Empowerment and representation, instead of tokenism, are key for inclusive growth

With sustained economic empowerment, political representation and educational opportunities, Dalits are increasingly becoming an inseparable part of the New India story that is deeply inclusive in its foundation and focused on making the country a leading light in the new world order.

Inclusive growth is not just a slogan but a commitment and an article of faith for the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. The Union Cabinet’s decision to provide an outlay of Rs 59,000 crore to the post-matric scholarship scheme for students from Scheduled Caste groups works towards realising the dreams of B R Ambedkar. This allocation will benefit more than four crore students in the next five years. The Centre will bear a considerable share — almost 60 per cent — of the cost and the rest will be borne by the states. Timely disbursal and transparency will be strictly adhered to in the renewed scheme of things. With the Centre shouldering the responsibility, there is a renewed sense of hope and optimism among the youth, as they were facing challenges in pursuing higher education owing to financial constraints and the lacklustre attitude of state governments.

The scheme will maximise the gross enrolment ratio of SC students in higher education. Education provides avenues for upward mobility and more importantly, dignity and recognition. The next generation of Dalits is aspiring precisely for this esteem and social civility. Apart from education, the central government is committed to the development of villages, where people from Dalit communities constitute a significant chunk of the population. In 2019, the Union government identified almost 27,000 such villages where a government programme will ensure the focused implementation of welfare schemes from both the central and the state governments to boost infrastructure and reduce socio-economic disparities.

Over the last seven decades, Dalits have remained at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. On the parameters of health and education, nothing substantial has been achieved until now. Rhetoric in the name of caste and token representation has caused insurmountable damage to the Dalit psyche. However, in the last six years, schemes like Stand-up India and MUDRA have greatly benefitted young people from the community. The chairperson of Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), Milind Kamble, who has a team of more than 5,000 entrepreneurs from SC and ST groups, has been closely working with the government to generate opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-employment for Dalit youth. “Be Job Givers and not Job Seekers”, is a leitmotif for the government.

PM Modi is empathetic and entirely conscious of the challenges faced by socially-marginalised communities. Empathy because he had the first-hand experience of such social encounters while growing up as a member of a backward community himself.

Schemes like a venture capital fund for SCs and a credit enhancement guarantee plan have already benefited countless youngsters. Efforts are also being aimed at creating structures to handhold those youth who want to become entrepreneurs through a network of incubation centres and an enabling financial assistance architecture.

The vision of New India will be complemented by the New Dalit. The Congress has for long patronised Dalits. They never considered Dalits as stakeholders or partners in their disposition. Representation, not mere tokenism, is what the New Dalit wants and the Congress never went beyond tokenism. They systematically relegated leaders like B R Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram to the margins and restricted them as mere leaders of Dalits. In contrast, the BJP has walked the extra mile and ensured meaningful representation for Dalits within the organisation and government. The youngest woman MLA from Gujarat, Malti Maheshwari, and numerous other leaders, are now making themselves heard and are appropriately voicing the concerns and aspirations of Dalits across the country.

With sustained economic empowerment, political representation and educational opportunities like the boost in the post-matric scholarship for SC students, Dalits are increasingly becoming an inseparable part of the New India story that is deeply inclusive in its foundation, consultative in its approach and focused on making the country a leading light in the new world order.

This article first appeared in the print edition on January 4, 2021 under the title ‘New India, New Dalit’. The writer is an assistant professor at Patna University and national spokesperson, BJP

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