Monday, October 01, 2018

‘Capital can break caste system… Market and money will defeat anti-capital Marx and Manu’: Milind Kamble

By: Express News Service | Updated: September 30, 2018 6:53:34 am
Milind Kamble, Dalits, Dalits ain India, SC/ST law, Dalit reservations, Dalit promotions, SC/ST jobs, SC/SAT job promotions, MUDRA scheme, Dalit atrocities, Dalit entrepreneurs, idea exchange
DICCI Chairman Milind Kamble with Executive Editor (National Affairs) P Vaidyanathan Iyer in The Indian Express newsroom. (Express photo by Abhinav Saha)
Milind Kamble, Chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the word ‘Dalit’ provides “emotional connect”, asserts that 4 % procurement law ensures Dalit inclusion, says private sector affirmative action agenda has been “derailed a bit” and urges govt to “push harder” to meet Stand Up India targets.
Why Milind Kamble?
Protests, calls for shutdowns, and a growing demand for reservation in jobs and promotions — the Dalit voice in the country has never been louder. Kamble, who founded the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2005 and is now its chairman, says that both the government and the industry have to stick to their commitments to fulfil the aspirations of the community and to ensure an equitable society. Under Kamble, DICCI has been at the forefront of government schemes such as Stand Up India, besides aiding several Dalit MSMEs and businesses.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Originally, the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) was called the Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Forum. Now the government has asked states and the media to ‘refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit’ and, instead, use only the Constitutional term, ‘Scheduled Caste’. What does ‘Dalit’ mean to you?
In India, every state has people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Particularly, SCs. People from the North, South, East and West connect emotionally through the word Dalit. It gives them an identity. The perception in society is that people from the SC/ST communities are seekers. But in our Chamber, there are several people running corporate houses, providing jobs… The people of India must know that Dalits are also present in the corporate world.
The government’s advisory (on nomenclature) is based on the court’s decision. That’s okay, they are doing their job. But DICCI is now a worldwide brand and we will not drop the word Dalit from its name.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: One of the most common problems that entrepreneurs in general, and Dalit entrepreneurs in particular, face is access to funds. You have often said that we need to move away from collateral lending. More so because Dalit entrepreneurs cannot provide collateral. What is DICCI doing to ensure that?
Jobs in the government sector are shrinking. For Dalit start-ups, it is very difficult to get early-stage funding. In India, our lending system is collateral-based. We spoke to the government about policy and equity support through banks. SC/ST youth want to start enterprises and so support needs to be created to promote entrepreneurship in the community. These talks have been going on for long. In 2015, the government instituted the MUDRA scheme and the Stand Up India scheme, which were collateral-free, and people got funds. Now, we have also created venture capital funds and many such schemes.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: For the past many years, there have been efforts to ensure 4 per cent government procurement from SC/ST entrepreneurs. But so far, the procurement has been very less — between 0.5 and 1 per cent. Why is this the case?
SME (small and medium enterprises) is the growth engine of the Indian economy, but it faces many challenges. One is access to equity and capital markets. Second, acquisition and retention of talent. However, Indian SMEs are growing despite that. If we had one crore SMEs in 2001, today we have about six crore. We have to create a support system for them.
The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act was modified in 2012 to ensure a market for Indian SMEs within the government. The government is the biggest buyer. It has more than 250 CPSUs (Central Public Sector Undertakings), nearly 60-65 departments, plus the ministries. Through these, the government makes purchases worth Rs 6 lakh crore. To create an assured market, the government has decided to set aside 20 per cent of this procurement for Indian SMEs. In 2012, the then MSME Minister, Virbhadra Singh, moved the Bill for this. We (DICCI) intervened then and said that of the 20 per cent procurement, 4 per cent must be set aside for SC/ST SMEs. The government considered the proposal and eventually 4 per cent procurement was set aside.
For three years, it was voluntary procurement but it was not enough. In 2015, under the new government, we renewed our push and said that the 4 per cent procurement must be made mandatory. From April 1, 2015, the policy became mandatory. We also pushed for the introduction of a mechanism similar to the US. The industry and government there are very pro-active. There is affirmative action. They have created a joint mechanism with industry and government stakeholders and it is referred to as the National Minority Supplier Development Council. It is a bridge between government procurement agencies, private procurement agencies and minority entrepreneurs. We need a similar mechanism and we pushed for it. The PMO invited us and we gave a presentation. We also sought a national SC/ST hub in the MSME Ministry; Rs 490 crore was allocated for it in the 2016 Budget. Last year, procurement stood at Rs 550 crore. It does not meet the target but there has been an increase.
The government has also created a portal called MSME Sambandh, which has 165 CPSUs registered on it. They have to mention their annual procurement plan on the portal and the list of the items procured. This has helped.
P VAIDYANATHAN: But if 4 per cent procurement is mandatory, why don’t PSUs, departments and ministries meet their annual targets? A handful of companies are responsible for the bulk of the procurement from SC/ST entrepreneurs.
The Secretary of the Ministry of MSME frequently meets the Secretary of the Department of Public Enterprises. There are also interactions between other secretaries regarding this. They are all trying to push for it. The CPSUs have to come out with annual reports. In that report they have to specify what they have done about the 4 per cent rule. So things are moving.
SUNIL JAIN: Every SME entrepreneur says that doing business in India is very tough. So what do you think is more important for an SC/ST entrepreneur —to have the government liberalise the business environment for everyone or ensure reservation?
Due to open market and free economy, our size (Dalit entrepreneurs) is increasing. SC/ST youth also want to own enterprises. That is why we asked the government to set aside a small percentage (in procurement) for them. There is no compromise on the quality or cost. It was for creating an assured market to give confidence to the people.
Milind Kamble, Dalits, Dalits ain India, SC/ST law, Dalit reservations, Dalit promotions, SC/ST jobs, SC/SAT job promotions, MUDRA scheme, Dalit atrocities, Dalit entrepreneurs, idea exchangeMilind Kamble said, “The government has to work for everyone. If there are no jobs here, there has to be an alternative and that is what we have created.” (Express photo by Abhinav Saha)
