Caste and capital cant coexist

Milind Kamble, chairman of Dalit India Chambers of Commerce and Industries.

Milind Kamble, chairman of Dalit India Chambers of Commerce and Industries, tells Shobhan Saxena why India can’t ignore dalit capitalists anymore. Excerpts:

Your mission statement says "Fight caste with capital". Why do you think dalit capitalism is the answer to caste discrimination in India?

Capitalism dismantles rural societies and feudalism. Capitalism dismantles traditions and traditional cultures. Capitalism produces urban societies, democracy and modernity. India’s caste system thrived and survived on agrarianism and traditional culture. Caste is losing its grip over dalits because India is industrializing, urbanizing and modernizing. Dalit capitalism will accelerate that process and will accord a human face to Indian capitalism.Caste and capital can’t coexist. One has to give way to the other.

Do you believe economic reforms have given opportunities to dalit entrepreneurs that were not available earlier?

Absolutely. Globalization triggered economic reforms and the world turning into one mandi made big corporations more competitive. Competition revolved around cost-cutting and quality improvement. New and small business players got opportunities. Some opportunities landed in dalits’ laps as well. Earlier, dalits could never dream of making cars or bikes. Today, some dalits are making ancillaries to Tata’s Indigo and Nano, Bajaj and Hero bikes. Also, the reforms triggered by the market economy have caused ‘market markers’ to replace ‘social markers’. If you are an upper caste without a cell phone, TV antenna on the rooftop or a bike, then you are a nobody. Your social marker – the sacred thread, for instance – becomes a burden. The chase of wealth has become a social phenomenon. Isn’t it a revolution that an upper caste woman running a beauty parlour gives massage to dalits? Economic reforms unleashed Adam Smith to chase Manu away from this planet.

What difference have role models like you made to the dalit community?

Reserved government jobs have helped the community to create a small middle class. But those jobs are too few to have any transformative impact. Government jobs will always be limited, but enterprise is limitless. By demonstrating our entrepreneurship skills we want to tell the world that we, too, have the strength to compete in the open market. We want to tell dalits ‘Yes, we can do!’ This will shatter the stereotype that dalits are a class of people who are always dependent. Our slogan ‘Be Job Givers, and not Job Seekers’ was an instant hit in the community.

How difficult is it for dalits to start a business today?

All new business players face difficulties. Dalits, too, undergo that trajectory. However, they face more problems as they hardly have any friends or relatives in business. Since most dalits don’t inherit wealth, they face difficulties in getting loans from banks as there is nothing to produce as guarantee.

What are your expectations from your three-day trade fair in December?

It is about brand building. The Mumbai Dalit Trade Fair will produce new role models for the community. Dalit youth will figure out that there is a world outside government jobs. The world would realize that dalits have massive potential to compete and succeed. Our entrepreneurs will gain more visibility and exposure- essential for success in businesses. We are planningy technical sessions, workshops and B2B meets. We expect a positive response from the nation that dalit capitalism can no longer be ignored.

The US has a number of black millionaires but the majority of blacks remaintrappedinpoverty ?Doyouthink the same can happen in India- a few dalit millionaires but poverty for the rest?

Are all white Americans billionaires and millionaires? Are all upper castes in India billionaires and millionaires? Likewise, not all dalits can be billionaires and millionaires. Why should all billionaires and millionaires in the US be only whites? Why should all billionaires and millionaires in India be from upper castes? A good number of dalits, too, should become billionaires and millionaires. Thousands of dalits should become employers of nondalits.

Is economic prosperity enough to give equality to dalits?

We at DICCI are unanimous on this – without economic independence, dalits can never gain social independence. Without economic equality, there can never be social equality. Without a strong capitalist class within dalits, dalit politicians can never become strong. Barack Obama’s rise was preceded by the rise of Black Capitalism.

Dr.Rajesh Paswan
Ph.D. (JNU)
Associate Professor and Head,
Dept. of Post Graduate Studies and Research in Hindi
N.R.E.C.College Khurja U.P.203131

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