in any social and/or environmental audit prior to investments, supply-chain or other trade relations. 'Socially excluded communities' refers primarily to Dalits but in particular contexts may include tribal peoples, women and religious minorities.

Companies in support of the Ambedkar Principles, including the 'Community-related principles and guidelines to address caste discrimination', will:

  1. Require that all corporate support to community development programmes and other charitable activities in caste-affected countries or areas include the participation of Dalits in both planning and implementation, and that they receive an equal share in any benefits.

  2. Where land is leased and/or purchased, ensure it has been done with the free and informed consent of those using it and has been properly compensated and not been misappropriated, or otherwise removed, from socially excluded communities.

  3. Actively seek to place a proportion of supply and/or service contracts with local enterprises from socially excluded communities.

  4. Avoid exploitation of local resources to the detriment of local communities and urge others, including companies and local authorities, to do likewise.

  5. Aim to ensure nothing is done that may drive local communities towards ecologically insensitive activities or the desperation of violent protest, while undertaking free and informed local consultation to guarantee this.

  6. Encourage and enable a degree of ownership of the investing and/or trading company or institution by socially excluded communities, including Dalits.

  7. If the company is a bank or financial institution, ensure that lending to priority sectors (in India a legal requirement) seeks to assist Dalit community groups and Dalit entrepreneurs to the maximum extent possible.

  8. Support educational projects for socially excluded communities at all levels, primary, secondary and tertiary, as well as in the form of training for posts at executive or management level.

  9. Promote and support the teaching of English to Dalit communities, and encourage state and government authorities to do the same, as the use of English greatly increases employment potential for excluded

Source: International Dalit Solidarity Network (ISDN)