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Reformist’s life to be chronicled

Memoirs of noted social reformer Hemalatha Lavanam will soon find place in the National Biography Series of the National Book Trust of India.

The objective of the National Biography series is to throw light on the lives of Indian women and men who have made outstanding contribution towards the development of Indian society, culture, science, economy, polity as also of modern Indian sensibility. After Durgabai Deshmukh, Ms. Lavanam is the second woman selected for the honour from Andhra Pradesh.

“The news came as a pleasant surprise. I feel very happy because Hemalatha’s life story gives a sense of self-respect to all women. This kind of recognition was long overdue,” said atheist leader and Hemalatha’s husband Lavanam.

Born in 1937 at Vinukonda in Guntur district, Ms. Lavanam was the last child of Padmabhushan, Kalaprapurna Gurram Joshua and Mariyamba. Post her travel in Chambal valley in Vinoba Bhave’s padayatra for Bhudan yagna, her perspective on life changed and she returned home to take up extensive work in the field of criminal reform, abolition of Jogini system, social equality and dispelling superstition.

The two authors selected for writing the biography –Lalita Vakulabharanam and Sundar Kompalli—are editing their work to meet the December 13 deadline for submission of the biography. “We are mainly focussing on her all-encompassing personality, her unique approach to problems in society, exclusive strategies she embraced to bring about a reform and most importantly the methods she adopted to sustain the reforms in such difficult times. As a Dalit woman, she faced stiff resistance but ironically, almost 65 % of her work force comprised those belonging to upper castes. She managed to gain acceptance in a vitiated society,” says one of the two authors Mr. Kompalli.

Even while waging pitched battle against social evils like Jogini system in backward remote villages of Nizamabad district relying heavily on the enormous experience she had gained in the criminal reforms she undertook in the coastal Andhra region with her spouse Lavanam, she never allowed the mainstream Dalit politics to influence her.

It also talks about her early life and people like her father Gurram Joshua, social reformer and her father-in-law Gora, Vinoba Bhave and her husband Lavanam, who influenced it.

“It feels good to know that Hemalatha will go pan-India once the biography is published,” says an elated Lavanam.

The Hindu
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/reformists-life-to-be-chronicled/article53 60473.ece

Posted on: December 3, 2013

 


A trailblazer in Dalit literature

Om Prakash Valmiki lost his battle for life to liver cancer on Sunday, aged 63, leaving behind a literary legacy that is iconic not just for his words, but also because of what it tells us about our times.

Born at the lowest rung of the scheduled castes as an untouchable chuhda in Muzaffarnagar district of western Uttar Pradesh, he rose to occupy the highest place in the world of Dalit literature because of his powerful writings.

While Dalit literature had gained wide acceptability in other Indian languages like Marathi, Hindi came to recognise it much later. This meant that when Mr. Valmiki started writing, there were not many takers in Brahmin and Thakur-dominated Hindi literary scene for this kind of literature.

It goes to the credit of Rajendra Yadav, who too passed away last month, that he turned his monthly magazine Hans into a platform for Dalit writing and its concomitant literary discourse.

When Mr. Valmiki penned his autobiography, Yadav suggested “Joothan” (Leftovers) as its title, and the rest is history. Joothan is one of the most celebrated autobiographies in Hindi today and has been translated into several Indian as well as foreign languages.

Joothan tells the heart-wrenching story of an untouchable boy who grows up in a Tyagi-dominated village in the period that immediately follows the advent of Independence.

Mr. Valmiki was born in 1950 and he experienced the cruel inhumanity of the caste system every minute of his life. In following the age-old oppressive customs, Muslim Tyagis were no better than their Hindu counterparts. Untouchables were treated no better than cattle.

The Constitution of free, democratic India had done away with untouchability, but only legally. The social goal of eradicating it is yet to be achieved — but in the 1950s, the process had not even begun in right earnest.

Mr. Valmiki’s autobiography tells us in touching detail about his horrific experiences, his valiant struggles to overcome his social situation, and his eventual triumph.

However, if one reads him carefully, one becomes painfully aware that even after achieving literary fame and success, Mr. Valmiki continued to feel that so long as the well-trenched social biases enjoying support from religion and tradition remained, Dalits can never shed their Dalitness and become part of the society as a whole.

If one book acquires great fame, his other works tend to be ignored as they are overshadowed by or compared with it. This happened to Shrilal Shukla, whose Raga Darbari overshadowed his other great works like Bisrampur ka Sant. Mr. Valmiki published three collections of poetry — Sadiyon ke Santaap (Centuries-old Sorrows), Bas! Bahut ho Chuka (Enough is Enough) and Ab aur Nahin (Not Any More) — and two collections of short stories, besides penning a treatise on the aesthetics of Dalit literature. However, his name was inextricably linked with Joothan and the other books did not get adequate attention.

He was in the thick of many literary controversies, one of which concerned the great writer Premchand too. In contrast with his peers, he was marked out for his much more balanced view of things — literary and non-literary.

He will always be remembered by those who knew him not just as a literary trailblazer, but as a fine human being

He succeeded in providing the Dalit writing in Hindi with a solid foundation.

The Hindu
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-trailblazer-in-dalit-literature/article5368756.ece

Posted on: November 20, 2013

 


Much of rural India still waits for electricity

Americans turn on lights, plug in coffeemakers, and charge cellphones without a thought to the electricity required. But in parts of India, many households still lack electrical power, despite the nation’s intention more than six decades ago to bring electricity to all its citizens.

“Electrification was central to how early nationalists and planners conceptualized Indian development, and huge sums were spent on the project from independence until now,” says Sunila S. Kale, assistant professor of international studies. “Yet despite all this, nearly 400 million Indians have no access to electricity. Although India has less than a fifth of the world’s population, it has close to 40 percent of the world’s population without access to electricity.”

Kale explores some of the reasons for India’s lag in providing electrical power in her book Electrifying India: Regional Political Economies of Development, to be published by Stanford University Press in Spring 2014. The book has already garnered a top award from the American Institute for Indian Studies.

Kale had intended to focus on India’s move to privatize its energy industry in the 1990s, intrigued by Indian states’ varied responses to privatization. But as she researched the topic, she found that those responses had a historical basis, which led her to broaden the scope of her project. “I had to go back and look at what happened from the 1940s through the 1980s—how state governments had expanded electricity,” says Kale. “Choices made in that early period had a huge influence on privatization later on.”