Yes, it is very difficult to enter the Indian market. Nandan Nilekani was born in an upper-caste family. His friends and family were also from the community. He studied at IIT Powai. But despite these privileges, he wrote in his book how difficult it was for a new entrepreneur to enter the market. If he faced such issues, then think about the problems of a Dalit youth. So by setting aside 4 per cent procurement, the government is providing them a launch pad. Only 4 per cent has been set aside, 96 per cent of the market is for others. The government has to work for everyone. If there are no jobs here, there has to be an alternative and that is what we have created.
SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN: There are millions of Indians who come from very poor families and cannot access organised financing. Why should SC/ST youth be given preference?
It is for social and financial inclusion. SC/ST youth don’t have much assets to mortgage with the bank, to give as collateral. They face difficulties getting access to capital. So the government has created a few relaxations. It is for the creation of an equitable society.
SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN: Is this facility available to second-generation SC/ST entrepreneurs?
This question is related to reservation. I am very clear that all reservation should be applicable only up to three generations. After that, they will be empowered.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: While private companies often talk about affirmative action, it has been more of a lip service so far.
The government had said that for social and financial inclusion, the private sector will have to take some responsibility. There is a lot of debate about it. The Dalit leadership had also demanded that there should be reservation in the private sector. Mainstream chambers such as CII, ASSOCHAM and FICCI made a code of conduct and every company committed to affirmative action.
Indian society is caste-based and, because of that, there are a lot of market biases as well. It is the right time to assess what the Indian industry has done on affirmative action… As a member of the CII on affirmative action, along with other companies, I am a bit disappointed. The agenda has been derailed a little bit.
In 2013, people started thinking that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is affirmative action. They failed to differentiate between philanthropy and commitment. These are two different things. Everyone is doing it through taxes and employment generation, but we have to walk the extra mile for an inclusive society. From top to bottom, the actual procurement base has to be sensitised. By setting aside a percentage of its procurement, the government has taken a step forward. Now the Indian industry needs to do it too.
ANIL SASI: Among the states, there is a sense that Telangana and Tamil Nadu are doing a lot to promote Dalit entrepreneurs.
Yes, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the government has proactively supported the creation of an ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship. Their policies are a model for other states. In Tamil Nadu too, the government is very proactive. In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, we have partnered with the governments to promote SC/ST entrepreneurship. Maharashtra also has a good policy. Gujarat has the best policy because they have considered several factors such as rental premises, mentoring support… There is a policy in all states but its execution and support are better in Telangana and Andhra.
DEVYANI ONIAL: You say caste can be fought with capital. But despite having financial agency, a Dalit still gets killed for marrying an upper caste.
That is a fact. There are a few people in the SC community who are economically empowered. A large section of the population continues to live in villages and they face discrimination on a daily basis. I am not saying that discrimination has ended due to globalisation but this (capital) is one way to overcome the bias. Who goes through atrocities? The poor. It does not happen to those who are economically empowered. Economic empowerment is very important for the SC/ST community and capital is the best way to fight caste.
The market is not concerned about who is making the product. If the quality and the cost are good, they will buy it. This is the greatness of a market economy — anyone can make a product and anyone can sell. Babasaheb Ambedkar also urged Dalits to leave villages and come to cities. In the city, there is opportunity, modernisation, industrialisation. In the village, people know me as ‘Kamble’. It is difficult to be successful in such a system. In the city, it is possible. If the caste system has to be broken, capital will break it.
RAVISH TIWARI: Over the years, do you see the rural caste hierarchy replicating itself in urban areas?
Mindsets are changing. Social reform is a very slow process but a beginning has been made. I am hopeful. The Indian industry has responded positively. The situation in cities is not the same as in the villages.
ANIL SASI: A few months ago, you said that the NDA government has been better than the UPA on affirmative action. What made you say that?
We had made several pitches to the previous government. They had come up with the ( 4 per cent) procurement policy in 2012-13. In 2014, the present government took charge and we made pitches to them as well. So far, whatever we have said, the government has considered. It’s a fact.
AMRITH LAL: The 2002 Bhopal Declaration was aimed at addressing issues concerning economically and socially deprived Dalit and tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh. What impact did it have on the ground?
Following the declaration, the MP government drafted a policy to ensure 30 per cent of its procurement is from SC/ST people. But there were a lot of problems, like the clause which stated that the supplier needed to be a manufacturer. It was the main hurdle. So it didn’t have much impact and eventually the policy was scrapped.
SHYAMLAL YADAV: You said that the Stand Up India scheme has been slow.
The scheme came from my suggestion to the government. We said that we have 27 public sector banks which have 1.25 lakh branches, and that on the occasion of Babasaheb’s 125th birth anniversary, we should have 1.25 lakh new entrepreneurs. It became a scheme and women from the general category were also added to it. Every bank branch was given a target of supporting two people. So far, 65,000 people have got loans under the scheme, of which 20,000 are from the SC/ST community and 45,000 are upper-caste women. To meet the 1.25 lakh target, the government needs to push harder.
RAJ KAMAL JHA: What is DICCI’s stand on reservation in the private sector?
DICCI’s official stand is that there should be reservation. In Dalit communities, economic empowerment has happened very fast and is continuing because of the liberal economy. There is research on this. I feel that market and money will defeat Marx and Manu because both are against capital. Manu says Dalits should not hoard capital and the Marx theory is anti-capital. But the market is growing, shouldn’t Dalits be moving with it too?


