Sunday, August 31, 2014

Social Justice

This is a very good article appearing in today's The Hindu which discusses the failure or ineffectiveness of Govt. policies in uplifting the conditions of dalits.


  • In a new book, Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs , we [the authors] have attempted to map the trajectories of 21 Dalit entrepreneurs — their humble origins and the grit they displayed in building successful businesses. Although they are minuscule in number among the 200 million-plus Dalits, their experiences reveal that they largely succeeded despite and not because of public policy. It also shows what can now be done to pave the way for more Dalits to become job givers rather than remain job seekers, a slogan adopted by their trade body, the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI)
  • Our initial findings indicate that almost all of the respondents are first generation entrepreneurs. Most are not well-educated (in terms of fancy degrees); indeed, many have even limited schooling. The collective turnover of these 1,000 Dalit entrepreneurs is nearly Rs.10,000 crore. Almost none of them has received support or preferential treatment from the government. They did not even consider approaching institutions like the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) which is mandated to promote entrepreneurship among Dalits. The transaction costs are simply too high when compared to the very modest amounts of funds handed out by people who have little knowledge of the issues.
  • The policy discourse has so far focussed on the preferential model over and above what is practicable. Job quotas without jobs are meaningless. Dalits will find very limited economic opportunities in government jobs for the simple reason that these barely exist relative to the numbers of Dalit youth joining the workforce. The emphasis should be to ensure universal access to quality education and health care and other basic public goods for all people and ensure that all those left out due to a variety of reasons are covered.
  • Second, manufacturing offers more scope for would-be Dalit entrepreneurs for the simple reason that the children of the elite simply cannot take the heat and dust and the distant locations that are inevitable in setting up a manufacturing unit in India today. They prefer service-related occupations in metros in air-conditioned offices.
  • Third, social hierarchies are much more rigid in rural India, and an urbanising India offers better opportunities for aspiring Dalit entrepreneurs.
The challenge for policymakers is to create what de Tocqueville termed “equality of conditions” wherein anyone can chart his/her own course with initiative, tenacity and an enabling policy regime. 

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