General Secretary, Dr. Ambedkar mission society, Bedford

For the last 50 years, Indian economy has swung like a pendulum back and forth between liberalization and socialism due to numerous politico-economic and social pressures. Under enormous pressure of debts, deficits, IMF and globalization, India has embraced market economy. Hence in the last decade multinationals corporations have invested in India and thereby Indiahas gradually come under global influence. The means of production, corporate governance, labour and corporate practices are changing as more organizations are delivering to their stakeholders a good healthy dividend.

With the collapse of communism, the western countries projected globalization as an alternative to centralized bureaucratic control and state dominated economies. Globalisation is supposedly to bring greater prosperity, peace, ecological balance and reduction in poverty. Instead of gaining public trust and democratic accountability, globalization has led to widening the gap between rich and poor. The minorities like Dalits have become more marginalized. Globalisation has enriched the upper castes that have taken advantage due to relevant skills and access to education whilst Dalits have become impoverished. Globalisation has led to disillusionment and discontentment. SC/STs have found their livelihood destroyed. Whilst corporate sector has created jobs in India
With the introduction of privatisation, liberalisation, globalisation and disinvestments, many government industries and public sector undertakings have already been sold off. As a result, thousands of jobs in the public sector have been lost. It is reported that in the Central Secretariat in Delhi, 60,000 posts particularly at lower levels have been abolished during the year 2003-4 and about 200,000 jobs all around country have been erased (1). Even the cleaning jobs in the local municipal committees have been contracted out to the contractors. The permanent jobs have been converted into temporary and the workers are left on the mercy of contractors.  but the main beneficiaries have been the upper castes. 'Globalisation has clearly made wealthy elite wealthier. It has increased greed of the elite and strong desire to hang on to power. Time has come to devise a new strategy to make Dalits partners in the corporate sector. Failure will only result in further widening of gap between rich and poor. 

According to the Economic Survey 1999-2000, employment in public sector by industry is 1941 crores (19410 millions), which means that by a rough estimate, there are more than 40 lakhs (4 millions) SC/ST employees. In the government and public sector, especially banks, SC/ST employees are actually less than the prescribed 15% reservation. The percentage of SCs in group A and B services stands at 10.15 and 12.57 percent respectively. In public sector banks in the officers’ cadre, the representation of SCs was 11.11% (2). Freed from their obligation to fulfil mandated quotas, privatised Public Sector Undertakings and banks are bound to register fall in the relative strength of Dalits. And even if their jobs are as secure or insecure as any other employee in a privatise firm is, the company can selectively lay of SC/ST staff without fear of violating any reservation policy. Again the promotion prospects of these employees will be diminished. Privatisation will lead to erosion and ultimately the end of reservation in the public sector. There is no clause for reservation being added into the disinvestment deals struck between the government and the private sector. Not to insert such clause into these deals is to subvert caste-based reservation and keep the Dalits away from jobs and also transfer the national assets in the hands of high castes.

It doesn’t matter how much we oppose globalisation and privatisation, it is going to stay in future and we will have to live with it. We have to change our strategy and adapt ourselves accordingly. We must find ways and means to absorb our Dalit brothers and sisters into these MNCs (multinational Corporations). Business is facing challenging time worldwide. It is no longer enough to simply employ people make profit and pay taxes. Companies are now expected to act responsibly, be accountable and benefit society as a whole. Corporate social responsibility may sound new to the underdeveloped countries but it is an old concept in Western World. The business has responsibility to itself, to its customers, workers, shareholders and community as whole.

The growth of the global economy has seen benefits across the World but also increasing public concern about business activities and decline in trust. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in September 2002, there was as much focus on business as on poverty and the environment. As WSSD recognised, partnership between business, government and civil society, there is a need to tackle inequalities and deprivation across the country. The business must be encouraged to tackle social exclusion and racism based on descent and build stronger society (3).

The multinational Companies (MNCs) have also started realising that how a company’s response to local needs results into a tremendous impact on its business and public perception of the company. Due to rapid expansion of consumerism, consumer is also becoming increasingly aware and is constantly evaluating company’s products and performance through human rights context. The companies are beginning to listen to the people for their local needs to maintain their reputation. Realising their corporate responsibility and integrity, the multinationals have started promoting diversity through education, training and minority advancement programmes.