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vidya Subrahmaniam: Booted up and ready to go

Five months is a long time. In the case of Uttar Pradesh, it is the time left before the State officially goes to the polls. Yet judging from the drum beats and the slogans, the rath yatras and the roadshows, the VVIP State is booted up and ready to go. In this toughest of poll arenas, ruled by multiple imponderables, political parties must hit the ground running or find themselves left behind. 

To survive in UP, parties had to raid one another’s bases, fashioning ever new building blocks out of castes and religions, themselves founded on smaller and smaller sub-national identities. Here, nothing could be static — not yesterday’s loyalties, not yesterday’s issues, not yesterday’s line-up of parties. In the fading months of 2011, Mayawati, whose rainbow coalition of Dalits, forward and backward castes won her a majority in 2007, would throw another ace at her opponents: batwara (division of UP). The objective, as anyone could see, was less to get the division implemented than to scare and scatter the Opposition, which would thrash about for a suitable response. 

End-2011 would also mark the grand arrival of Dr Mohammad Ayub’s Peace Party — modelled on the Bahujan Samaj Party but with poorer Muslims forming the base and mostly Hindus as candidates. In the words of party functionary Yusuf Ansari, “So far only Mayawati could fully transfer her Dalit votes. Now Dr Ayub will do the same with his Muslim votes.” 

