Thursday, December 22, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalit capitalism

Dalit capitalism

Posted By Razib Khan on December 22, 2011

When it comes to caste and capitalism in India, The New York Times
reads rather like Reason or a house publication of the Cato Institute.
Last fall there was Business Class Rises in Ashes of Caste System Now,
Scaling Caste Walls With Capitalism's Ladders in India:

As the founder of a successful offshore oil-rig engineering
company, Mr. Khade is part of a tiny but growing class of millionaires
from the Dalit population, the 200 million so-called untouchables who
occupy the very lowest rung in Hinduism's social hierarchy.

"This is a golden period for Dalits," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a
Dalit activist and researcher who has championed capitalism among the
untouchables. "Because of the new market economy, material markers are
replacing social markers. Dalits can buy rank in the market economy.
India is moving from a caste-based to a class-based society, where if
you have all the goodies in life and your bank account is booming, you
are acceptable."

Dalits still lag behind the rest of India, but they have
experienced gains as the country's economy has expanded. A recent
analysis of government survey data by economists at the University of
British Columbia found that the wage gap between other castes and
Dalits has decreased to 21 percent, down from 36 percent in 1983, less
than the gap between white male and black male workers in the United
States. The education gap has been halved.

Another survey conducted by Indian researchers along with
professors from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard showed that
the social status of Dalits has risen as well — they are more likely
to be invited to non-Dalit weddings, to eat the same foods and wear
the same clothes as upper-caste people, and use grooming products like
shampoo and bottled hair oil.

For most of India's history after independence, the government was
the only thing that could improve the Dalits' lot. For nearly all
Indians but especially for Dalits, a government job, even a low-level
one, was the surest ticket out of poverty, guaranteeing education,
housing, a salary and a pension. Few in the socialist government or in
India's generally risk-averse society saw entrepreneurship as an
attractive option.


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