In the UK, food supply provides some good example of corporate social responsibility. The Fair Trade group aims to give better deal to Third World producers. More than 300 retail products, ranging from coffee to fresh fruits, carry the fair trade mark in the UK. Leading super markets such as the Coop and Tesco, either stock Fairtrade brands or ensure their own brands are sourced from Fairtrade producers. Equal opportunity policy is enforced very strictly (4). To win the confidence of black and ethnic minorities, British police have started recruiting their staff from these groups and from the last few years a number of police officers are seen on the streets. Similarly BBC and other broadcasting companies started recruiting newsreaders, presenters and actors from black and ethnic minorities. Any company, which doesn’t employ people from blacks and ethnic minorities, is considered as a racist and no company whether big or small wants this sort of stigma attached to it.

In USA, American Society of Newspaper Editors took a decision in 1978 to raise the minorities’ representations from a pathetic 3.95% to the same level as their share in the population. The papers started special programmes such as scholarships, ethnic and racial censuses, training schemes and job fairs to recruit historically disadvantage minority groups. Today two thirds of all newspapers with circulation 100,000 plus draw 15-20% of their journalists from racial linguistics minorities like blacks and Hispanics. Thus, 16.2% of the New York Times, 19.5% of Washington Post, 18.7% of Los Angeles Times and 17.1% of Wall Street Journal’s staff belong to such minorities (5). Similarly Ford Motor Company largely focuses on recruiting the best of minorities, training and teaching them the best of techniques through exhaustive dealer education programmes in order to ensure the best of minorities have the capability to compete nationally as well globally. The company also grants scholarships to the students to get involved with the company. In 1999, Ford Motor Company prides itself for purchasing record $3.3 billions in goods and services from business that are run by the minorities. IBM has 15% of its staff drawn from the minorities. Over third of the faculty of Harvard Medical School belongs to such group. Microsoft and McDonald’s have made diversity an essential part of their business identity (6).

By contrast, Dalits and Adivasis (23% 0f the population) have abysmally low representation: just 7.1% in factories, 3.1% in construction, 4.1% in trade, 3% in transport and 3.4% in domestic industry(7). It is clear that the Indian business doesn’t give any importance to corporate responsibility and lack the spirit of diversity. Here Dalit is presumed useless, unworthy, incompetent, unintelligent, unmeritorious and unsuitable, until proven otherwise. That is why he doesn’t find any place in the business, educational institutions and media. In his article, ‘In Search of a Dalit Journalist’, Mr. B.N. Unigal states that there is not a single Dalit journalist in the English language press from the population of well over 250 million Dalits (8). Mr. Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit writer is right when he says “In the US you have black billionaires, industrialists, black film stars, black professors. In India, university professorships are closed to us. We don’t have one millionaire. There is neither one Dalit newspaper editor nor a newscaster.”(9). The caste intelligentsia, which controls media and public institutions, doesn’t find it necessary to examine the reasons for not given due representations to these people. Perhaps they think that the law of ‘Karma’ governs them. They are in privileged positions because of their past deeds (Karmas). So they cannot do anything to change the lives of Dalits as they are suffering because of their past deeds as well.

Dalit educated elite is beginning to feel the heat of privatisation. They know that with this new phenomenon, the Dalits will have no place in the market economy. To find a new strategy to overcome this situation, in January 2002, a Dalit conference was held in Bhopal. Over 300 Dalit intellectuals unanimously accepted the Bhopal Declaration containing 21 points identifying the area of intervention for uplifment of Scheduled Castes/Tribes and their participation in the public and private sector. On 26th January 2002, in his Republic Day address to the nation, the then President of India, Mr. K.R. Narayanan endorsed this declaration, which generated a serious debate throughout the country. The concept of diversity came into forefront for the first time. The main theme of the Bhopal Declaration is that there must be an equal participation of all sections of the society in the activities of all key institutions be it governance, education, institutions and trade. Every government and private organisation must implement Supplier Diversity from socially disadvantaged businesses and Dealership Diversity in all goods and services. The reservation must be compulsory in the private and corporate sector in the same proportion as in the public sector and in the government institutions and develop the capacities and skills of Dalits to help them cope up with the demands of these different sectors.

To further these objectives, another International Dalit Conference took place in Vancouver, Canada on 16-18 May 2003. Endorsing the Bhopal Declaration, the Conference asked for rightful and proportionate share of Dalits in India’s national institutions, wealth and capital. The community should have equitable access to means of production and economic empowerment.