It was undoubtedly a tall, untested claim. Yet the massive buzz around the party, with Lucknow’s decision-making circles pitching election-2012 as a five-cornered contest (the fifth corner obviously made up by the Peace Party), indicated that Dr Ayub could potentially cause huge damage, cutting principally into the Muslim constituency of the Samajwadi Party, but also possibly nibbling at the poorer OBC votes of the BSP and the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

The deep impact of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign and the Congress’ Muslim reservation card could only add to the confusion. Yet one thing was clear: Even Mayawati’s harshest critics were willing to concede that, hurt and damaged as her party was, she was still ahead of her adversaries. 

On the road from Lucknow to Gorakhpur, through Allahabad, Varanasi, Mau and Basti, it was evident that the 2007 magic — when the only name anyone heard was Mayawati — had dissipated. Maya of 2011 evoked a mix of response, ranging from anger and dismissal to grudging admiration and rock-solid support. 

Surely, only the very na├»ve would dare write off the BSP’s boss woman. Indeed, if the BSP was down, its principal rival, the SP, did not seem in top shape either. As a senior government official in Lucknow remarked: “As of now, her return to power looks difficult. But look at the state of her opponents. Things remaining the same, the BSP will emerge as the single largest party.” 

Still nudging the third spot, the BJP appeared set to improve its tally. Over the past decade, the BJP, propelled to the top by Lal Krishna Advani’s 1991 rath yatra and Hindutva’s polarising appeal, had become a caricature of itself. ‘Me-too’ yatras by sundry State BJP leaders evoked a yawn — even among the party’s diehard supporters. In 2007, the BSP cannibalised the BJP, taking away its core forward caste voters, and also sections of its OBC support. On a downward spiral since the 1996 Assembly election, the BJP crashed to 51 seats for a vote share of 17 per cent in 2007. Allahabad, the seat of savarna (forward castes) power, epitomised the change: the BSP swept the district. 

Five years on, Allahabad displayed little of that overt enthusiasm, with the proudly Brahmin Mishrajis and Tiwarijis, who had queued up behind Mayawati, claiming today that their 2007 vote was not for the BSP’s iron lady but against Mulayam Singh. Allahabad High Court lawyer Gauri Shankar Mishra mocked at the 2007 BSP slogan, dusted up and recycled by the party for use in 2012: Brahman shank bajayega, haathi aage jayega (the elephant will march ahead with the Brahmin blowing the conch shell). “So we will keep blowing the conch shell while she rides high? No way.” 

The forward castes complained that the BSP’s largesse for Brahmins had gone mostly to the family of State Cabinet Minister and trusted Mayawati aide Satish Chandra Mishra. Ironically, this fact was confirmed by Mayawati herself. At the Nov.12 Brahmin Mahasammelan she hosted in Lucknow, she read out a long list of names of Mishra family beneficiaries, going on to describe the posts and sops as a return gift for her aide’s loyalty and devotion. Naturally, the announcement did not amuse those outside of the charmed circle. 

Significantly, the BJP, which had become an object of pity in 2007, cropped up repeatedly in forward caste conversations, with many remembering the “golden days” of Kalyan Singh, and many more wishing for a return to the “corruption-free” regime of “Atalji” (Atal Bihari Vajpayee). Not everyone felt this way though. Vidya Bhushan Upadhyaya, a powerful Brahmin name from a family of lawyers and judges, said Mayawati towered over her rivals, and he himself backed her sarvajan (all castes) project. There was also a sense among the forward castes that if the fight narrowed down to the top two, they would have no option but to plump for the BSP over the SP. 

In all the conflicting voices and views, if there was unanimity of opinion on any one thing, it was on the “down-and-out” status of the Congress. The Anna effect was deep and pervasive, reaching as far as villages in interior eastern UP. At a tiny village tea stall in Dhuriapar in Gorakhpur, a cluster of impoverished villagers, sipping tea, acknowledged Anna Hazare as a factor in the coming election. 

Elsewhere too, the Anna name easily tripped off the tongue, suggesting both a familiarity with the man and identification with the issue of corruption. For the Congress, briefly attaining superstardom with 21 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, nothing could be worse than having to hear that inflation had combined with corruption to push it back to the drawing board. This despite the continuing goodwill for Rahul Gandhi, “a good boy surrounded by bad, corrupt people.” The party’s hope would now rest on the Congress-Ajit Singh alliance clicking in west UP and the Gandhi son somehow managing to outwit his clearly smarter rivals. 

