Accepted Paper:

Dalit community in the business contexts: incorporated or marginalised?  


Kaushal Vidyarthee (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This study examines the trends and the context of participation of Dalits in the business economy as the owners of firms; and how this process varies spatially and sectorally across India. Using mixed methods approach, it elicits insights about the factors implicating Dalits’ entry to the business.

Paper long abstract:

Business ownership in the Indian economy has long been established as a mainstay of capital accumulation and economic mobility. However, Dalit community's incorporation (or marginalisation) into the business economy has not received any rigorous investigation. This interdisciplinary research makes an attempt to broaden the empirical & analytical understanding about the Dalit community in the business context by adopting mixed methods approach of analysis i.e. advanced quantitative tools such as GIS mapping and spatial regressions and qualitative tools- in-depth semi-structured interviewing.

Using data from the Economic Census of India, I have constructed maps showing the differing indices of participation by Dalits as business owners in the last twenty years. Such an analysis has allowed me to comprehend the spatial patterns of the participation of Dalits (and their marginalisation) as owners of firms across economic sectors; it has also enabled me to examine how various factors such as urbanisation, poverty, unemployment, education and access to credit affect their participation. Dalits' participation is highly differentiated in sector-specific ways. Dalits are relatively advantaged in the construction sector and consistently disadvantaged in service sectors.

This study draws from fieldwork in Raebareli district of Uttar Pradesh which involves interviews ranging from Dalit businessmen to policy makers. Whether entry barriers for Dalits for setting up businesses are economic, social, or both, and why that is, and why they vary sectorally are answered through this study. The results of this research are striking, have clear potential significance for policy, and provoke challenges for explanations and further research.

Panel P08
Dalit communities in India and diaspora: agency and activism, research and representation