Electrifying India first explores New Delhi’s changing views about electricity over time and then offers case studies of three Indian states where responses to privatization in the 1990s diverged wildly, ranging from approval to swift rejection. Kale delves into political and socioeconomic factors that had shaped each state’s energy policy.

The story begins in the 1940s, at the time of India’s independence. Electricity was available in cities and towns but not most rural areas. There was much debate about whether the electricity sector should be controlled centrally or by individual states, with supporters of central control arguing that state control would lead to uneven development. Despite this concern, pressure from state leaders led to the establishment of state utilities in 1948.

Those early concerns about uneven development proved to be prescient. Today, some state governments provide electricity to most rural households, enabling farmers to pump up groundwater resources. Some even offer electrical subsidies to farmers to encourage the use of electricity for irrigation. Yet in other states, rural communities are still off the grid.

To identify the reasons for this uneven development, Kale spent considerable time trying to reconstruct, from often scanty records in the State Electricity Boards, the history of electrification, investments, and policies in three states: Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra, . “In some states, there was a complete and comprehensive collection of annual reports,” says Kale. “In others, not a single report could be found. Even that gave me insight into the differential capacity of the states.”

Kale’s research suggests that the most significant factor in rural electrification has been representation of rural communities in state government. In Odisha, where few powerful political leaders come from rural communities, only 40% of households can rely on electricity for lighting, with the percentage dropping even lower in rural areas. The state of Andhra Pradesh has fared better, with a slow and steady electrification program that speeded up with farmer protests in the 1970s. “There was a lot of social foment in India in the 70s, and this was part of that,” says Kale. Maharashtra, where rural leaders have played a sizable role in the state government, has had the most success at rural electrification, though some districts and farmer groups have fared better than others.

The same factors that led Maharashtra to have a more robust electrical program in rural areas, and to subsidize electricity use by agriculture and agro-industries, also led that state to reject privatization in the 1990s. “The perception was that privatization of its electricity distribution utility would threaten the regime of subsidies,” explains Kale. Privatization was also rejected In Andhra Pradesh due to strong opposition from farmers and their political allies. At the other end of the spectrum, Odisha, lacking rural representation, had little opposition when it voted to privatize.

Does Kale believe that the millions of Indians still waiting for electrical power will see change anytime soon? “In the near future, no,” says Kale. “In the long term, yes.” She explains that some central agencies are now stepping in to assist state governments in carrying out rural electrification. There are also experiments in micro-grids, or distributed generation, taking place in rural villages, using alternative energy sources ranging from solar to sugar pulp.

“The government is very motivated to knit the national system together in one central grid,” says Kale. “Over time, I think it will happen”

Phys.org
http://phys.org/news/2013-11-rural-india-electricity.html#jCp

Posted on: November 4, 2013

 


Rural poverty down in south, remains high in north, east: Study

Rural poverty is declining in southern India while it is stubbornly entrenched in the north and the east, a study has found.

Among the worst performers on rural poverty are Jharkhand, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP and UP.

“In 1993-94, nearly 50% of India’s rural poor lived in these states. This figure rose to 63% in 2009-10 and 65% in 2011-12,” the report says.

Prepared by the IDFC Foundation, the report adds the number of rural poor in these states are increasing. Crucially, the states with higher cases of rural poverty also have higher cases of severe poverty.

The new findings are important in the study of rural poverty that has gained centrestage in the policy discourse with higher devolution of funds for development and entitlement schemes.

Releasing the report, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, “The decline in poverty has been far from uniform across the states. It is evident that rural poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP and UP.”

A key finding is that poverty remains significantly high among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in rural areas.

“Poverty among SCs and STs declined faster than the average between 2004 and 2010, but they constitute 44% of the rural poor despite representing 30% of the rural population,” the report says.

Quantifying the poverty among the marginalisd castes, the report has found that over half of the STs in MP, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, and nearly 70% in Bihar and Chhattisgarh, are poor.

The rate of poverty among various minority communities varies vastly.

According to the report, Muslims and Buddhists have higher rates of poverty whereas Sikh and Christian communities have lower rates of poverty.

“This difference in religious and social groups is largely attributed to inequality and discrimination faced in accessing educational opportunities, capital endowments and restricted occupational mobility,” it says.

Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rural-poverty-down-in-south-remains-high-in-north-east -Study/articleshow/23123296.cms

Posted on: September 27, 2013

 


Kenya Terror Attack: 20 Gujarati Children Missing

Nearly 20 children from Gujarati families settled in Nairobi are reported missing in the terrorist siege of Westgate Mall which was ended by Kenyan forces on Tuesday, the fourth day of the stand-off. President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that five al-Shabaab terrorists had been killed and 11 taken into custody.

As eyewitness accounts of bodies of children lying strewn around the mall added to the anxiety of the families, Acharya Purshottam Priyadasji of the Ahmedabad-based Swaminarayan Gaadi Sansthan, which controls a string of temples in East Africa, said the toll of Indian-origin people could be much higher than anticipated. “I have spoken to many Gujaratis who have expressed fear that the casualty of Gujarati children may be high. Nearly 30-odd children are reportedly stuck inside the mall.”

Pinal Brahmbhatt, a 29-year-old woman who works in a departmental store in Nairobi, told TOI over phone that there is no information about five children known to her. “There is unbearable tension in the whole Indian community over the missing kids,” she said.

Shashi Sanghani, who runs a construction business in Nairobi, said 500-odd Gujarati children and parents were participating in a cooking competition at the mall when the gunmen stormed in and started firing indiscriminately. “I have been inside the mall thrice as a volunteer with the rescue team and I have seen a number of bodies of children,” he said.

He said names of 51 missing people have been registered with the Kenya Red Cross, which includes 20 children from Gujarati families.

Arun Patel, a volunteer with the rescue and relief team, said bodies of children in the mall were the most heartbreaking sight he had ever encountered. “The operations are not yet completely over, so bodies and survivors are coming out only in a trickle. We just hope most parents are reunited with their children,” said Patel.

Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Kenya-terror-attack-20-Gujarati-children-missing/artic leshow/23015606.cms

Posted on: September 25, 2013

 


Brothers hang to death 17-year-old girl for eloping with dalit youth

In a cold-blooded murder, a 17-year-old girl was hanged to death by her brothers in Tirunelveli on Friday for eloping with a dalit youth.

Police have arrested the two brothers—M Murugan (24) and M Sodalaimuthu (20)—who allegedly hanged her to death at their house. “The two have admitted to have committed the murder,’’ a police officer said.

Police said that Gomathi, daughter of Mayandi, a farmer from Seevalaperi in Tirunelveli district, was working in a seafood company in Tuticorin where she fell in love with a dalit youth named Murugan. When Gomathi’s family members learnt about the affair, they warned her to snap the relationship with Murugan. The girl belonged to an intermediate caste and her family’s grouse was that the Murugan is a dalit. However, Gomathi continued her relationship with Murugan, a resident of Tuticorin. Irked by her attitude, Mayandi started making arrangements for her marriage with another person.

“Learning about the marriage plans of her family, Gomathi eloped with Murugan two days back. However, Mayandi and his sons, Murugan and Sodalaimuthu, traced the girl and convinced her to return home, promising to get her married with her lover,’’ police said.

But once the girl was brought home, they started beating her and urged her to forget Murugan. “Around 3pm on Friday, Murugan and Sodalaimuthu tied a rope around her neck and hanged her inside the house. They attempted to project it as a suicide. But some of the villagers informed us about the incident. When we visited the spot and conducted inquiries, it was evident that the death of Gomathi was a clear case of murder,’’ police said.

Police immediately secured the two brothers and brought them to the police station. After initial denial, the two admitted to have committed the murder, police claimed.

Police suspect that the girl might have been poisoned before she was hung. The body has been sent for post mortem and the results are awaited to ascertain if she was poisoned.

Times of India
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-09-14/madurai/42061848_1_dalit-youth-girl-two- brothers

Posted on: September 16, 2013

 


Dalit Leader’s Booked for Violating Orders

The rural police have registered cases against dalit leaders for not complying with the orders issued by the police department on the occasion of Immanuel Sekaran’s Memorial Day which was held in Paramakudi on Wednesday.

Madurai district police registered two cases against John Pandian, president of Thamizhaga Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, a party floated by All India Devendra Kula Velalar Sangam. As many as 20 supporters of John Pandian have also been booked by Vadipatti police on Wednesday. Another dalit leader, Dr Krishnaswamy, founder president of Puthiya Thamilagam party has also been booked for violating the police orders enforced on the day for the smooth passage of the even. The case against Dr Krishnaswamy was registered by Silaiman police while he along with his supporters was on the way to Paramakudi. They were booked while they passed Madurai district police limits.

Both the leaders have been booked under Sections IPC 143-unlawful assembly and IPC 188 – disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant. Police said that John Pandian and his supporters were travelling to Paramakudi via Madurai from Dindigul and they protested when the police conducted a vehicular check-up as per the orders from the district administration and police officials. tnn

Briefing about the cases V Balakrishnan, superintendent of police, Madurai district, said that cases against John Pandian and his supporters have been booked at Vadipatti station as they did not cooperate with the police during the vehicular check-up.

Dr Krishnaswamy too has been booked as he violated police orders of not using more three cars in a convoy.

The Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/Dalit-leaders-booked-for-violating-orders/artic leshow/22529442.cms

Posted on: September 13, 2013

 


School children to motivate parents to cast their vote

School children will motivate their parents to vote by taking their signature on affidavits as promise to cast vote in the upcoming polls in the state.

The school education department is going to start a campaign for students of classes 1 to 12 under which students will ask their parents to sign on forms which will be their oath to exercise the right to adult suffrage in the legislative assembly polls due in November and the general elections which will follow next year.

“There is no official order on this, but yes there is going to be an awareness campaign wherein parents will be persuaded by their children by signing on the forms and pledging to cast vote,” said district education officer Sanjay Goyal.

The district education officer will be the nodal officer for this awareness campaign.

Goyal said that the forms will be submitted in schools after parents sign on it. However, it will not be mandatory for all students to be a part of the campaign.

“Voting is not a mandatory procedure and thus no student will be bound to be a part of this campaign” Goyal said.

Students of both private and government schools will be a part of this campaign. The school education department has also recommended schools to conduct more of such awareness campaigns amongst students who are the future voters of our country.

“Students of class 12 and collegiate are being enlisted as they will soon be potential voters as well as schools are conducting activities to make children understand the importance of voting,” said Goyal.

DNA India
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1885236/report-school-children-to-motivate-parents-to-cast-their-vote

Posted on: September 6, 2013

 


Mysore university’s move to collect fees from dalit students protested

August 17, 2013

The process of admission of post-graduate students at University of Mysore was affected on Saturday following a protest by Dalit students, who accused UoM authorities of neglecting the directives. However, following intervention by senior officials, the process resumed after 90 minutes.

The students, under the banner of SC, ST Vidyarthi Balaga, staged a protest in front of the office of the administrative officer at Senate Bhavan in Manasa Gangotri, complaining that Dalit students are being harassed by the officials. According to them, the varsity has directed the officials not to collect fees from Dalit students whose family’s annual income is below Rs 2 lakh. However during admission, the officials were insisting them to pay the fees, which will be reimbursed to them later.

Armed with a circular issued by the varsity registrar dated June 14, which has specified that Dalit students should not be asked to pay admission fees during admission (given that the fees will be borne by the government), the students sat on a dharna at Senate Bhavan.

In the June circular, the registrar has pointed to a directive from the higher education department that the government will reimburse the fees for Dalit students whose family income is Rs 2 lakh per annum. “When this is the case, the authorities should admit them. Instead, they are harassing the students,” they stated.

Senior official from the varsity rushed to the spot and discussed the issue with the students and authorities. They later clarified that the directive will be implemented when the agitation was withdrawn, police added.

Times of India
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-18/mysore/41422298_1_dalit-students-admissi on-fees-varsity-registrar

Posted on: August 19, 2013

 


How back-breaking work and smart trading turn dust into gold

August 13, 2013

Twice a day, every day, Gauri Parmar picks up her broom and goes out to sweep for gold. She cannot actually see the tiny particles of gold dust settled in the gutters and streets around Ahmedabad’s goldsmiths’ district, but she knows they are there.