The first indication of how things stood in political UP was available in the Lucknow office of a mid-ranking government official. His personal attendant — who lives in a village off the State capital — said he was willing to bet his last rupee on “behenji”. Why? Because she had a stranglehold on the Dalit votes and the plus votes (the forward caste votes she added in 2007) would “never, never” go to the SP. Also her government ran many pro-poor schemes. 

Arun Mishra, a local journalist, challenged the attendant to go to Allahabad where “baspa [BSP] will be wiped out this time. Brahman gaya, behenji gayee [brahman gone, behenji will also go].” A Dalit journalist who had dropped in, added his own perspective: “Dalits don’t like the fact that it is still Brahmin Raj in Lucknow. Look at the number of Brahmin Ministers in the Cabinet. But the Dalit will not go anywhere, and if she has lost the Brahmins, she has made up for it through significant inroads into the most backward castes.” The bemused official around whom the debate raged gave his verdict: “It is going to be a hung house.” 

The best place to test out the claims and counter claims was on the ground, and at the end of a 10-day tour, a few broad trends could be detected. The BSP’s “plus votes” had fragmented. Dalits, who worshipped their behenji, had begun to complain. In the Ambedkar villages, spruced up for the big match, villagers showered praise on Mayawati, but were bitterly critical of officials who “defied behenji’s orders.” 

At Parsa Jafar chauraha in Basti, a clutch of Dalits spoke of “intolerable levels of corruption” and insisted that the forward castes prospered at the cost of Dalits. Yet through the whining there was no doubt that their vote would go only to “our behenji.” The Yadavs were fully with the SP, but not the Muslims who claimed to have tired of unfulfilled promises, and wanted to “see results” before voting. The BJP banked on a return of the savarna vote, and the Congress groped about in the dark. 

As an official summed up: “There is no goonda raj today. The BSP government has implemented good schemes, and cracked down on corruption. But the poor continue to be harassed by lower-level extortion and corruption. And, most of all, the 2007 chemistry has gone missing.” 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dalit Entrepreneurs: From job seekers to job givers

Jun 14, 2011

The CII’s move to increase sourcing goods and services from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe entrepreneurs can bring about much awaited change.
When 33-year-old Devanand Londhe, a civil engineer from Kolhapur University, decided to leave his job as a disaster management consultant and turn entrepreneur in 2008, he was in for a rude shock. Despite the economic and social changes in democratic India, he realised that being a Dalit (member of Scheduled Caste) can still create numerous hurdles. 

Londhe wanted to start a garment manufacturing unit in his home district of Sangli, Maharashtra, but could not find someone who would lend him Rs. 7 lakh to start his unit. A bank denied him the loan at the last minute, without giving any valid reason.
This delayed his plans to start the unit by a year, and forced him to sell his house and wife’s jewellery and take loans from a money lender to meet the shortfall. “My qualifications and ability did not matter; age-old perceptions and discriminations did,” says Londhe.

In the past two years, however, he has made good progress. Today, he employs 225 people in his business of exporting gloves to Japanese firms and has a turnover of more than Rs. 1 crore. Still, he faces difficulties in getting orders or funding from within the country. It is no surprise then that Londhe feels buoyed by the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) latest open declaration for affirmative action.On May 18, CII President B. Muthuraman announced that the industry body will work closely with the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) to increase sourcing of goods and services from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC and ST) entrepreneurs by 10 to 20%. Today, DICCI has 1,000 entrepreneurs as members, 400 of whom are in Maharshtra. In 2005, when it started, it had only 100 members.“[The CII] should have done this a long time ago,” says Londhe, who could not take up an order from a Tata group company last year for manufacturing  21 lakh pairs of gloves because no financier believed he could deliver to the Tata group. He feels such an open declaration could bring about a sea change in the way Dalit entrepreneurs are perceived in society.“It is a significant event since it is the first time the industry is officially declaring this,” says Chandra Bhan Prasad, one of the leading Dalit thinkers in the country. Prasad has been spearheading the cause of affirmative action both in public and private sector.
“We started this agenda in Bhopal in 2002 when the Madhya Pradesh government ruled that its departments would source 30% of its purchases from SCs and STs.” But the untold truth is that there has been more discrimination in the private sector than in the public. 

