Saturday, February 04, 2012

Dalits and Development

Eric Williams book (Capitalism and slavery) describes how low productivity levels are associated with slavery.

Labor productivity figures in Indian manufacturing are chronically lower than many other countries. Could the chronically low labor productivity of Indian labor be related to the caste-system because like slavery it restricts upward social mobility and hence the marginal utility of incremental labor units? In this context, will it be correct and/or accurate to use the difference between productivity of Indian labor and average productivity of non-Indian labor to the cost-drag caused by the caste system on the Indian economy?

In Eric Williams book, he also says that as technology changes the productivity figures and hence social pattern of production, social values and hence laws/policy-regimes change.

With liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, Indian manufacturing has grown its labor productivity using technology and needs less labor units to create the same level of output. The social pattern of production changed in both the manufacturing and services sectors to favor labor with a higher level of skills.

Due to the prior inequitous ownership of property and hand-to-mouth existences preventing surplus tradeable/investible value from labor, dalit castes have traditionally not been able to educate/skill themselves for higher skilled employment and/or fund productive enterprises as much as non-dalits were able to. The caste system created structural barriers for dalits to enter educational institutions, enter gainful employment and start productive enterprises and prevented the development of dalits in education, employment and enterprise. In fact the caste system prevent protection of even the human rights of dalits. Development remained a distant dream.

With LPG, the Indian economy has seen a lot of growth. But this growth has not trickled down to dalits due to the structural barriers mentioned above, which prevent dalits from increasing the surplus value from their labor units and trading/investing this surplus value to improve their skills, get gainful employment, create productive enterprises and eventually improve their quality of life, health and property.

On the contrary, LPG has increased the level of skills required to compete and reduced the number of labor units required thereby driving down the value of the cumulative labor units of dalits to abysmal levels. In the absence of a social security system to fund the lives of dalits who have been made redundant and/or the non-implementation of minimum wage regulations for those who have to accept lower wages due to increased competition for the reduced labor units, the conditions of dalits are worsening even while the Indian economy is growing.

Yet over the last 50 years, due to reservations a small group of dalitshas managed to improve their skills, get gainful employment and has setup productive enterprises. Due to the emergence of this category, the cumulative surplus value of the dalit labor and dalit capital has begun rising. Many of these dalits are directly and indirectly contributing to the growth of the surplus value of the labor of similar other dalits by investing in their development by launching schools, launching enterprises and employing dalits. Since the number of such dalits is very low, it is neccessary to retain the reservation policy which helps in growing the number of such people. In addition to this enabling these dalits to improve the surplus value of their labor and capital through high-end-education and training and through encouraging them differentially to launch productive enterprises focused on speeding up the process of dalit development (schools, colleges, placement agencies, dealerships, sales agencies, D2D product/services like marriage bureaus, investment bureaus, co-operatives, banks, etc) with state support in financing and preferential procurement will go a long way in leveraging the investments made by India in creating a pool of well educated and well trained dalits through the reservations policy.

This approach is justifiable because non-dalit entrepreneurs are less equipped to understand the credit risks, the product/service preferences and the cultural uniqueness of dalit customers and more important may not invest their profits in the development of dalits. So dalit entrepreneurs should be protected from non-dalit entrepreneurs who enjoy advantages in terms of capital, experience social networks in operating such business and may use these to displace dalit entrepreneurs. The nature of protection can be like the protection given by India to the Bombay club entrepreneurs against foreign entrepreneurs. This protection can be reviewed and dismantled later.

This seems to be the only comprehensive way of developing dalits without needing massive outlay of money at one shot. It is time to adapt the policy-regime to facilitate development of dalits in this way in the changed social pattern of production, which provides higher return to knowledge/skill than to manual/mechanical labor or to capital
Post a Comment