She sweeps first thing in morning, and then again at 10pm when the crowds have cleared. By collecting the dust, treating it with acid and selling the gold back to the jewellers, she has been able to scrape enough money to raise her two children alone.

“I have been doing this for 25 years,” Mrs Parmar, 49, said proudly, sitting on a bed in her pink-painted home. “My son just completed his chartered accountancy examinations.”

She is part of an enterprising community of dhul dhoyas, or dust-washers, who survive from the leftovers of the thousands of jewellers in Gujarat’s largest city. The work is dirty and sometimes perilous, and sweepers often face discrimination over their low caste, but it provides a livelihood to an unknown number of families.

For centuries, Indians have been beguiled by gold, hoarding it as insurance against difficult times. Today, the country is the world’s largest importer of the metal. Earlier this year, the federal government raised import duty to curb purchases because they were adding to a widening trade deficit.

Industry estimates suggest there may be up to 500,000 people employed in the goldsmiths’ trade in Gujarat. Many are migrant workers originally from poor districts in West Bengal. Their light-fingered dexterity and, more importantly, their willingness to work long hours for low pay, supposedly makes them more desirable than local workers.

Sapan Dey, 38, employs 10 young Bengalis in a small, second-floor workshop in the Ratanpole area of Ahmedabad.

A large leather apron surrounds the table on which the men work to collect larger scraps of gold which Mr Dey recycles by melting them in a furnace. But once a month, a man called Syed Aslam comes and sweeps and swabs the rest of the workshop and takes away the straw mats. Mr Aslam pays Mr Dey for the privilege of doing so. “We take the mats and burn them and collect any gold or copper or silver,” said Mr Aslam, who has contracts with goldsmiths’ shops across India.

He said the price he pays to Mr Dey depends on the amount of work he perceives the shop is doing, whether it is festival time, when more jewellery was being made, or the wholesale price of gold. But sometimes his estimates are off: “Sometimes we get it wrong.”

A few streets away in the Sahjanand market, a dark, grimy Dickensian block that is home to an alleged 6,000 workers, Jitu Patni also pays for the right to sweep for gold. He and members of his extended family hold the contract for the second, third and fourth floors of the complex. Another family cleans the first floor. “We have to pay money to the factory because we are sure there will be gold in the rubbish,” he explained.

In a sweltering warehouse on the roof, Mr Patni, his two sisters and his in-laws revealed how they separated the various types of rubbish and then gathered the dust in tubs. They also collected the water they used to wash the factory’s corridors, allowing it to settle overnight and then further straining it through pieces of cloth to retain the sediment. They did not separate the gold themselves but sold on the sediment to someone else who performed the process.

For all the basic nature of the job, Mr Patni had a sophisticated knowledge of the shifting price of gold, how much he should pay for his contract and, how much he should expect to be paid by the man who collected the sediment.

“During the monsoon season the rates go down because the amount of gold you can recover is less,” he said. “But in December, January and February the rates go up because that is the wedding season and the sales of gold [and the amount of jewellery being made in the factory] go up.”

Mr Patni’s sister, Gawri, wearing a pair of gold earrings, said it was only on very rare occasions that they spotted gold in the dirt. Yet they all knew it was there. “Some gold has to be worn by everyone,” she said. “Every woman loves gold. Not just Indian women.”

While those who work inside the factory are obliged to pay a fee to the owners, those such as Mr Parmar, who sweep in the clogged streets and alleyways outside, can work for free.

Daya Patni, who shares the same name as Jitu Patni, is 69 and has been sweeping the streets near the Manek roundabout for years. He sells dust he collects to other people or else carries it home in sacks and uses water to create sediment that he can later sieve.

Mr Patni said he left for work at 5.30am but that there were about 30 or 40 other sweepers who competed for the best spots. Among them is an 80-year-old woman, Ganga Gohel, who has become something of a celebrity in the area. “There is an unwritten rule that whoever gets there first gets to sweep that spot,” he said. “If I cannot get there on time, and find that somebody else is already there, then I have to go to a different spot.” Mr Patni, who has a son and a daughter, said he rarely spotted pieces of gold while he works. But one day, 15 years ago, he found a piece of gold on the pavement that he sold for 1,200 rupees (about £13). He used the money to purchase a rickshaw permit.

Mrs Parmar, who has been widowed for more than two decades and who lives a short walk away from Mr Patni’s small home, is among those sweepers who actually process the dust themselves. The method is complicated and dangerous and involves mixing the collected sediment with acid, adding mercury, mixing in baking soda and then finally placing it inside a furnace.

The gold she produces and sells back to the goldsmiths’ market is not 100 per cent pure, but she estimates she is still able to average between 10,000 and 15,000 rupees a month. Sometimes she makes as much as 20,000 rupees (£212). That she was able to send her son, Rohit, to college, and to help her daughter, Manisa, establish her own business, is a source of intense pride. “My husband died 22 years ago. He also used to do this job,” said Mrs Parmar. “I needed to keep working to educate my son.”

Indian gold: In numbers

$2.9bn Estimated value of gold imports in July, up from $2.45bn in June. Demand is rising despite government attempts to curb purchases, which have helped to push the current account deficit to a record high

9% July’s gold price rise, ahead of this month’s festival season

20m The number of people employed in the gold trade across India

20% India’s proportion of the world’s gold consumption in 2012, according to the World Gold Council

By Andrew Buncombe

The Independent
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/how-backbreaking-work-and-smart-trading-turn-dust- into-gold-8758149.html

Posted on: August 13, 2013

 


India’s caste system goes back 2,000 years, genetic study finds

August 12, 2013

The caste system in South Asia — which rigidly separates people into high, middle and lower classes — may have been firmly entrenched by about 2,000 years ago, a new genetic analysis suggests.

Researchers found that people from different genetic populations in India began mixing about 4,200 years ago, but the mingling stopped around 1,900 years ago, according to the analysis published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Combining this new genetic information with ancient texts, the results suggest that class distinctions emerged 3,000 to 3,500 years ago, and caste divisions became strict roughly two millennia ago.

Though relationships between people of different social groups was once common, there was a “transformation where most groups now practice endogamy,” or marry within their group, said study co-author Priya Moorjani, a geneticist at Harvard University.