Prasad says that although there are many Dalit businessmen in the country, they are weighed down by negative perceptions and most are unable to grow their businesses beyond Rs. 50 crore. Most Dalit entrepreneurs end up becoming third party suppliers in large businesses. “They don’t get a direct first party contract,” he says.“It is tough enough in government dealings, but in the private sector it is worse,” says Ratibhai Makwana, who speaks from his experience of more than six decades as a businessman in Gujarat, with a turnover of Rs. 200 crore. There is another reason why the call for affirmative action in the private sector is being taken as a watershed event by Dalit businessmen and thinkers. “We want to be job givers, not job seekers,” says Adhik Rao Sadamate of Sadamate Industries, as he complains against the continuing stereotyping of Dalits as incapable of delivering quality.Prasad feels that while the move will benefit many young Dalit entrepreneurs to gain a footing in business, the real benefit is the possible change in the way in which Dalits are looked at, by themselves and others. “We need role models. Dalit entrepreneurs need to believe and this could be the gentle push they need,” he says.Milind Kamble, head of DICCI, says he is busy finalising a list of about 400 members who could well be the first ones to benefit from the CII’s move. Joint steps

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has also set a target of training 50,000 youngsters from among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs)and facilitate an equal number of them with employment in 2011-12. Milind Kamble, head of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), says the CII would be using its own training centres, in places like Pune and Ahmedabad, for this purpose.

By the first week of June, DICCI will be providing the CII with a list of 400 Dalit entrepreneurs, from among its 1,000 members, who could benefit from the CII’s move to increase sourcing of goods and services from SC and ST entrepreneurs.

Maya writes to PM about atrocities on dalits

Jun 15, 2011,

LUCKNOW: Chief minister Mayawati on Tuesday launched a counter offensive on the Congress party which has been most vocal in attacking the CM over alleged rape and murder of a teenage girl in Nighasan, Lakhimpur Kheri. She shot off a letter to the prime minister drawing his attention towards the plights of dalits at Mirchpur, the Congress ruled Haryana. She has questioned various national commissions who have taken congnizance of criminal cases in UP but have turned a blind eye towards atrocities on poor and women in Congress ruled states.Maya has asked the PM to ensure justice for the victims of Mirchpur.
On April 21, 2010 two dalits were killed in Mirchpur and their houses were set ablaze. Mayawati has said that why National Commission for Scheduled Caste chairman P L Punia who is a also a resident of Haryana overlooked the incident.
The plight of dalit victims of Mirchpur. Even after courts directions to help dalit, nothing substantial has been done by the Haryana government. The victims, instead of help, were caned by Haryana police when they went to lodge a protest. The victims included women, elderly and children.
The chief minister has also written that National Commission for Women (NCW) has also not taken note of the plight of dalit women in Mirchpur, whereas it reacted promptly when Congress lodged a false complaint about harassment in Bhatta-Parsaul in UP. Similarly, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) came to UP for probe in almost all the incidents of violence politicised by the Congress but it did not visit Haryana. She also referred to the silence of the NHRC over daylight murder of a journalist in Mumbai. This shows that NCSC, NHRC and NCW are working like political parties and following the agenda set up by the Congress.
Meanwhile, BSP spokesman said that the post-mortem report in Nighasan incident has confirmed murder but ruled out rape. However, the Opposition continue to describe the incident as rape. He pointed out that in Banda rape case, CB-CID did a good job and cracked the case following which the accused BSP MLA was sent to jail. Similarly, he said, the government is confident that CB-CID will solve the case soon. The state government has already taken action against 11 policemen and arrested three named in FIR. The three doctors who conducted the first post-mortem have also been suspended for giving a false report, he added.

Dalit Christians to protest for SC status

June 16, 2011

Churches in India have called for a three-day hunger strike and a rally to Parliament next month to press for Scheduled Caste status for dalit Christians and Muslims.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) has called for a hunger strike from July 25-27 culminating in a march to Parliament on July 28 in support of their demand.

Dalit adhikaaron ko haan bolo! Dilli Chalo! (say yes to Dalit rights, go to Delhi) is the call sent out by the National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians (NCCDC) and the National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC), the organizers of the protest.

It is a matter of great concern for the Church in India that its own people who belong to the dalit community are denied Scheduled Caste status, the NCCI statement said.

