Thanks to a slew of measures by the Punjab government for the welfare of SC and Dalits the number of such students in schools pursuing various courses in colleges and higher studies has witnessed a significant rise in last few years. Backed by their entrepreneurial skills many have uplifted their social, political and economic status by becoming successful businessmen.
While in 1980, no SC student was enrolled in the universities of Punjab for PhD and only six boys were enrolled in MPhil courses, the trend has changed in higher education over the years.
In the year 2009, as many as 49 students, including 23 girls, had enrolled for PhD courses, while in 2012 the strength rose to 120 of whom 53 were girls. Similarly, for MPhil courses, there were 40 students in 2009 and this figure increased to 56 in 2012. While only 491 Dalit students enrolled in state universities in 1980 for MA, the number rose to 1,658 in 2012. Similar has been the trend in the subsequent years. Apart from this in professional courses, in 2009 there were 583 MBBS students and in 2012 the number rose to 751.
In a positive development towards gender equality, it was seen that the number of Dalit girls surpassed boys in MBBS course and by the year 2012, as many as 447 girls got admission against 304 boys in these courses.In other courses too the number of Dalits increased significantly. The number of enrollment for Dalits in BEd courses increased from 1,618 in 2010 to 3,195 in 2012. In BA, their enrollment increased from 5,823 students in 1980 to 22,908 in 2012. In BSc, as many as 444 got admissions in 1980, which increased to 2,521 in 2012.
Figures for the subsequent years ie in 2013, 2014 and 2015 show a similar trend, indicating the education and professional qualification amongst Dalits has been increasing.
Dalits taking strides in business ventures
In fact not only in education but even on the entreprenueral front the Dalits have taken strides in Punjab and made their presence felt, which could not have been possible without the welfare schemes and encouraging initiatives by the Parkash Singh Badal government. A case study by Gurpreet Bal, from the department of Sociology Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar, “Dalit Empowerment through Entrepreneurship: A Case of Punjab, which is based on an empirical research conducted in the Jalandhar city of Punjab has found that 23.75 % of respondents from amongst those who were spoken to had become entrepreneurs. Yet their process of modernization has not broken the bond of caste–occupation, Significantly, Punjab has the highest proportion of the scheduled castes amongst all the states in country. As per 2001 census they constitute 28.85% with Jalandhar having the second highest concentration of 37.69% in the state.
Though the modernization of their traditional hereditary occupations is taking place.
The study found that the scheduled caste groups have found opportunities of mobility not only in their age old occupations but have also taken up other ventures which earlier were only taken up by the higher castes. A study of their background revealed that they were young, educated and through entrepreneurship have empowered themselves in the political and social spheres.
The Jalandhar city under study had a Dalit Mayor and has been the epicentre for the activities of Bahujan Samaj Party. And the city is aptly called North India’s capital of scheduled castes. The study found that through their entrepreneurial skills, they have empowered themselves socially, politically and economically.