Hindus in India have historically been born into one of four major castes, with myriad subdivisions within each caste. Even today, in some parts of the country, marriage outside of one’s caste is forbidden and those in the outcast, or “untouchable” group are discriminated against and prohibited from participating in religious rituals. (The Indian government has outlawed certain types of discrimination against the lowest classes.)

But when and why this system evolved has always been a bit murky, said Michael Witzel, a South Asian studies researcher at Harvard University, who was not involved in the work.

Moorjani’s past research revealed that all people in India trace their heritage to two genetic groups: An ancestral North Indian group originally from the Near East and the Caucasus region, and another South Indian group that was more closely related to people on the Andaman Islands.

Today, everyone in India has DNA from both groups. “It’s just the proportion of ancestry that you have that varies across India,” Moorjani told LiveScience.

To determine exactly when these ancient groups mixed, the team analyzed DNA from 371 people who were members of 73 groups throughout the subcontinent.

Aside from finding when the mixing started and stopped, the researchers also found the mixing was thorough, with even the most isolated tribes showing ancestry from both groups.

Period of transition
Researchers aren’t sure which groups of ancient people lived in India prior to 4,200 years ago, but Moorjani suspects the two groups lived side by side for centuries without intermarrying.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the groups began intermarrying during a time of great upheaval. The Indus Valley civilization, which spanned much of modern-day North India and Pakistan, was waning, and huge migrations were occurring across North India.

Ancient texts also reveal clues about the period.

The Rigveda, a nearly 3,500-year-old collection of hymns written in Sanskrit, a North Indian language, mentions chieftains with South Indian names.

“So there is some sort of mixture or intermarriage,” Witzel told LiveScience.

Early on, there were distinct classes of people — the priests, the nobility and the common people — but no mention of segregation or occupational restrictions. By about 3,000 years ago, the texts mention a fourth, lowest class: the Sudras. But it wasn’t until about 100 B.C. that a holy text called the Manusmruti explicitly forbade intermarriage across castes.

The study doesn’t suggest that either the ancestral North or South Indian group formed the bulk of the upper or lower castes, Witzel said.

Rather, when caste divisions hardened, any type of intermarriage was sharply curtailed, leading to much less mixing overall.

By Tia Ghose

NBC News

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/indias-caste-system-goes-back-2-000-years-genetic-study-6C10874609

Posted on: August 12, 2013

 


North India has maximum doctors in India: IMS Health

August 1, 2013

North India has the highest number of doctors in the country while the eastern region has the least, highlighting disparity in access to healthcare, according to a survey by market research firm IMS Health.

According to IMS Health Physician and Chemist Census, while North India accounts for 31% of doctors in the country, South and West India have a similar 28% and East has only 13%.

The census covered 120 cities (metro and non-metro) and includes insights into over 3.73 lakh doctors and 99,000 chemists across multiple parameters, IMS Health said.

“This census helps close important information gaps in the healthcare value chain in India,” IMS Health South Asia Managing Director Amit Backliwal said in a statement.

The census aims to provide critical insights for government policymakers to develop better policies and a stronger healthcare infrastructure in India, he added.

Underlining how skewed the distribution of healthcare professionals across the country’s population is, the report said, “Cities of North India account for 31% of doctors in the country, but only 28% of the country’s population resides there.”

There is a high disparity even in the distribution of chemists across the country.

“Around 42% of chemists in India are concentrated in the top nine most populated cities and 29% of chemist sales are performed without any prescription,” the report said.

Significantly, according to the census 37% of chemist outlets are attached to doctor clinics, polyclinics, hospital facilities, and nursing homes.

“Ultimately, this census will help identify over-and- under-served regions and enable the healthcare system in India to run much more intelligently,” MS Health India Strategic Planning Senior Director Kumar Hinduja said.

IMS Health is a worldwide provider of information, technology, and services dedicated to making healthcare perform better.

Business Standard

http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/north-india-has-maximum-doctors-in-india- ims-health-113073100484_1.html

Posted on: August 1, 2013

 


Rural women lost 9.1m jobs in 2 yrs, urban gained 3.5m

July 16, 2013

Women’s employment has taken an alarming dip in rural areas in the past two years, a government survey has revealed. In jobs that are done for ‘the major part of the year’, a staggering 9.1 million jobs were lost by rural women. In urban areas, the situation was quite the reverse, with over 3.5 million women added to the workforce.

This emerges from comparing employment data of two consecutive surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in 2009-10 and 2011-12. Key results of the later survery were released last month. Both rounds had a large sample size of nearly 4.5 lakh people.

“The survey shows that in the continuing employment crunch in rural areas, the most vulnerable sections — like the women — are getting eliminated,” says Amitabh Kundu, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

If subsidiary work, that is short term, supplementary work, is also counted, women’s employment numbers improve, but they still show a huge decline of 2.7 million in two years. This is a reflection of the fact that women are no longer getting longer term and better paying jobs, and so are forced to take up short term transient work.

Declining women’s employment in rural areas is a long term trend in India despite high economic “growth”, says Neetha N of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies.

“Three decades ago, in 1983, about 34% of women in rural areas were working. This has steadily declined and now stands at just short of 25%. But the decline in the past two years is shocking – it is the most drastic decline we have ever seen,” she says.

Many argue that decline in women’s work is taking place because more women are now either studying or just staying home because the men of the family are earning enough. However, this is not supported by the data, according to Neetha.

“Urban areas have more girls’ enrollment in schools and colleges, and better household incomes than rural areas. Yet women’s employment is increasing in urban areas and declining in rural areas,” she points out.

But what is the reason behind this jobs crisis in rural India? “A decline in public investment in agriculture, and in extension work for dissemination of knowledge coupled with increasing mechanization are the main causes of this crisis of jobs,” says V K Ramachandran, professor of economic analysis at the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore. He also blames the severe slowdown in expansion of irrigation and supply of electricity to rural areas for causing jobs to dry up.

Satya Narain Singh, deputy director general of NSSO, told TOI that there were no issues of measurement or sample size in the surveys. He pointed out that the population for 2010 was based on Census projections while that for 2012 was based on actual Census 2011 data. This could introduce a small over-estimation of the 2010 population. But the “decline in female workforce is in line with the trend of decline observed in recent decades”, Singh said.