NCCI along with Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) and NCDC have taken many initiatives but now realize its imperative to step on the gas to achieve the goal, it said.

Denying reservation merely on the basis of religion is a serious violation of the Constitution and its principles of Secularism and Freedom of Religion, the NCCI said.

Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin (CSCO) have been seeking the right for equal Constitutional provisions on par with dalits of the country.

The campaign coordinators have obtained the letters of support for the cause from major political parties except BJP.
Prominent Dalit leaders Mayawati and Ramvilas Paswan have written to the Prime Minister strongly supporting reservation to dalit Christians and Muslims.

The statement said it is quite clear that it is not the Constitutional mandate but the lack of genuine political will that is denying Christian Dalits, SC status.

The campaign coordinators have requested the bishops, heads of the Churches, Christian institutions, clergy and lay people to participate in the proposed hunger strike and rally.

Grain banks prove a boon for Dalits

Jun 15, 2011

PATNA: About 150 Grain banks being run in Patna, Bhojpur, Gaya, Jamui and Saharsa districts by Dalit women have come as a great relief for Musahar and other poor families.

Fed up with hunger and poverty, around 2,000 Musahar Dalit women had set up Grain banks in 2002 in about 60 villages under Paliganj subdivision comprising Paliganj and Bikram blocks in Patna district. These banks, which provide grains on loan to needy Dalit families, have proved a boon for the poor and destitute families of the region, who had to hitherto depend on rich farmers and moneylenders in times of crises. Later, such banks were opened in Bhojpur, Gaya, Saharsa and Jamui districts.

Not only has the move helped the Dalit families to overcome hunger, it has also instilled self-confidence among them. It has rid them of high interest rate on loan besides encouraging the savings culture.

Says Sudami Devi of Maner Telpa village under Bikram block in Patna district, "Earlier, we were forced to live in penury as we did not get enough wages as farm labourers. We were left to the mercy of rich farmers for sustenance. Now, we get grains at low interest rates from these banks," she said.

Jirmania Devi of Paliganj block said, "These banks meet the needs of around 35 Musahar villages in Paliganj, with nearly 400 Musahar families benefiting."

"Exploitation led to establishment of these Grain banks as Musahars and other landless agricultural labourers were exploited by landlords and not given their due wages, " said Pradeep Priyadarshi of Pragati Gramin Vikas Samiti, who was the man behind this initiative of Grain banks.

"For a day's labour, we used to get one kg of grain, which sometimes went down to half-a-kg on the excuse of having been adjusted against pending loans. This encouraged us to set up the Grain banks," said a village woman, who refused to disclose her identity. "We were also humiliated on failing to return the borrowed foodgrain,"

Starting with an initial stock of 55kg of grain in 2002, the bank today has 1,560kg of rice as capital, said Punam Devi, one of the 26 members of the village samiti in Maner Telpa. The family borrowing wheat and rice has to pay one kg grain as interest for every five kilogram of grain, said Sudami Devi, the bank's secretary at Maner Telpa village. The banks do not charge interest from extremely poor women. Besides, they also donate foodgrains to families free of cost in the event of any death or physical disability.

When contacted, food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak said, "The government is willing to provide help to such groups financially as well as in developing infrastructure. We would provide all possible help to them."

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Congress competes with NCP to woo Dalit voters

