Targeting Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's Dalit support base, the Congress-led UPA government is planning the launch of a "Dalit Venture Capital Fund" scheme aimed at benefiting mid-level entrepreneurs belonging to scheduled castes and tribes.
Financial institutions including Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Unit Trust of India (UTI) and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), apart from other public sector undertakings, will be asked to set up social capital venture funds.
"A corpus of Rs 500 crore can be created in this manner and this money can be used to fuel the growth of companies of Dalit entrepreneurs," said Milind Kamble of the Pune-based Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI).
Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST) commission chairman PL Punia, who is a Congress MP from UP and a former senior bureaucrat, told HT: "The DICCI has been asked to submit a detailed proposal, which will be seriously considered and actively pursued."
Though there are self-employment and start-up projects for the backwards, there is none that promotes business expansion and technological upgrade plans of
Dalit-owned firms that have achieved an annual turnover up to Rs 100 crore.
Social justice and empowerment minister Mukul Wasnik is reportedly keen on the idea and is understood to have held consultations with rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and Punia.
The concept is slated to be discussed in detail by officials of the Planning Commission this week. Officials of the ministries of finance, rural development and social Justice and empowerment are expected to participate.
However, it is unlikely that this will be announced before the current phase of elections is over because the model code of conduct is in force.
In a significant initiative, minister for micro, small and medium enterprises Virbhadra Singh recently mandated 4% of all government purchases be made from Dalit-owned enterprises.
Following the decision, the government is committed to doing annual purchases worth an estimated Rs 7,000 crore from Dalit-owned units.
Affirmative action of the past years has started to have an impact, evidenced from the fact that the DICCI - India's first Dalit chamber - has got 1,000 members. The chamber has 15 state chapters.