Thursday, January 07, 2016

Commentary: The significance of PM Modi’s address to the Dalit Chamber of Commerce

Swaminathan Anklesaria must be given the credit for focusing repeatedly in his Swaminomics column and other articles on the Dalit Chamber of Commerce [DCCI] an institution that deserves far more attention from the news reporters than it has received. Recently the annual session of the Chamber was addressed by the PM Narendra Modi who did not only make lavish promises to help the Dalit entrepreneurs but even identified with the drawbacks and suffering faced by them. If one is to rely on the data provided by him, ‘the newly launched Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) has been able to give Rs 50,000 crore worth of loans to 80,000 small entrepreneurs so far, most of them from backward castes. The government, he said, estimates that the number of Dalit entrepreneurs will double in the next two years.’ The annual session was attended by thousands of entrepreneurs but also Dalit some writers and intellectuals.

Continuing in his usual style PM Modi also said ‘I want you (Dalit entrepreneurs) to know that I am your man in Delhi.’ He also claimed that ‘being from the backward class himself, he knows how it feels to be empowered against all odds.’  Clearly, the content of the speech had more politics than business or economy in it. The stated purpose of the DCCI are as follows: a) availability of early-stage funding; b) creating professional Entrepreneurship Development Programs (EDPs) tailored for their needs without ignoring their social setting, and; c) helping existing Dalit entrepreneurs scale up their operations and grow.

The point that Swaminathan Anklesaria makes in his column is however also more political than economic. According to him whereas Rahul Gandhi has taken very little interest in DCCI, far from agreeing to address them, Modi has seized the initiative in carving one more constituency. Of course according to the implicit Swaminomics sociology, Dalits by turning into entrepreneurs also weaken the occupation based caste system. One may not agree with Anklesaria on his perspective, but by drawing attention to the event, he has carried out a journalistic task that his much younger colleagues in the profession have failed to address.

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