Tuesday, January 11, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Plan panel mulls ways to spur Dalit capitalism


Posted: Mon, Jan 10 2011. 10:08 PM IST

Economy and Politics

Plan panel mulls ways to spur Dalit capitalism
Community business forum seeks inclusion in priority-sector lending at
special rates, entry into policymaking panels
Pallavi Singh

New Delhi: The government has begun discussions with Dalit
entrepreneurs on what can be done to promote business ventures set up
by members of their community.

As a part of its discussions with various groups before it finalizes
the 12th Plan for 2012-17, the Planning Commission has sought
suggestions from the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
(Dicci), a business group, on what can be done to spur Dalit
capitalism, how these business ventures can be funded, and how Dalit
voices can be heard while charting out policies.

Narendra Jadhav, a member of the panel, said a proposal to introduce
executive development programmes for Dalit entrepreneurs at some of
the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) is also being considered.
"(We are) very seriously contemplating the idea to have some kind of
formal executive development programme for Dalit entrepreneurs. It can
be outsourced to some of the IIMs. Most Dalit entrepreneurs have
business skills, but they need polishing, particularly the younger
ones. This will be considered, examined and polished in the 12th Plan.
We will make a policy in this regard," Jadhav said.

In a meeting held earlier this week, the planning body has also
suggested that the chamber set up a venture capital fund to finance
projects promoted by entrepreneurs born at the bottom of the caste
pyramid and indicated that the government could consider picking up a
stake in this fund, officials said.

The chamber will soon appoint a committee to formulate concrete
suggestions. This is the first time that a Dalit business forum has
been invited to make suggestions to the Plan panel.

"There are two things: one is promoting entrepreneurship that's an end
objective in itself. If there are difficulties faced by some
communities, then you may need special interventions," said Pronab
Sen, principal adviser to the panel.

Jadhav said encouraging or creating situations for expansion of Dalit
entrepreneurship also has an employment angle. "If there is a policy
in this regard, it will also give fillip to employment of Dalits (by
Dalit entrepreneurs). It is also about taking cognizance of the fact
that there is a greater change taking place in society, and also about
being open to voices from the ground while formulating the 12th Plan
to make it more focused on the real issues from the ground," he added.

Raising the funding limit for Dalit enterprises through the National
Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Finance and Development
Corporation (NSFDC), the apex government body for finance of
small-scale businesses run by the weaker sections, is one of the
suggestions Dicci made to the panel. The finance body grants a maximum
loan of Rs. 7 lakh for Dalit businesses while its state wings mostly
offer composite loans of a maximum amount of Rs. 50,000.

"Most government schemes for financing Dalit businesses expect them to
be small-scale, such as buying cattle to set up a milking unit, or an
autorickshaw. In the meeting between Dicci and the Plan panel, just
one out of 35 Dalit entrepreneurs with businesses worth crores had
availed of a loan from NSFDC and that Rs. 7 lakh loan took three
years! Sadly, the government finds it difficult to believe that Dalits
also could need a loan of Rs. 80 crore or so," says Chandra Bhan
Prasad, an independent Dalit activist and writer, who was a part of
the Dicci delegation that met the Plan panel earlier this week.

The Plan panel's deliberations with the Dalit business group seem to
be guided by the changing socio-economic realities of India, and the
steady rise of Dalit capitalism in particular. Considered the most
underprivileged community in India, a section of Dalits are now
engaging in large-scale businesses for the creation of wealth and
employment that allow them an escape both from the demeaning tasks
assigned to them by the caste system and the stigma of being branded
as non-meritorious beneficiaries of reservations in education and

"There are Dalit entrepreneurs who are into large-scale manufacturing
and are also suppliers for government-run bodies such as the Indian
Railways and the Delhi Metro, which proves that Dalit businesses are
no less competitive and efficient than others," said Milind Kamble,
chairman of Dicci, who also attended the meeting.

The key demands that the chamber made to the Plan panel were to
include Dalit entrepreneurs in priority-sector lending at special
rates through institutions such as the Small Industries Development
Bank of India and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural
Development. "We also asked for appointment of Dicci members on
government panels, ministries and committees engaged in policymaking,
just the way members from Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of
Commerce and Industry) and CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) are
appointed," Kamble said.

D. Shyam Babu, a fellow of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary
Studies in New Delhi whose research on Dalits and the new economic
order has highlighted the social advance of the community in the wake
of globalization, said government measures to promote Dalit capitalism
will help create a Dalit bourgeoisie. "Most Dalit entrepreneurs face
problems varying from difficulty in getting enough supplies on credit,
lack of social networks, absence of kin groups in the business, and
control of traditionally dominant business-caste groups. These, along
with other social variables such as lack of social capital, make the
Dalit situation more complicated and vulnerable to homogeneous
categorization," says Surinder S. Jodhka, a professor at the Centre
for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New

Jodhka's paper, Dalits in Business: Self-Employed Scheduled Castes in
Northwest India, drew insights on the expansion of private capital in
India during the post-1991 period and highlighted the discrimination
faced by Dalit businesses.

Prasad said the government should also formulate policies that favour
grant of a certain number of tenders to Dalits. "Once Dalits are put
in the supply chain, since the government is the biggest employer,
discrimination in labour markets would also end," he said.



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