Lucknow- Unwavering in its mission to transform age-old aspirations into a tangible movement, the All India Independent Scheduled Castes Association (AIISCA) emerges as a dynamic force in India's social and political landscape. This organization is driven by a compelling vision: to champion the cause of Scheduled Castes by advocating for coercive policies in the private sector, a pivotal but underrepresented arena in the nation's economic structure.
Founded by Dr. Rahul Sonpimple, a former student leader and JNU alumnus, AIISCA recently convened its inaugural national delegate conference in Nagpur on October 7th. In this narrative, The Mooknayak delves into the organization's multifaceted objectives, unwavering determination, and ambitious goals, as it embarks on a journey to bring about significant change for India's marginalized communities
The Mooknayak spoke to Rahul Sonpimple about the objectives that drive the All Indian Independent Scheduled Caste Association. He says, “We observe that discussions on the issues of Scheduled Castes take place only when there are dastardly atrocities against them. But we need to remember that Scheduled Castes, as a community, have their social, political, and economic problems. A report says that only 4% of Scheduled Castes are in government jobs, most of which are at the lower level of the hierarchy. The ratio is much skewed at the upper level. So there should be a demand for reservation in the organized private sector, which is the corporate sector, but we see that there is no one to raise this demand at the national level.”
He points out that Dalits in the corporate sector are few and far between, and even the people who are there face a lot of discrimination. The informal sector is run by the Scheduled Castes, and they generate income for Brahmins and the Baniyas.
Touching on the issue of separate settlements, he said Ambedkar said that atrocities on Dalits are more prevalent in places where Dalits are in the minority; therefore, he suggests that the government should adhere to the formula of separate settlements. He explains that the government should provide land and other resources to the Dalits so that they are settled separately in areas where they form a majority. He says, “Ambedkar said, while forming the Samta Sainik Dal, that you can secure your people only when you have enough people for your security, and you will have enough people only when you are in the majority.”
The demand for reservation in the private sector is a long-standing demand and has been there for a long time. The demands for reservation in the private sector reached the studios and columns of the media in 2004 when the UPA formed the government with the help of the communists. However, not much was done, and the Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) Order, 2012, mandated that out of the 25% procurement of government reserved for MSMEs, 4% should be earmarked for enterprises owned by Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes. The JNU scholar says that “the corporates manipulate CSR (corporate social responsibility) by saying that we are providing 2-3% for the social sector; our demand is an act for reservation in the corporate sector. We know that this demand is not new, but we aim to give it the shape of a movement at the ground level.”
Over the past few months, the demand for a law for the sub-plan of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes has increased. Sonpimple cites the case of Delhi: “In the Arvind Kejriwal-led government of Delhi, the money allotted to the Scheduled Caste sub-plan is diverted to his popular scheme. Therefore, our organization has demanded that there should be a law for the sub-plan so that there is no diversion or manipulation of the fund.” He asks, “When will the Scheduled Caste ask for their share in the national wealth in proportion to their population?
Rahul expresses disenchantment towards all the political parties, be it Dalit-led political parties or upper-caste-led ones, the opposition parties or the ruling alliance parties. He says, “Our political parties vote in favor of EWS and don’t talk about the violation of reservation for Scheduled Castes. If we seek help from these parties, we won’t be able to emerge as pressure groups; we can only ask them to raise the issue in the House.
The Mooknayak spoke to Sumeet Mhaskar, a professor of Labor Studies at Jindal University, about the demands for reservation in the private sector and the challenges. He said, “The trajectory of higher education is poised towards the private sector. There are private universities that students from marginalized backgrounds cannot afford. The government should provide scholarships, or the SC/ST themselves should open private colleges, but this is a very long-term solution. Another problem is that 97% of our economy is in the informal sector. There should be a focus on incubating owners of capital among the Scheduled Castes people. The government can help by providing resources.”
The affirmative action policies in the United States have been fairly successful in building a space for the African American community, which has a history of facing racial discrimination in the past. Occasional events remind us of the persistence of the stigma and prejudice reserved for the group. However, one needs to remember that the corrective measures in the country to address the discrimination don’t have constitutional safeguards. Nevertheless, they were abided by with sincerity, as opposed to in India, where only coercive policies work in favor of Scheduled Castes. Probably, this is also one of the reasons that AIISCA has firmly demanded reservations.
Dalit writer and entrepreneur Chandra Bhan Prasad has been an advocate of reservation in the private sector for a long time. He played an instrumental role in formulating the Bhopal Declaration of 2002. The declaration was a charter of 21 demands aimed at increasing the participation of Dalits beyond the public sector. Some of the demands in the declaration included:
Make reservation mandatory in the private and corporate sector in the same proportion as in the public sector and government institutions and develop the capacities and skills of Dalits to help them cope up with the demands of these different sectors.
Make the reservation quota applicable in all the public and private educational institutions from primary to technical and professional levels. Every SC/ST child with low income-base must be given quality free-education at State’s expense. And every English medium school must implement Diversity in Admissions.
Every government and private organization must implement Supplier Diversity from socially disadvantaged businesses and Dealership Diversity in all goods and services.
Democratise the capital so as to ensure proportionate share for SCs and STs. Make budgetary allocation for SCs and STs to enable them enter the market economy with adequate investment resources, and develop their capacities and skills for such market enterprises
Definitely the demand for measures seeking increased participation of the Scheduled Castes people in areas in the income generating sectors outside the public sector is not new and it can be hoped that the Organisation founded by Rahul Sonpimple is able to give these demands the shape of a movement.