Katukoori Jayaraj has not forgotten the times he had to beg at a railway station for survival. “it is embarrassing to share this part of my life but it is a fact, he says. Today, Jayaraj, 28, is a small scale entrepreneur in Karimnagar in north Telangana brimming with confidence in his neatly pressed semi-formal clothes. And he has only one person to thank for it. “It is KCR”, says Jayaraj, his voice full of gratitude.
Jayaraj is one of the 38,323 beneficiaries of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s Flagship Scheme, Dalit Bandhu. It offers Rs ten lakh to every eligible Dalit family in the state. Rao launched the scheme just before crucial by-poll in the Hazuabad constituency in Karimnagar. It is being implemented across the state in phases.
The scheme seems to have hit the right noises in the dalit community, as they often struggled to raise money even for small ventures. Jayaraj said he was once kicked out of public sector bank when he went to apply for a loan. Today he is the proud owner of diagnostic sector, which earns him Rs 40,000 to Rs one lakh a month. And, his marriage prospects have improved significantly.
Not too far away from Jayaraj’s diagnostic centre is Kalyan’s American Centre Tourist showroom. It was in Dalit Bandhu’s cash assistance that helped him get the franchise. The annual turnover is about Rs 70 lakhs. Kalyan worked at another showroom of the brand for years before he started one of his own.
The government has kept the application process simple. Applicants will go through scrutiny, and the proposal is cleared by district administration. The officials stress on sanctioning money to businesses that the candidates have experience . The sanctioned business assets include crop harvesting equipment, taxis, tea stalls, restaurants, DJ instrument and drones.
“It wasn’t a big task identifying the eligible candidates,” says R V Karnan, Karimnagar district collector, who has been involved with the scheme from inception. “We have analysts who verify details like ration card and other documents needed for the Dalit Bandhu scheme”.
Karnan said the scheme was the first of its kind in the country. “It is economically empowering and it breaks the caste structure. While the community has reservation in jobs and politics, there is no system in entrepreneurship. We can see that 80 to 90 per cent of them are in blue-collar jobs or work as labourers. This schemes will help many of them transition from workers to owners, he said.
Rao’s party, the Bharat Rashtra Samiti lost the Huzurabad constituency by poll in 2021, but the scheme’s larger implications seem to be working in its favour. The target is the 2023 Assembly polls in which the BRS hopes to win again. Telangana has around 54 lakh dalits, who make around 20 per cent of the electorate.
The BRS has been wooing dalits, and embracing B R Ambedkar. Rao named the new secretariat after himself and unveiled a 125ft statue. “Fifty per cent of dalits may vote for BRS because the scheme and also because of elevating Ambedkar’s status through the projects”. (IPA Service)