By Subedh Varma, Times of India

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-14/india/40569199_1_rural-areas-urban-ar eas-rural-women

Posted on: July 16, 2013

 


Dalit women seek special bill for protection and justice

July 1, 2013

The dalit women who faced atrocities at the hands of higher castes urged the centre to draft a special bill to protect them. At a state-level review meeting on ‘Atrocities againsts Dalit Women – Legal & Rehabilitation Measures’ they passed a resolution seeking for the special bill with stringent punishment for offenders, long-term rehabilitation measures for victims and action against officials who failed to act on the complaints filed by affected dalit women.

The meet organised by Evidence – a Madurai-based NGO—here on Saturday, also sought the National Human Rights Commission to establish counselling and rehabilitation centres to help the victimised women and protect the witnesses in such cases. All sexually assaulted dalit women should be given a compensation of Rs 10 lakh under Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The other resolutions included the statistics on dalit women and children, report on their status once in two years and reservation in government and private jobs as well as representation in parliament, assembly and panchayats.

Advocate Nirmala Rani who presided over one of the technical session pointed out the failure of legal system in ensuring conviction of accused in cases against Dalit women. She also pointed out how SC/ST Act is not invoked in many of the cases and the legal technicalities prevented the talented lawyers from representing the victims.

A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, said the purpose of the meeting is to brainstorm on policies that will ensure coordination among various government bodies in delivering justice. The meeting was also to discuss the participation of civil groups in the process of getting justice for women.

During the meeting, children of women who suffered atrocities were provided educational aids sponsored by P Manikandan, a hotelier in Coimbatore.

Dalit women, who faced attacks from the caste hindus, shared their experiences during the meeting. “I was attacked by caste hindus for walking down the street with slippers,” said Iruli from Trichy district. Divya from Dindigul district shared how she was cheated by a higher caste boy who refused to marry her after she became pregnant. She was rejected by the family and now living alone with her daughter in poverty, she said. She is yet to get justice as not even a charge sheet was filed in the case. P Vasanthi of Theni narrated police atrocities in Kadamalaikundu station and how after a long struggle, CBCID took up the case to prove the offence, but the offenders – the police inspector and sub-inspector – are yet to be arrested.

Manduri

Times of India

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-30/madurai/40285640_1_dalit-women-caste- hindus-sc-st-act

Posted on: July 1, 2013

 


Call to Promote Dalit Entrepreneuership

June 27, 2013

A venture capital fund, registered with the SEBI, has been floated to help promote entrepreneurship among Scheduled Castes and to facilitate establishment of units by such underprivileged entrepreneurs, according to Ravi Kumar Narra, president, Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, AP chapter.

He was speaking at one-day industrial motivation campaign organised here on Wednesday by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the DICCI, the AP Industries Department and the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC). He said the venture fund would have a corpus of Rs 500 crore and so far Rs 22 crore had been collected, with the SIDBI contributing Rs 10 crore.

“We will get contributions from various Government agencies and others and finance units by SC entrepreneurs. Till now, for various reasons, SCs have lagged behind in entrepreneurship and they could not overcome the disadvantages imposed on them. They have been content with only with getting Government jobs. The time has arrived for affirmative action to empower them to set up businesses. As in the USA, where a movement for black capitalism was launched in the 1960s, we should launch a movement for Dalit capitalism,” he said.

He said the AP Government was in the forefront in extending incentives to SC entrepreneurs through various schemes but there was little awareness among the SCs and therefore such industrial motivational campaigns were being organised. He said applications would be taken from prospective Dalit entrepreneurs from different places in the State and finally the selected candidates would be given training in Hyderabad and they would be taken on field visits. Consultancy services would be provided to them to set up units. On a turnkey basis, finance and other things would be arranged.

Ravi Kumar said that, as suggested by Union Finance Minister Chidambaram, each branch of every nationalised bank should at least finance one unit set up by a SC entrepreneur and in that way at least there would be 5 lakh units.

T.K Chand, the Director (Commercial) of the Visakhapatnam steel plant, said his company would do everything possible for inclusive growth and to extend equitable opportunities to SC entrepreneurs. “We are setting up a network of rural dealers and we will give preference to SC applicants,” he promised.

G. Sambasiva Rao, the chairman of the Visakhapatnam zone of the CII, joint collector Pravin Kumar and several others spoke on the same lines, stressing the need for affirmative action to help promote Dalit entrepreneurship.

The Hindu Business Line

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/states/vc-fund-to-support-sc-entrepreneurs/article4 853094.ece

Posted on: June 27, 2013

 


Dalit Forums: Hike Compensation of Rs 5L

June 21, 2013

Various factions of KarnatakaDalitSangharshSamiti (DSS) have demanded justice for those who died in the compound wall collapse at Thottilaguri at Bajpe here on Tuesday. They have promised to support the cause taken up by DSS (BhimaVaada) which has demanded a hike in compensation to the next of kin of victims and a probe into the incident.

M Chandappa, district convener of DSS (BhimaVaada), told reporters here 18 dalit families have been residing on around three acres of government land for the past 20 years there. The government based on applications received from the families has sanctioned title deeds to six families and efforts are on to secure title deeds for the rest, Chandappa said, adding the families received limited basic minimum facilities after protracted agitation.

Claiming that locals and outsiders have encroached on rest of the land, Chandappa said the tragedy took place due to permission given by Bajpe gram panchayath to allow commercial complex come up illegally in the elevated land above the houses of dalits. The waste from the complex is let out in the land occupied by the dalits, he said adding repeated complaints to the gram panchayath and authorities concerned did not yield any desired results.

Stating that he had forewarned authorities about the impending disaster at Thottilaguri, Chandappa said the state government and chief minister should intervene to provide justice to the victims. Compensation should be hiked from Rs 1.5 lakh announced by the DC to Rs 5 lakh, he said, adding the government must give a written assurance on rehabilitating the victims permanently.

The state government must consider this fit case to be booked under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, take care of the medical expenses of the five injured persons, and provide a government job on humanitarian grounds to dependents of victims. Stating that the state government has not met assurances given to dalits in the past, he said dalit organizations will jointly launch an agitation if justice is denied to the families at Thottilaguri.

Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mangalore/Hike-compensation-to-Rs-5L-Dalit-forums/artic leshow/20695650.cms

Posted on: June 21, 2013

 


Juneteenth-Freedom Day, Emancipation Day

SAN JOSE, June 19, 2013 ― Juneteenth, is also known as Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day, is a day to celebrate freedom, not just for black Americans, but for all Americans.

