Dalits Envision a New Future for the Fold

This is regarding the newspaper report of recently concluded seminar on Dalits held in Mumbai about which I had already written to you. This report has appeared in The Indian Express of 29th May 2000.

"It was not a typical gathering of slogan-shouting politicos, but of intellectuals, former and current government servants, lawyers, academicians and other professionals from the scheduled caste. They were all gathered at the Convocation Hall of the Mumbai Varsity on 27 and 28, to provide OPINION LEADERSHIP to Dalits. This National Seminar 2000 on Dalits in the 21st Century was organised by the Bombay Scheduled Improvement Trust headed by former municipal commissioner J.D. Jadhav. As the organisers clarified at the outset "we are not affiliated to any political party. We, specially those are fortunate to reach some position in life, come together not to express emotions but to influence the country's policy-makers so that the government is able to strengthen the infrastructure of justice". Among the "influential Dalits" who attended the seminar were senior police officer S.S. Suradkar. IAS Dr. Sanjay Chahande, retired civil servant S.G. Daithankar University Reader Dr. Suresh Mane and lawyer Sanghraj Rupawate. Dy. CM Chhagan Bhujbal was also present on the occasion.

Incidentally, the Trust was established by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1938 as a centre of development activities for Dalits. However, this aim has not been achieved. The seminar is being viewed as a fresh impetus to the near-defunct trust. The new vice chancellor of Mumbai Varsity Prof. Bhalchandra Mungekar, the first Dalit to hold the post, inaugurated the seminar. He was also felicitated.

The 1st session was devoted to "social justice for Dalits" Jadhav said the Govt. must allocate 25% of the plan outlay for the infrastructure needed to grant self-confidence and social status to BC in India. He said the Govt. will have to invest in education and health opportunities. of the disadvantaged. Dalits and other BCs must come together and form a power bloc. Dalits must be seen as a "force to reckon with, else our agenda of development will never be taken seriously"

Writer-cum political activist Arjun Dangle said the seminar served two purposes. First, it is a legimate for opposing review of the Constitution. Second, it gives us ideas for coping with forces of globalisation and privatisation. "WE are trying to see how we fit in the scheme of things. There is no point opposing new global forces for the sake of it.

There was special session on employment opportunities for Dalits beyond the wage boards. Former CS Dinesh Afzalpurkar said members of SCs must look for self-employment avenues. The state is likely to create 25 lakh employment opportunities in the tertiary service sector in the next 5 years. He gave the example of the flustering institute in Thane which markets mushrooms. Earlier the instt. did not do well as it was not processing and marketing mushrooms properly. But now that the tech. is learnt, it is doing big business. Similarly, there are many unexploited areas Dalit youth can look into. He said dependence on employment exchanges for jobs was not advisable. There are about 35 lakh unemployed youth in the state. Naturally, all will not get absorbed in Govt. and conventional jobs. He said the SC trust should start vocational training of Dalit youth on the lines of the Rural Devp. and self Emp. Trng. Instt., Mangalore. This instt. has given jobs to 51,000 youth out of the total 80,000 applicants.

Developments Commissioner of Industries Azeez Khan also asked Dalit youth to look into self-help Govt. schemes. He said schemes aided by Nationalised banks must be studied properly by youth. There is a regional imbalance in awareness levels of BC youth. For example youth send aggressive applications to banks in some regions like Nagpur, whereas in Marathwada youth are not even aware of the welfare schemes. Bhujbal said Dalits should integrate into the mainstream in the age of computers, where talent is capital.

Submitted by T.N. Urkude.(Mumbai)

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