Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday batted for a 50 per cent reservation for backward classes in private sector jobs and had called for a national debate on it.
He defended his government's decision to introduce reservation in outsourced services and said those criticising it have "very little understanding" of the issue.
He asserted that the provision, which some ruling alliance leaders have also found fault with, was brought in accordance with the Bihar Reservation Act 2003.
As per the act, Kumar said, if the government hires somebody for its work even if through an outsourcing company, and pays salary from its coffers, then the quota system prevailing in the state will apply.
"If we (the government) award a contract to somebody for undertaking a work, then the contractor will not be bound by quota policy since he will be hiring and he will be paying," he said. "But, in case of outsourced services availed of by the government, the rules will be obviously different."
"People who are raising a hue and cry over the issue have very little understanding," he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of his weekly 'Lok Samvad' (public interaction) programme at his 1 Anne Marg residence, he also dismissed charges that the proposal, cleared by the cabinet last week, was an attempt to introduce reservation in private sector through back door.
He, however, said "we, in principle" favour reservation in private sector too. "But, for that parliament has to take initiative in accordance with provisions of the Constitution."
He also said he did not believe in "too much outsourcing" as "often outsourced employees form their own associations to press the demand for regularisation".
"But when it is not possible, outsourcing must not become an excuse to deprive employees of reservation benefits," he added.
Former Speaker of state assembly and senior JD(U) leader Uday Narayan Choudhary has spoken against the decision.
Choudhary, who has launched a non-political forum, Vanchit Varg Morcha, is organising a discussion on reservation on November 10 here during which former Union minister Yashwant Sinha will be a key speaker.
Sinha has been critical of present NDA government's economic policy.
BJP Rajya Sabha member CP Thakur had last week questioned the decision, saying it may lead to public resentment and a drop in investment in the state.
Kumar today said, "I would like to remind everybody that this is not the first experiment of its kind that we have undertaken in Bihar."
In 2006, the state government recruited a large number of ex-army personnel (in Special Auxiliary Police force) to make up for the shortfall of policemen in the state and reservation was in place in their case also, he said.
Reservation benefits to outsourced employees will be on the same lines as to the regular ones wherein quotas have been earmarked for SCs, STs, OBCs, women etc, he said. "Then there is also horizontal reservation - for Divyangs (physically handicapped) or children of ex-servicemen."
(With PTI inputs)