For five years, IIM Kozhikode has set an example for dalit and adivasi empowerment.
ALL THOSE who oppose caste-based reservations on the grounds of a dilution of merit might find themselves forced to a rethink by the Centre of Excellence at the Indian Institute of Management,
After his BA, K. Dilraj, attained the life ambition of most young men from his tribe: a job as a lower division clerk under the ST quota. Five years later, Dilraj, now in his late 20s, is ICICI-Lombard’s Regional Manager in Chennai, and his monthly earnings are about to cross Rs 1 lakh. Dilraj’s is not an isolated case, however. For five years now, the Centre’s five-month Certificate Course for Professional Development (CCPD) has been selecting disadvantaged Dalit and Adivasi youngsters from across Kerala, and providing them the training to make up for their cramping lack of exposure and resources. They are then turned out to take on the world, reservation or no reservation.
According to programme director DD Namboodiri, the CCPD has already supported, groomed and empowered 217 SC and ST youngsters, and 40 more are waiting in the wings. At least 35 percent of the CCPD’S alumni are already with top MNCs,national corporates and other organisations, while some even run their own companies. Thirty-seven percent were inspired to return for higher studies. The transformation, for many, has been amazing. Dilraj, who was among the first batch in 2002, says: “It changed everything — my personality, exposure, skills, outlook. My confidence really went up, and I had a go at the CAT. I made it, and here I am.” VM Sreejith, who runs a bio-informatics company, says the Centre re-moulded him. “I was always withdrawn — I had no self-confidence and I could not even meet people without stammering. My ambitions were no different from those of anyone else from my background.
But the Centre of Excellence transformed me.” Other alumni include people like MM Risha — daughter of a Dalit labourer, motivated to pursue higher studies after the programme and now with an MNC in Hyderabad — and Sarita Velayudhan, a young Dalit woman from a modest Kerala home, now an executive with a US-based firm in Kochi.
SC and ST communities are 10 percent of Kerala’s population, but their numbers in private corporations are negligible, obviously because they lack soft skills and exposure,” Namboodiri says.
``We focus mainly on communication, IT skills, and personality and entrepreneurship development, but touches upon almost every other aspect the disadvantaged SC/ST student may have missed out on.”
The entry criterion is graduation, but most alumni have higher qualifications. Apart from the IIM-K faculty, guest professors from places such as
The Centre is to become an autonomous institution next year, with support from IIM-K, the National Institute of Advanced Studies and the Tata Institute of Social Science. It will then be called the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation, and will focus on research, training, and advocacy for marginalised communities.