Socially Disadvantaged Groups And Poverty In India


This article is composed considering the constraints and in addition positive experiences from prior scholarly endeavors on the issue of inter-social group inequalities and human poverty and destitution and prohibition of socially burdened and disadvantaged groups in Indian culture. The investigation endeavors to embrace a hypothetical and observational examination to address four interrelated issues:

To start with, it tries to conceptualize the nature and concept of Poverty, particularly Chronic Poverty in measurements of “Exclusion Linked Deprivation” of socially disadvantaged groups in Indian culture. It expounds the idea and significance of caste-and tribe-based rejection. It highlights the background and problems of disadvantaged groups.

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Secondly, it traces the status of distraught and burdened groups of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and non-SC/STs and disparities in the incidence of Poverty between Social Groups and the disparities in the incidence of Poverty between Social Groups.

Thirdly, it tries to dissect the financial and social variables for high hardship of socially burdened groups as far as lower access to assets, human capital, social needs and furthermore the absence of flexibility to improvement through limitations (or non-opportunity) to common, social, social, political and monetary rights, which are firmly connected with societal procedures and organizations of caste and untouchability.

Lastly, it throws light on the government policy against discrimination and for the empowerment of socially disadvantaged groups.

Socially Disadvantaged Groups and Poverty:

Poverty is an age old-problem and social malaise present since time immemorial. There have been different attempts to define poverty in its strict sense. Some of them are- ‘Poverty means going short materially, socially and emotionally’.[1] ‘Man is rich or poor according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessaries, the conveniences and the amusements of life.’[2]

Further, there have been other attempts to define the term ‘Tribe’ as well. Some of them are- ‘Tribe is a group of local communities living in common area, speaking a common dialect and having a common culture.’[3] ‘Tribe is a simple type of social group, in which a common dialect is used by all tribals, they work together, in war and peace.’[4] The definitions within the Constitution of our country are- Scheduled Castes means such castes, races or tribes or parts or groups within such castes, races or tribes as are deemed under Article 341 to be Scheduled Castes for the purpose of Constitution of India.[5] Scheduled Castes are also known as Perial, Panchama, Nashudra etc. in different parts of the country. Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of Constitution of India.[6]

It had been widely observed throughout the country that the socially disadvantaged and burdened groups such as, Scheduled Tribes (STs) or Girijans, Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Harijans (as called by Mahatma Gandhi) or Other Backward Classes (OBCs) face severe discrimination and hardships and are more prone to poverty, particularly chronic poverty, due to factors such as untouchability, caste, education, income etc. They suffer double discrimination on grounds of poverty and caste. These socially disadvantaged groups face severe exclusion in the society. They are not considered a part of the society and their dignity to live in the society is hampered at each step. These are generally engaged in traditional caste based occupations. This point can be traced historically. They are generally alienated and considered as curse to the society. Their touch, shadows and sometimes their voices are considered to pollute. The fact that they occupy the last rank of ‘Avarna’ in the Hindu caste system, an outside caste in Chaturvarna system proves it well that they are highly segregated and excluded and the biggest victims of Social Exclusion.

Among different elements, low financial development, starting disparity and social exclusion are considered as imperative causal elements for chronic poverty. ‘Social exclusion’ and ‘introductory imbalance’ are especially applicable for understanding the diligence of chronic poverty among the avoided and the excluded underestimated groups. Social exclusion under social, political and monetary procedures makes conditions for the steadiness of chronic poverty for the rejected and excluded groups.

Social exclusion basically alludes to the procedure where people or groups, entirely or in part get rejected from full cooperation, inside the general public. Societal relations or organizations that prompt exclusion and hardship are critical to the comprehension of the idea of exclusion and segregation. Exclusion may happen in various circles and cause differing unfriendly outcomes for the prohibited and segregated minority groups. The literature clarifies “chronic poverty” as a circumstance where individuals stay poor for a drawn out stretch of time and where it is frequently passed on to the people to come. Chronic poverty is consequently a longitudinal idea, alluding to the industriousness of poverty for a generally longer timeframe, where individuals remain to a great degree poor, and are denied multi-dimensionally. They may have little access to profitable capital resources and business, have low human ability as far as training and aptitudes, and face social and political negligibility that keeps them poor over drawn out stretches of time.