Though the Congress Party accepted the Bhopal Declaration and the reservations to Dalits in the private sector was given prominence in the minimum common programme of United Progressive Alliance (UPA), but so far they haven’t done anything to fulfil their promise. It appears that the Congress Party has deliberately diverted people’s attention from Bhopal and Vancouver Declarations. They are talking of labour market reservations and employment in certain sector of the private economy. There is no discussion over capital market, land market and government contracts to the Dalits. They have taken up just a one issue for reservations but what about contract/suppliers/dealership diversity? What about giving surplus land to landless labourers? What about diversity into educational institutions?

Even reservation in the private sector hasn’t received a positive response from businesses. The UPA government’s common minimum programme talks about evolving a consensus on the issue. The Prime Minister had meeting with industrialists on 4th December 2004 in which this issue was raised. All of them were opposed to this idea and only agreed to contribute toward education. Recently Rahul Bajaj threatened to shift business out of Maharashtra if the state government did not rescind its orders on reservations in the private sector (Times of India, 8/9/04). Confederation of Indian Industry chief Mr. Anand Mahindra welcomes a dialogue but says that reservation without merit may have distorting effects on the industry. In another word, he is parroting again about the age-old excuse of merit. Everybody knows that in private sector, jobs are hardly advertised. The people are recruited on the basis of birth not worth, family lineage, contacts, recommendations, loyalty and political influence. The Indian industry is run and controlled by the upper caste feudals who have no compassion for the poor. 

The issue of providing reservation to the Dalits in the private sector seems to have taken a backseat. During Maharashtra elections, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh raised the issue. This matter was widely responded and discussed. The Government formed a Group of Ministers on the subject under the chairmanship of Sharad Pawar with Ramvilas Paswan and Lalu Prasad Yadav its members. Now the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh constituted a committee of ministers on Dalit affairs to supervise programmes being run by various ministries and departments for welfare of Dalits. The committee would consolidate the funding and implementation of schemes to improve effectiveness and identify areas needing attention. The committee has been set up because despite a large amounts being allocated to a number of programmes, the outcome has not been fruitful (10).

Now the government has itself admitted that the welfare programmes have not been very affective and successful. If the Prime Minister is really sincere, instead of this ministerial committee, he should form a Diversity Cell in the Prime Minister’s office and start implementing diversity programme immediately. All the contracts to various companies should go through the Prime Minister making sure that Dalits get their fare share in contracts. Rather than spending money on welfare schemes, involve them in businesses so that they are able to look after themselves. The Government should also set up a separate ministry for Diversification independent from the Ministry of Welfare and Empowerment. The Digvijay Singh government in Madhya Pardesh initiated a scheme to award one third of all purchases/contracts to the Dalits. The central government should also start such programmes at least in central government departments. All the governmental and private sector enterprises must provide data to the ministry to make sure that Dalits are given an equal opportunity in the hiring process. It also means that governmental and private business contracts should be cleared through the Ministry of Diversification to make sure that Dalits have shares equal to others (11). It is said that charity begins from home. The government should show the way to the private businesses. Rather than giving them reservation, give them power to run their own businesses. It will benefit not only a few educated people also semi literate people as well resulting more employment amongst the weaker section of society. This new ministry must set targets to achieve diversity agenda. This includes employment of Dalits in government and private sector and all educational institutions.

The ministry should also bear responsibility of training and teaching Dalits the best of techniques

Through exhaustive dealer/supplier-educational programmes in order to ensure that Dalits have the capability to compete nationally and globally. Dalit students should also be encouraged and financed to get involved in the business. All the private businesses, which are refusing to implement diversity programme, should be liable to be barred from government concessions such as subsidies, grants, loans and other income tax benefits. The companies, which implement this programme, should be benefited with tax rebates and other incentives.  

To implement the diversity programme, it is essential that we have some data of the Dalit professionals, suppliers, dealers etc., otherwise these companies can easily say that they are unable to find the suitable persons. To eradicate this problem, there must be some sort of Dalit Recruitment Agency with branches in every state, which will collect the data of Dalit professionals i.e. scientists, computer engineers, lawyers, doctors, suppliers, dealers etc. The recruiting public/ private company or government departments would write to the Dalit Agency for providing the potential job seeker, supplier or dealer with relevant business and qualifications. If we have data, the agency can write to eligible persons. The person who gets job or contract for supply or dealership through the Dalit agency will have to pay a small amount to agency so that its running costs are met. Initially it will be difficult to collect data but when the agency start working, the potential job seekers or contractors will be registering their names themselves with the Dalit Agency. That way the companies can’t make excuse that they can’t find suitable persons for the jobs and also we will be able to have network of Dalit professionals and businessmen. This Agency can be run easily with no profit and no loss basis. The government can also take an initiative to open such agency under the Ministry of Diversification. But it must be ensured that this agency be run and operated by Dalit officials only. This agency must publish its annual report to show how many people registered with the company and how many people got jobs through this agency. Dalit Beopar mandal is a positive sign to implement this programme. We don’t need talks and dialogues with any business tycoons but we need action. Now let us see how far the government goes to empower Dalits. 