Juneteenth was originally created to commemorate the days of June 18 and 19 in 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, first learned that the American Civil War was over and the Union had prevailed, which meant that they had received their long awaited liberation. At that time, it was a day of celebration for the emancipation of the slaves. It is highly unlikely that in 1865, white Texans would have joined in the festivities of singing, dancing, and feasting with the former slaves.

As could have easily been expected, the majority of former Confederates after the war hated the simple spectacle of former slaves dancing in the streets, let alone the more radical changes in their lifestyles and social status. Yet on June 18, 1865, over two months after Lee’s surrender at Appomatox, U.S. Army General Gordon Granger marched 2,000 Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas to secure the state and oversee emancipation procedures. Then, on June 19, 1865, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Union Army General Granger read the basic contents of “General Order No. 3” that represented the practical implementation of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

This decree had to be backed up by the 2,000 federal troops due to the staunch resistance from the former Confederates in Texas. In reality, the enforcement of the emancipation of the slaves by federal troops was necessary throughout the South. Ultimately the Union Army established martial law in all of the former Confederate states. As the words of “General Order No. 3” sunk in, both local blacks and whites may have been stunned in disbelief.

For the former slaves, the disbelief faded as genuine expressions of joy and jubilation overwhelmed those who were present. The freshness of freedom demanded immediate response. The blacks in Galveston did not need a political discourse to instruct them on the significance of that moment in history as they sang and danced with joy. They did not need a history lesson to instruct them on the fundamental change that had just occurred in the United States of America. On that day, for those former slaves in Galveston, for the people who had been in bondage for their entire lives, all of their previous suffering became history as people who were once owned as property were told they were free by the U.S. Army’s General Order number 3.

The reality of celebration suspended the practical considerations of worrying about the legal fine points and logistical implications. However, just as emancipation created radical changes in the previous stranglehold of white dominion in the South, the former slaves had to deal with such radical changes as well. Unfortunately, the overriding change was massive destruction; all other changes that occurred were the outcome of the most destructive and deadliest war in the history of the United States. Emancipation came at an extraordinarily high cost, and it needed the U.S. Army to enforce it.

It’s been said that in the American south, history isn’t dead, and it is hardly even history. This part of American history is difficult to come to grips with. It still has the power to stiru up strong emotions, even 150 years later. The bitter fruit of our slave history makes it harder to see the triumphs over oppression and forget the incredible moments of success and joy on the path to freedom. We hear Jeremiah Wright shouting “God damn America,” and forget this incredible moment in time, when white and black soldiers from the Army of the Republic defeated the Confederate Army to end the brutality of slavery.

The victory over slavery was as powerful and significant to who we are as Americans as the institution of slavery had ever been. The freed slaves in Galveston needed no permission from their former masters as they danced and sang in this precious moment of realized liberation and genuine freedom.

Complete equality was still more than a century away, and we still harvest the bitter fruit of inequality and hatred that were sowed by our ancestors. But freedom was so precious that those former slaves began to sing and dance in a way they had never been able to dance before. Those who have never known bondage or real enslavement can hardly comprehend the feelings of those who had just been freed. These people must have been overwhelmed with emotions on one hand, and on the other hand, the concept of freedom may have been unbelievable. However, Mr. Lincoln and the Union Army had accomplished what certainly had seemed almost impossible at the outset of the Civil War.

Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day deserves a more substantial place in the nation’s history. It should be a day in which all Americans should celebrate their freedom. It should be a day in which all Americans could reflect on the nation’s true origins once again. Definitely, the war was the most devastating war America engaged in, but as Lincoln could comprehend it, the United States was either the either the Land of the Free or it was not. The Civil War, when all the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, America became just a bit closer to the dream of many of the founding fathers. Mr. Lincoln saw that and he also saw that the very survival of a government intent on such a dream, could ensure eventual freedom for all people. So be it!

By: Dennis Jameson

Posted on: June 19, 2013

 


Uthapuram Dalit Women are Real Heroes

Tamil Nadu

The brave Dalit women of Uthapuram are the real heroes who have fought a valiant battle. They have showed the world that if the oppressed and exploited along with the Left and pro-democratic forces stood up, they could beat any form of discrimination, said Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Buro member Brinda Karat.

She was delivering a special address at a function held here on Saturday to honour the advocates and social activists who fought for social justice in Uthapuram village near Madurai where portion of a long wall that separated Dalits from caste Hindu locality was razed to enable access to the common pathway of Dalits.

Ms. Karat said that radical social change would happen only when annihilation of deep-rooted caste prejudices and discriminatory practices against Dalits was undertaken.

The National Crime Records Bureau shows that in 2012, there were 33,655 cases of atrocities perpetrated on Dalits. This gives us an idea that on an average, every day 93 members of the Dalit community were victims of one form of atrocity or the other. It is a shame that even after 66 years of Independence such a situation exists in the country, she remarked.

The NCRB data suggests that 1,10,000 cases of atrocities are pending in courts, but only 3.6 per cent have ended in conviction. Among the 35,655 cases sent to court, conviction in cases of atrocities on Dalits was a mere 23 per cent and in 77 per cent of the cases, the perpetrators go scot-free. “It is a shame on the judiciary system and on the process of legal justice,” she said.

“When the wall was demolished in Uthapuram, it was not just brick and mortar. The wall represented the edifice of discrimination and denial of minimal human dignity.” Earlier denied rights like worshipping rights and access to common property resources have been won after a long struggle.

Still there were unfinished tasks like proper access to the common pathway that was created after the demolition of the wall. The Madras High Court ordered that full compensation be given to each and every family that was affected in the police excesses. The order further said that district monitoring committees should be vigilant in maintaining peace and it is our duty to mount pressure on the monitoring committee to implement the court order fully, Ms. Karat pointed out.

The 92- year-old veteran Marxist leader, R. Umanath, was present at the function in which a lot of Dalit women participated.

Third front

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Ms. Karat said the Left parties did not see the emergence of a Third Front before the elections. Each party has its own agenda and in the case of Left, alternative policies are important as the current policies are disastrous to people.

She said that the Left parties were in good coordination with each other and were working for alternative policies.

