As the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi campaigns in Mayawati' s bastion asking UP's downtrodden to think big, a planning commission panel has shown the UPA government how to walk the talk.
A working group on welfare of the Schedule Castes (SCs) has asked the government to set up a National Bank for Inclusive Development to support businessmen from the backward sections.
The move is to encourage Dalits and other weaker sections with entrepreneurial skills to realise their business potential rather than depend on reservations or other government doles.The initiative will come at a price tag of Rs 2,000 crore, proposed as a share capital from the government. The 12th plan working group mentioned no upper limit, but loans could be up to or more than Rs 1 crore.
The government might act a guarantor for such loans to build medium to large-scale enterprises - an area where Dalits foothold is said to be minimal.
The panel also recommended financial assistance to one lakh SC youth for acquiring land/ built up space to set up industries etc.
The move would mark advancement from the present support to Dalits limited to setting up of small businesses like a retail store or self-help avenues like sheep or sewing machines.
It is also based on reports that flow of credit to SCs through banks is not commensurate with their population and requirement.
There are an estimated 19.5 crore SCs in the country forming over 16% of total population. At present, the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation established two decades back, provides loans for income activities but is limited to SCs living below double the poverty line.
"Development paradigm from 12th plan should be such that the SCs do not remain passive recipients of schemes … the goal is to empower SCs to participate in society and nation building on an equal basis with others," the group headed by secretary, ministry of social justice and empowerment with other department and state secretaries said.
The report setting the road map for SC empowerment in next five years, also recommended that all surplus government land be allotted to landless among the SC, STs and other priority groups.