Book Release-cum-Panel Discussion on the book, ‘Caste as Social Capital’, authored by Prof R Vaidyanathan, at The Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), 09 Apr 2019
Welcome address by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF

Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the release of Prof R Vaidyanathan's latest book Caste as Social Capital. Prof Vaidyanathan is a member of the Advisory Council of the VIF. Presently, he is Cho Ramaswami visiting Prof. of Public Policy at Shastra University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. He has served in many regulatory bodies such as the RBI, SEBI, PFRDA, and IRDA. A 2-time Fulbright Scholar and a fellow of ICSSR, he has taught finance at IIM Bangalore. He was selected by Business Today as one of the ten best Professor at all IIMs. He has written several books including India Uninc, and, Black Money Tax Havens. Some of you would recall that the last one was released at the VIF in Nov 2017.
Prof Vaidyanathan is an original thinker. His arguments are based on facts and data. In his latest book Caste as Social Capital, he notes that while caste is commonly identified with oppression and discrimination, it has positive aspects too which have not been researched adequately. The main argument of the book is that caste serves as a creator and promoter of “social capital” in society. He points out that the originally, caste was not based on birth but on “Gunas” that is merit, virtue and excellence. The rigidities of hierarchy crept in later due to social, political and economic reasons. The book looks at the role of castes in promoting education, entrepreneurship and networks amongst the individuals. Caste-based economic clusters are spread across the country, providing millions of jobs. Traditional business communities like Marwaris, Sindhis, Patels, Bohras, Kutchis have been extremely successful in creating global business networks. The book gives several examples, derived from various case studies, of how castes have promoted entrepreneurship in different areas such as constructions, trade, real estate, transportation, tourism, etc across the country. The book also points out how some Dalit entrepreneur have built a large business empire. The author points out that “the jati or community or cast plays a major role in entrepreneurship and also facilitate the upward mobility of the whole cast rather than individual.”
In India, caste is closely linked with reservation and politics. The clamour for more reservations in government jobs and educational institutions is growing. Even forward castes want reservations. Some castes have done much better because of their “Vaishyavisation” than from reservations. The author points out that in Tamil Nadu, some castes want to be delisted from being scheduled caste communities because they face social discrimination on that account.

Prof Vaidyanathan’s plea at the end of the book is that the positive role played by caste in building social capital in the society should be recognized. He observes that the “Vaishyavisation” process of caste will change society and the caste equations which in turn will have major political implications.

We have an excellent panel comprising of Sh S Gurumurthy, the Chairman of the VIF Board of Trustees, Dr A Surya Prakash, Chairman Prasar Bharti, and Dr Bibek Debroy, Member NITI Aayog and member of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council to discuss the book. I request Sh Gurumurthy and the panelists to release the book.

Thank you.

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