Telangana’s Dalit Bandhu, welfare and development measures for economic and social empowerment of Dalits are being appreciated across the country. But the seeds for introducing these innovative and revolutionary measures were laid way back in 2004.

It’s been over 18 years and I still remember those days when Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao toiled hard to finalise the welfare and development measures for Dalits.

After relentless research and marathon discussions with experts and activists, a Dalit Agenda was prepared to introduce the Dalit Bandhu scheme, setting up of residential schools, measures like distribution of three acres land and others were finalised.

After the TRS came to power, all these welfare and development measures are being implemented in true spirit. This speaks volumes about Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s vision and commitment to Dalit empowerment. It is not an exaggeration to say that after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, there is no other leader or Chief Minister in contemporary times, who can match the TRS chief’s vision and commitment.

To substantiate this, it was the TRS chief’s constant persuasion in 2012 that made former Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy announce the measures for formulating SC Sub Plan Act in the State Assembly. Further, the first meeting Chandrashekhar Rao chaired after becoming the Chief Minister was on Dalit issues. In 2016, during the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Dr BR Ambedkar, an appeal was made to set up a 125 feet tall statue. 

To my surprise, apart from the installation of the statue, the Chief Minister announced the setting up of 125 SC educational institutions. At present, the SC Development Department is operating 268 residential institutions.

Again, this stands as testimony that he emphasised the need for changing the thought process of Dalits through education and awareness. There are over 990 residential schools and 2,500 hostels for SC, ST, BC and minorities and the Telangana government spends about Rs 1.20 lakh on each student a year. No other State is on a par with Telangana on these parameters.

Consider this. The BJP –led Central government abolished the Planning Commission eventually doing away with the implementation of plans and sub-plans. On the other hand, the Telangana government introduced the Telangana State Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Special Development Fund Act, 2017,

aimed at economic development and social empowerment of the two communities. 

The point to be noted here is that the Chief Minister strongly believes that welfare is charity and development is right. That’s the reason the Social Welfare Department was renamed SC Development Department in Telangana. Dalit Bandhu, the brainchild of the Chief Minister, is being welcomed by all sections not just in Telangana but in the BJP and Left-ruled States as well.

The Congress was in power at the Centre till 2014 and the BJP is in power but no government envisaged such a revolutionary scheme for Dalit empowerment. Even as Dalits in the State are turning entrepreneurs and aspiring for higher dreams, the plight of their counterparts in several other States is deplorable. Exploitation, untouchability, atrocities continue unabated.

Last week, two Dalit sisters were reportedly gangraped and murdered in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. It needs a strong political will to ensure the safety and social empowerment of Dalits and that is being guaranteed only in Telangana. Much is being talked about Chandrashekhar Rao’s foray into national politics. A few governments like Uttar Pradesh and Odisha are confined to supplying rice to Dalits as measures for their empowerment and utilising them as vote banks. 

Chandrashekhar Rao’s entry into national politics can bring light to the lives of Dalits across the nation if Telangana’s schemes and programmes are implemented in true spirit. The Congress and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. During the Congress tenure, a few corporate giants prospered, under the BJP rule, another set of corporate companies are making merry. Not content with this, all efforts are being made to hand over the agricultural sector to the corporate honchos.

Save for the Telangana Chief Minister, not many national leaders are raising their voices and fighting against the Central government’s unilateral decisions. The need of the hour is ensuring economic growth, social welfare, water management, power supply and poverty alleviation and these are key agendas of the TRS chief for floating a national party. To sum up, a visionary mindset and humanitarian heart differentiate leaders from people. 

Chandrashekhar Rao is blessed with these two qualities and his foray into national politics will augur well for the country and sound the death knell for a few national parties.

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