Answering a question whether they would support the DMK for Rajya Sabha seat, she replied, “There is absolutely no question of such support.”

The Hindu, June 16, 2013

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/uthapuram-dalit-women-are-real-heroes/artic le4817930.ece

Posted on: June 17, 2013

 


FM: Every Bank Branch Must Hand-Hold A Dalit Entrepreneur

Bangalore

Every bank branch should hand-hold a Dalit enterprise, as such a step can have a ripple effect not only on the economy but also on the society in general says, Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Launching the first-ever Dalit industries-focused social impact fund, DICCI SME Fund, the minister rued that even after 66 years of Independence, the country still reeks of casteism and social segregation.

The government is committed to improve the lot of the MSME sector in general and those promoted by the Dalit community in particular, he said, adding the MSMEs* contribute to eight per cent of the GDP, 45 percent of manufacturing, and 36 per cent of exports of the country.

“If all the bank branches, running into a little over one lakh, and each one of them support a Dalit enterprise, it can have large impact on the economy and the society in general. And I want each bank branch to handhold a Dalit entrepreneur each, and then we will have one lakh flowers blooming in the country,” Chidambaram told the meeting.

Calling for more affirmative action to rid the society of the caste evil, he said socially and financially affirmative and inclusive actions like reservations for the under-privileged are the way forward. The venture capital fund, initiated by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI), aims to raise Rs 500 crore* which would be deployed over the next 10 years to finance Dalit entrepreneurs.

The fund, approved by SEBI, was launched with an initial contribution of Rs 10 crore* by the Small Industries Development Bank of India.

“It is a modest beginning, all path-breaking projects begin on a modest scale, I am sure, one day this will grow into a massive tree,” said Chidambaram, highlighting that the first Dalit fund will go a long way in creating social equity.

“The fact that the first Dalit fund is being launched at the iconic ball room of the historic Taj Mahal hotel in the nation’s financial capital is very significant,” he said, and regretted that the country has for centuries masked the fact that discrimination took place.

The Constitution provides for equality as also affirmative action, he said, adding “Reservation may be a blunt instrument, but it is an useful instrument in the absence of a better alternative.”

**Rs 500 crore = $$10 billion

Rs 10 crore = $2.2 million MSME = micro, small, and medium enterprises

SiliconIndia, June 11, 2013

Posted on: June 11, 2013

 


First Dalit Fund Launched

By: Pamela Raghunath

Mumbai

Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Thursday launched the country’s first Dalit Fund that is expected to go a long way in creating social equity in India.

The country’s first Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) registered social impact fund initiated by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) aims to raise Rs5 billion over 10 years and finance Dalit entrepreneurs to set up their businesses. The fund was launched with an initial contribution of Rs100 million by the Small Industries Development Bank of India.

“It is a modest beginning, all path-breaking projects begin on a modest scale, I am sure, one day this will grow into a massive tree,” said Chidambaram, highlighting that this would go a long way in creating social equity. “The fact that the first Dalit Fund is being launched at the iconic ball room of the historic Taj Mahal hotel in the country’s financial capital is very significant,” he said.

Chidambaram regretted that the people of India have for centuries masked the fact they discriminated against one quarter “of our own people.” The Constitution of India provided for equality as also an affirmative action. “Reservation may be a blunt instrument but it is a useful instrument in the absence of a better alternative,” he observed.

Article continues below

Complimenting the DICCI for its path-breaking initiative, the finance minister said that it has today shown that acquiring economic power is a better instrument. “There is no better way to seek livelihood with dignity than being an entrepreneur standing on his own legs,” he added.

Gulfnews.com, June 6, 2013

Posted on: June 7, 2013

 


Venture capital fund for Dalits now a reality

ENS Economic Bureau

Mumbai

Money is no longer going to be a hurdle for entrepreneurs in scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) communities. For the first time in the country, a venture capital fund is being launched to create entrepreneurial role models in the Dalit community which normally find it tough to access capital and professional mentoring.

Finance minister P Chidambaram will flag off the fund in Mumbai on Thursday.

The idea of a venture capital fund proposed by Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) has finally taken shape with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) clearing the proposal to raise Rs 500 crore for 10 years through a close ended fund, styled DICCI SME Fund (DSF).

“This is Category-I SME Fund and we target to raise Rs 160 crore in the first closure. We will finance around 25 Dalit entreprenuers initially. We will finance their projects, support them to grow and exit when they become of running the business smoothly,” said DICCI president Milind Kamble.

According to Kamble, SIDBI has already committed Rs 10 crore while talks with other banks and financial institutions are on. The plan is to create entrepreneurial role models within SC/ST communities that will attract educated SC/ST youth to the entrepreneurship.

“We expect to create four kinds of social impacts through our fund while generating internal rate of return of over 25 per cent: Financial inclusion for SC/ST SMEs through access to equity capital markets, economic empowerment through wealth creation, employment creation for SC/ST youths and capacity building through the investee companies,” Kamble said.

“The Varhad Group is the fund manager of DSF. Prasad Dahapute is the founder of the Varhad Group and MD of Varhad Capital,” Kamble said.

Prior to setting up of Varhad, Dahapute was head of research at PUG Securities and co-head of equity research at Standard Chartered, heading India equity research team independently. He was instrumental in getting mandates in private equity and joint ventures. He has worked with HSBC as utility analyst for India, China and Korea and Antique stock broking as senior vice-president Research.

As the fund manager, it will help the proposed SME Fund to raise money from wealthy investors and institutions and invest in startup and small- and medium-size Dalit enterprises with strong growth potential.

Dalit writer and thinker Chandra Bhan Prasad said, “The proposed fund will go a long way boosting the self-esteem of Dalits. We want to prove that Dalits are capable of creating ventures and run them successfully. Small-time Dalit entrepreneurs find it tough to raise capital from banks. This will become a success… State and the private sector can also come up with similar plans.”

The biggest challenge is to create benchmarks for Dalits in terms of accessing capital and pitfalls thereof, and where to turn for advice and mentoring as knowledge-gap on the contours of globalised capitalism is too wide, Kamble said.

A senior official of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said, “We already have a tie-up with the National Scheduled Castes Finance & Development Corporation for SC/ST empowerment in business. This fund is the next step towards creating entrepreneurs in this community.”

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