June 08, 2011

The Congress is trying to outsmart its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) that is busy wooing Dalit voters ahead of the municipal elections. While the NCP wants the Dadar station to be renamed Chaityabhoomi, the Congress has gone a step ahead and decided to revive the issue of allotting mill land for the makeover of Dr BR Ambedkar’s memorial at Shivaji Park.
The Congress on Tuesday announced that it would push for the makeover of Chaityabhoomi — a long pending demand of various dalit outfits.
State Congress president Manikrao Thakre said chief minister Prithviraj Chavan would meet the prime minister and demand extra land from Indu Mills for the project. “During a four-hour meeting on Monday night, the CM assured us that he would take up the matter ,” he said.
The Chaityabhoomi, where Ambedkar was laid to rest more than five decades ago, is revered by dalits across the country. Members of the community have been demanding that the ‘pious’ place be rebuilt into a national memorial.
For this purpose, the government wants the neighbouring defunct Indu Mill to spare at least 4 to 8 acres of land. The mill is owned by Nationalist Textiles Corporation, a central government undertaking.
Several rounds of talks with the union textile ministry resulted in no positive outcome. The ministry is reportedly not keen to part with the land located in a prime area.
However, worried at the prospects of losing Dalit votes to the NCP as well as the Republican Party of India which is tying up with the saffron combine, the Congress has decided to once again take up the issue with the Centre.
The NCP’s plan to rename Dadar station kicked up a controversy with the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena criticising the move. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, however, said the party had not taken any such decision.
But not to be left behind, the Congress claimed that it had made the demand much before its ally. On Tuesday, it went a step ahead and took all the credit. “The Congress does not replicate ideas floated by others. In fact, it’s the other way around,” said Thakre.
The Congress and the NCP have been competing with each other after Ramdas Athawale shifted his loyalty to the saffron combine.
Congress has placed 102 demands before the chief minister for implementation, while the NCP will place its 51-point agenda at its anniversary function at Sion’s Somaiya Ground on June 10.

Majority of sanskrit students are Dalits in Tanahun


TANAHUN: The only Sanskrit school of Tanahun district is not attracting Brahmin children, but Dalit students.

An increasing number of Dalit children are attracted by Gyankunja Maharsi Bedbyas Sanskrit Secondary School situated at Byas Municipality-10. Majority of the students in the Sanskrit school are Dalits.

With the Brahmin and Chhetri communities admitting their children in expensive private schools, it’s hard to even find non-Dalit students studying Sanskrit, said school headmaster Tulsi Sharan Sigdel.

He said the number of Brahmin and Chhetri students fell down sharply following the end of the conflict in the country. Earlier, during the conflict there were 15 Brahmin students in the school that was established to impart Sanskrit education to students of all communities.

Of 205 students in the school, majority are Dalits. After Dalits, the Muslim community accounts for the highest number of students, Sigdel said. “It’s our pleasure that we have more number of Muslim students today.”

A teacher of the school, Krishna Raj Tiwari, said it was unfortunate that the number of students is decreasing even though the school boasts of sound physical infrastructure.

CSW photography exhibition highlights casteism in India

8 June 2011

A new exhibition opens at St Paul's Cathedral in UK next week to give members of the public a rare and intimate glimpse into the lives of Indian Dalits.

The groundbreaking Being Untouchable exhibition showcases the photography of Marcus Perkins for Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The Dalits are a group of people formerly known as "untouchables" who still enjoy terrible discrimination in Indian society today.

The portraits expose the present-day impact of centuries of oppression, and explores how "untouchability" continues to be practised today despite having been abolished by India's Constitution.

Photographer Marcus Perkins said, “Although almost every aspect of life in India has been covered by photography exhibitions, very few have paid systematic attention to casteism.

"Many outside India either don’t know about caste, or assume it is dying out as a result of India’s economic boom.

"That is not the case, and we have sought here to illustrate the lives of a few, who typify both the extreme and the everyday suffering that millions of Dalits face. This exhibition is a tribute to them.”

St Paul's will hold three Meditative Eucharists on Sundays during the exhibition, which runs from June 14 to July 6.

The Eucharists will explore the theme of untouchability and focus on the Dalits of India, the untouchable within our own society, and ultimately the untouchable within ourselves.

The Rev Canon Mark Oakley, Treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral, said, “Marcus Perkins’ photographs are haunted by the beauty and pain of what is being observed. The colour of India – those wonderful fabrics, textures and smells – is skilfully captured but is shadowed by the darkness of reality for these men, women and children deemed to be unworthy of human touch.

"We are thrown back on ourselves as we look. What can we do? What happened to these people? What do we consider untouchable in our own culture and day?

"It is only right that such vital questions are explored in reflective acts of worship in the cathedral making this more than an exhibition. It is an invitation to see life through a different lens.”

David Griffiths, South Asia Team Leader at CSW, said, “Being Untouchable is both a hand of warm friendship to Dalits, and a cry of protest about their suffering.

"Developed in partnership with Dalit community leaders, who allowed us to share in the privilege of solidarity with their people, it is a plea to let Dalits tell their own story, express their own aspirations and forge their own future.

"St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most iconic institutions, and by highlighting the lives of a people once called ‘untouchable’ and often treated little differently today, it is amplifying the key message that being untouchable has no place in our world.”