Matter of pride

Matter of pride

The first-ever national trade fair organised by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries in Mumbai  was an important event in the story of Dalit empowerment and progress. In the first place it helped to create some public awareness about a matter few people knew much about. Very few even knew that the  body that organised the fair existed.  There  have not been many Dalit business men and industrialists in the country.

The reasons are many and easy to identify.  The lack of an entrepreneurial tradition, problems about raising capital for investment or lack of a social network which often aid and promote business, and, above all, the social and economic discrimination that always worked to the disadvantage of Dalits are some of them. The Mumbai fair however showed that Dalit entrepreneurship has become important enough to be noticed at the national level.

About 1,000 Dalit business people participated in the fair and some of the companies that took part in it are multinationals, set up and developed by Dalits. Many of the companies do robust business and are worth hundreds of crores of rupees. It is also  important that most of the successful Dalit business men are first generation entrepreneurs. That shows the strength of will, entrepreneurial abilities and capacity for hard work of  those who ventured into a field which was almost unknown to them. Many of them had perhaps hidden their identity once, lest that should be a negative point. However there are many more now who have confidently engaged the world and emerged successful.

There may be a temptation among some to misread the meaning of many Dalit success stories, as proving that individual efforts in a competitive environment are better than affirmative action in raising the social and economic status of Dalits. But this is wrong because there are still relatively few business people among Dalits than among other communities. In fact it was the reservation policy that helped many Dalits to educate and empower themselves and to aspire for careers in business. The new liberalised economic regime also helped many of them to find opportunities and make the best of them. 

Corporate India has promised support to Dalit business and the government has also done well to extend support, for example in the matter of procurement. Dalit business may have done well, but can do still better in times to come.

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