(1) P. Vishnumurti, Janamitra, 4/01/04
(2) Disinvestment will end reservations An article by Rajesh Ramachandran and Akshaya Mukul, the Times of India News Desk, published in the souvenir on Dr. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary in 2002 from Jallandhar.
(3) Corporate Social Responsibility A British Government update published by the Department of Trade & Industry in May 2004
(4) Corporate Social Responsibility Friends, (a magazine for the members of the Communications Workers Friendly Society) Autumn 2004 issue.
(5) The Praful Bidwai Column, dated 21/8/2004

(6) The Vancouver Vision on Diversity International Dalit Conference, Vancouver, 2003
(7) Mr. P. Vishnumurti, Janmitra, 4/01/2004
(8) The Pioneer, Dalit Diary (Vol-1) by Chandra Bhan Prasad
(9) The Observer, 3 October 2004).
(10) The Indian Express, 8 March 2005
(11) Dr. K. P. Singh,
What Dalits Expect from the congress led Government? Dalit International Newsletter, October 2004

Note: This article on Privatisation & Dalits  was written by Mr. Arun Kumar a year ago.




Arun Kumar
 Secretary, Dr. Ambedkar Mission Society, Bedford, UK

Dr. Ambedkar is by far the greatest figure ever born to the Dalit community. He has become a household name in every nook and corner of India. His influence and prestige continue to grow everyday. Today he is recognised as a great figure of modern India. The statues of Dr. Ambedkar are erected just about everywhere, thousands of walls are decorated with his portraits and his writings are quoted in most of the speeches delivered by prominent politicians and scholars. All political parties include him among figures of national importance.

Dr. Ambedkar is being transformed into a saintly figure. On his birthdays, politicians and his followers garland his statues and portraits. The politician use beautiful words in praise of Dr. Ambedkar to please his followers and to keep their vote bank intact. They announce various schemes which are never implemented and most of the time they gather dust in the office files. To celebrate his birthday is becoming an annual ritual. But he himself was an ‘idle breaker’ not ‘idle worshiper’. He was also against hero worship. Commenting upon hero worship, he said, “Bhakti in religion may be road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, it is sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship” (1). Let us not put Dr. Ambedkar on a pedestal and start worshiping him.   

Dr. Ambedkar’s life should provide an example as well as an inspiration to all those who constitute the have-nots and downtrodden in the World  and tell them that no bar based on caste, colour, race or religion can come in the way of an individual who is determined to go up. He believed in action and used every opportunity, every talent and every minute that was available to him to accomplish his ideals. His life was a relentless struggle against injustice and oppression. His birthday is a reminder to us about his sacrifice to improve the conditions of neglected and suppressed people of India. He is as much relevant today as he was in his own life time.

His each and every word will keep on imparting guidance not only to Dalits but to all Indians.  While presenting the draft constitution in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November, 1949, Dr. Ambedkar warned the nation, “On January 26, 1950, we will have equality in politics and inequality in social and economic life. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest moment, or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy…” (2).

 Even after more than half century of Independence, we haven’t learnt any lesson. Socially Indians are still divided into low and high. Loyalty to caste has increased. Dalits are discriminated on the basis of their caste. The situation is worsening day by day. According to a report by the Human Rights Watch some 160 million people live in a precarious existence shunned by much of society because of their ranks as untouchables. Dalits are discriminated, against, denied access to land, forced to work in deploring conditions and routinely abused and even killed. Dalit women are frequently victim of sexual abuse and paraded naked in the streets for petty crimes. Between 1994 and 1996, 98349 cases were registered with police nationwide as crimes and atrocities against Dalits. A further 1660 were for murder, 2814 for rape and 13671 for grievous hurt (3). The National Crime Records Bureau of India in its report says that 23742were committed against Dalits in the year 2000. Of these 6617 were atrocities and 666 were denial of civil rights. There were 3,298 cases of attack, 1034 cases of rape, 486 of murder, 260 of arson, 242 of kidnapping and abduction and 93 of robbery. Every day the incidents of atrocities can be found in various newspapers. But what the Indian are doing about it.  Just flick the newspapers, feel sorry for the unfortunates and forget.

