Arati R Jerath
The launch of the first Dalit venture capital fund was a red-letter day for Dalit entrepreneurs. But can the rise of a handful of Dalit billionaires empower a historically oppressed and exploited community? Dalit intellectual and writer Chandra Bhan Prasad believes it can. Defending the market as a liberating force, he tells Arati R Jerath that despite its drawbacks, capitalism, not quotas, is the way to go.
Black capitalism in the US is the inspiration for Dalit capitalism. But statistics show that African-Americans continue to languish behind on all socio-economic indicators. So how will Dalit capitalism benefit Dalits?
Black capitalism has brought visibility with recognition to the Blacks. If you compare their situation today with their immediate past, there is a landmark change. In absolute terms of course they remain unequal to the Whites. In India, capitalism is emancipatory because in capitalism, nothing is fixed by birth. The only permanent thing is competition and a Dalit has the opportunity to move ahead through competition. In the caste order, you cannot buy Brahmin status. In capitalism, you can buy a Mercedes and hire a Brahmin driver. That's the difference capitalism is making.
But you will agree that capitalism introduces a different set of inequities. And Dalits are the worst sufferers because they are still at the bottom of the ladder.
Capitalism may have class-based problems but these are radically different from caste-based problems. A caste-based system is a system of humiliation. In capitalism, there is poverty of course but that is universal to everyone regardless of his birth. Anyone who is lazy, who doesn't want to compete, will face the problem of poverty but minus the humiliation.