Pune: Taking inspiration from the Black Capitalism movement in the US in the 70s, India's Dalit community is now focusing on a parallel Dalit capitalism movement. The movement started by a handful of Dalit entrepreneurs, is slowly becoming the new war cry for progress in the community.
Dalit entrepreneur Milind Kamble said, "If you are a true follower of Babasaheb Ambedkar, you can't be a job seeker, you have to be a job giver."
Had he listened to his father, who was a teacher, Milind Kamble would have fulfilled the Dalit dream of a 'safe' government job. He, however, chose to use his engineering education to build a Rs 70 crore construction company in Pune with no help from 'quotas'.
"Till when the Dalit youth keep fighting capitalists? We need to stand up and become capitalist ourselves. Being followers of babasaheb, we will not indulge in exploitation but we can still earn lots of money." said Kamble.
Despite initial financial hiccups, Kamble is now fairly successful in an industry where Dalits are mostly labourers. With sheer determination he has now joined the ranks of India's first generation Dalit entrepreneurs.
According to the 61st round of the national sample survey in 2004-05, 29 per cent of urban Dalits were self employed, whereas, in rural areas, 7 per cent Dalits were entrepreneurs. The 2006-07 census of MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium enterprises) said that Dalits account for 7.7 per cent of the 1.55 million MSMEs in India.
To represent these entrepreneurs, Kamble created the Dalit Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) in 2005. The forum has around 1000 members across the country and caters to training and funding needs of Dalit businessmen.
Today the construction business is seeing the rise of many Dalit entrepreneurs, businessmen like Kamble who no longer rely on caste quotas for jobs but have made their way up in the private sector through open competition.
This December DICCI plans a three day conclave in Mumbai which business leaders like Ratan Tata and Adi Godrej are expected to attend. While the new entrepreneurs admit quotas help, they say its time now for Dalits to blaze their own trail.