It is often boasted that the government of India and state governments have started numerous schemes to uplift the conditions of Dalits. But in actual fact the state as well as central government don’t take any interest to implement these plans. For example, the union government provided Rs.50lacs to help the victims of caste oppression but Punjab government didn’t spent a penny out of this fund. Again an amount of Rs.54crores and 34lacs was sanctioned in the budget for year 2003-4, out which only Rs.35crores and 6lacs were spent. Similarly the communist government in West Bengal spent only 40% of the amount given by the central government (4). During 1980, the schemes started for the welfare Dalits have either been finished or the budget provision for these plans has been reduced to the extent that they are not benefiting to anybody. Provision of Rs.16crores to provide hostels to the students of Scheduled Tribes by the Government of India has ceased during the budget of 2004-5. A provision of Rs.40crores was made during year 2003-4 for the welfare and rehabilitation of manual scavengers, but during the year 2004-5, the amount was reduced to Rs.20crores (5)

So far economic conditions are concerned; reservation in the government jobs has not been fulfilled as proportional to their population. With the privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation, the government jobs are disappearing. A rough estimation shows that for every 10 Dalits retiring from Government, only two are getting in. At this rate 80 per cent of the Dalits will have been thrown out of the Government jobs by 2033 (6). As there is no reservation in the private sector, there is no scope of Dalits getting jobs in the private sector. There are 250 millions Dalits in India which make nearly one fourth of all population. But their share in the market economy is negligible. Dalits in Punjab constitute a higher proportion of the population (28.3%) than the India average; they cultivate only 0.4% of all landholdings, occupying 0.72% of the total cultivated area in the state (7).They have 7.1% share in factories, 3.1% in construction, 4.1% in trade, 3% in transport and 3.4% in domestic industry (8).That is why majority of Dalits still live below poverty line. The current trend is that poor is becoming poorer and rich richer. Dalits will be further marginalised.

Because of the disparity between rich and poor, people especially Dalits are getting frustrated and alienated from the rest of the society. They have stopped believing the politicians and democratic system. That is why violent movements such as Dalit Panthers of India, Naxlite movement in Andhra Parades, Maoist movement in Bihar and Jharkhand are cropping up. If the gap between rich and poor is not bridged, there is a danger of caste warfare. The Indians must heed Dr. Ambedkar’s warning and do something to bring about equality in social and economic life of the people. Otherwise India will surely be heading towards disaster.

After Bhopal and Vancouver Dalit Conferences, the issue of reservation in the private sector has become a national agenda. By starting debate on reservations in private sector, Congress government has deliberately diverted the people’s attention from the recommendations of both Bhopal and Vancouver Declarations. Recently the working group set up by the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has given its verdict that reservation in the private sector without constitutional amendment is not possible. This issue has been sidelined. There are 121 Dalit MPs. If all reserved MPs and MLAs cooperate with each other, the government of India will be forced to bring this amendment in the Parliament. But they have become deaf and dumb to please their masters. They are concerned only about their own positions.

We should not be contended with mere reservation in private sector but we must also push for the implementation of supplier and dealership diversity in all goods and services for socially disadvantaged businesses. We must not stop until our goal of share in land, trade, industry and market is achieved. To bring social and economic equality in the society, empowerment of Dalits is essential. If we are able to achieve even a little in this direction, it will be a real tribute to Dr. Ambedkar.


1. Thus Spoke Ambedkar Vol. II, Bhagwan Das.
2. Ibid
3. Broken People, Caste Violence against
India’s “Untouchables”, Human Rights Watch, New York
4. Nanak Chand Rattu, Dr. Ambedkar’s Last Days and his last words, An article published in the Ambedkar Centenary Celebrations souvenir Vol 11, Published by the Ambedkar Centenary Celebrations
Committee, UK
5. Bheem Patrika, September, 2004 
6. Weekly Begum Pura Shaher,
5th September, 2005
Chander Bhan Prasad, Step Backward, The Pioneer, 6/11/05
Dr. Ronki Ram, Untouchability in India with a difference, Asian survey,  November/December 04    
9.  Vishnumuriti, Janmitra, dated
4 January, 2004