After US, NRI wants to help Dalits find jobs in India

Mumbai : In 2007, Michael Thevar, a backward Dalit-turned-successful NRI, had envisaged a dream of facilitating social change and started in Pennsylvania the Omni Development Relief Fund — a non-profit organisation that has been instrumental in providing several deserving Dalit candidates, job opportunities in the US.

On the 118 th birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the second phase of Thevar’s dream came true — the Indian chapter of ODRF, which has kickstarted the Dalit Human Rights campaign.

The ODRF-India’s campaign for safeguarding Dalit human rights will involve the setting up of a fact-finding team comprising grass-root level Dalit activists, informed media representatives and social workers. The team would be alert about the instances of atrocities reported and would immediately depart for the area, survey the situation and garner police and legal assistance promptly when needed.

“While Thevar started the ODRF in Pennsylvania, he was aware that he should give something back to his community in his home country. Dr Ambedkar expected that the educated class should unite and work towards the progress of the downtrodden, and using this as an inspiration, Thevar suggested that we start the ODRF in Mumbai,” said Bandhuraj Lone, a journalist who will be a part of the fact-finding team.

The members of the newly formed ODRF insist that it is not an NGO and clarify that it will not function on foreign funding. “The term NGO is like an abusive word in today’s social context. ODRF maintains that we do not need foreign funding to help our community progress. Well-settled professionals from the community are expected to voluntarily donate a small portion of their earnings, which in turn will be invested in the progress of those who are struggling in the course of development,” said Ganpat Bhise, a social worker who has started the ‘Samajik Nyaya Andolan’ in Marathwada. Bhise also went on to describe the various atrocities meted out to Dalits across the state in recent times.

The ODRF-India initiative was inaugurated by the youngest grandson of Dr Ambedkar, Bhimrao Ambedkar, who termed it as ‘a beautiful concept introduced at the most relevant of times.’