India’s Untouchable Millionaire
Posted on March 4, 2010
Heard of Hari Pippal, a member of the untouchable caste who captured the hearts of the public? He was born into the lower caste where he struggled through menial jobs before he overcame all adversities to become a self-made millionaire.
Pippal’s success is all the more extraordinary because of the limitations imposed by the caste system.
According to this century-old system, groups of people were divided into castes in a hierarchy where the top most castes received greater prestige than the lower ones.
Originally, this stratification was based on the occupation of a person. However, over time, it consolidated into a means of determining a person’s social status.
At the same time, the caste system also became hereditary.
Folks who prescribed to this system also did not believe in social mobility of classes and it is for this reason that Pippal’s story stands out.
Pippal’s caste, the Dalits or scheduled caste as they are commonly referred to today, occupied the lowest ring and was commonly associated with roadsweepers and toilet cleaners.
His early life is testimony to the hardship suffered by members of this caste. For example, during the childhood years, he recalls sleeping on the street.
And, as a teenager, he had to undertake the laborious job of rickshaw driver in order to feed his family.
However, hard work and perseverance paid off for this enterprising businessman. Pippal now rubs shoulders with high-caste business as the owner of a big private hospital, a shoe factory, a motorbike dealership and a restaurant.
While this self-made man continues to be heralded as an inspiration to others, he is wary of being used as a token.
Pippal points out that India must make a lot more progress before the caste system (and the social stigma associated with lower levels) is eliminated.
He described the various ways in which his caste has continued to affect his work life as well as his personal life.
To begin with, he could not name his first startup company after himself as it would be snubbed by higher caste members.
Later on, as he became more successful, he built a hospital which was initially snubbed by doctors of different castes. These folks came flocking back once the place became renowned in the area.
There was also the sad incident involving Pippal’s son and his fiancée. While the girl’s high-caste family were happy about the union, many from their community were offended by it.
The engagement fell through when these members started threatening the life of the girl’s family.
‘Now I believe my children should marry within their caste. It’s better that way,’ was the words of Pippal after this incident.
Pippal supports programmes, be it educational endeavors or empowerment efforts, that will diminish this type discrimination.
He believes that these ventures would l help the lower castes overcome the initial hurdle, i.e. the poverty issues.