Dr. Udit Raj, apart from being a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), is a social activist who has been championing for the rights of the socially marginalised communities. He received the Best Parliamentarian Award in 2018. He is the Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST organisations. Dr. Raj spoke to BE’s Ellora De.
Q. What is the origin of the economic problems of the SC/ST communities?
A. Firstly, the majority of Indian businesses belong to the upper castes. They have traditionally discouraged the entry of socially marginalised sections in business activities. Secondly, socially marginalised sections do not have enough capital in their hands. They are also discouraged by the banks in the context of loans as they are less influential. Third is the cultural gap. The socially marginalised sections do not have the cultural inputs required for succeeding in business as they have been traditionally discouraged and dissuaded from participating in business activities.
Q. What are the social problems faced by the backward communities?
A. Individuals hailing from socially marginalised communities are actually socially confined. People of higher castes do not interact with them spontaneously. Hence, their social boundaries are limited. They even face discrimination in their work places. This discriminatory attitude is also a major obstacle in attaining social emancipation for these socially marginalised communities.
Q. Do these socially marginalised communities face educational obstacles?
A. They are educated. But still there are hindrances for them. The private sector dominance also prevails in the education sector. Children from socially marginalised communities find it hard to get admission in renowned
private educational institutions.
Q. How is the government responding to this situation?
A. The government has limited scope to address all the problems relating to these socially marginalised sections. The problems are deeply rooted. Indian economic activities are mostly dominated by private sector players who need to take the lead in changing mindsets. Government has procurement policies in this regard. Out of the 20% supply allotment from the MSME sector to the government, 4% allotment is for the backward sections, wherein only 0.36% is fulfilled. The Stand-Up India programme by the central government facilitates bank loans between Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 1 crore to at least one scheduled caste (SC) or scheduled tribe (ST) borrower and at least one woman borrowerper bank branch for setting up a greenfield enterprise in manufacturing / service / trading sector.
In the case of non-individual enterprises, at least 51% of the shareholding and controlling stake should be held either by an SC/ST or a woman entrepreneur. But the Indian banking sector has not been able to meet their targets for SCs/STs due to various constraints.
Q. As the Chairman of the All India Confederationof SC/ST organisations, how can constraints faced by backward sections be overcome?
A. Only social reforms and social awareness can reduce such constraints. We need change in mindsets in order to increase the participation of these sections in our country’s growth process.