In India, exclusion rotates around social procedures and establishments that avoid, separate, confine and deny a few groups based on caste and ethnic personality. These incorporate former untouchables or Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), nomadic, semi-nomadic and de-informed tribes (or ex-criminal tribes), and so forth. These groups together constitute in excess of 250 million out of 2001 (around 167 million SCs, 86 million STs and other little minorities). These groups have generally experienced exclusion in different circles, which has prompted their serious hardship.

The traditional Indian society is characterized by status summation where a person’s birth in a particular caste sums up his other positions. Thus, the fact that there has been close correlation between caste status and socio-economic status has been recognized. In the traditional organization in India, the link between caste and occupation was so important that it was believed to be sacrosanct. The lack of mobility has made the Indian society as rigid. Lack of education, training and leverages of mobility combined with traditional inhibitions seems to hinder the upward mobility of socially disadvantaged groups.

The SCs constitute the biggest social group in India, representing 16.2 % (proportional to 167 million) of the aggregate populace in 2001. On account of the lower caste untouchables, exclusion brought about serious hardship and poverty, since they were truly denied access to property rights, training and social liberties and all wellspring of vocation (with the exception of physical work, and certain occupations which were thought to contaminate). Caste-based exclusion of untouchables fundamentally includes the disappointment of qualification to monetary, common, social and political rights. This has been portrayed as living mode exclusion from political interest, and exclusion from social and financial openings.[7]

The Adivasis or the STs represent around 8 % of the aggregate populace (equal to 85 million). Their segregation and exclusion depends on their ethnic character. Verifiably, the STs have had an unmistakable culture, dialect and social association. They practiced hunting, sustenance and nomad development and lived in the river valleys and forest areas. Exclusion for their situation is denial of appropriation of assets and resources and unintended and proposed outcomes of societal procedures and approaches of the Government which, delivered extensive deprivation, hardship and poverty among them. The Scheduled Tribes likewise experience the ill effects of ‘constitutive relevance’ of exclusion, which emerges in view of their failure to identify with others, and to relate with, in the life of the group, and take part in community indirectly bringing them impoverishment.[8]

The Disparity Ratio is simply the ratio of poverty of one group i.e. SC and ST with respect to other castes or Non-SCs/STs. In 1983, the frequency of rural poverty among the SCs (58 %) was significantly higher than that of the Non-SC/STs (37 %). The disparity ratio between the SCs and Non-SC/STs was 1.6 at all India level in 1983, however was substantially higher in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. The extent of poverty among SCs was around two and half to three times higher than that among Non-SC/STs in Punjab and Haryana separately and two times higher in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. In correlation, the disparity in the poverty levels of the SCs and Non-SC/STs was moderately low in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam. In rest of the states, the disparity proportion was near to national average of 1.6%.[9]

In 1983, the frequency of rural poverty among the STs was as high as 64 %, which was just about 70 % higher than that for the Non-SCs/STs group. The disparity proportion between the STs and Non-SC/STs was 1.7 % in 1983. The disparity between the STs and Non-SC/STs was especially high in Mizoram (6.5%), trailed by Gujarat (2.8%), Rajasthan (2.5%) and Karnataka (1.9%). The disparity was moderately low in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, and Assam. In rest of the states, it was close to the national average of 1.7%.[10]

Recognizing the relative backwardness of these weaker sections of the society, the Constitution of India guarantees equality before the law (Article 14) and enjoins the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes or for SCs (Article 15(4)). It also empowers the State to make provisions for reservation in appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens (Article (16(4)). The Constitution of India also states categorically that untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden (Article 17). Further, it enjoins the State to promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and, in particular, of SCs and promises to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46). Reservation of seats for SCs in the democratic institutions (Article 330) and in services (Article 335) is another measure of positive discrimination in favour of these Groups. It empowers the State to appoint a Commission to investigate into the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes (Article 340) and to specify the Castes to be deemed as SCs (Article 341). In the case of Minorities, the Constitution adopts certain safeguards to recognize their rights in conserving their culture and establish and administer educational institutions of their choice under Articles 29 and 30. While the Article 350(A) advocates instructions in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to Linguistic Minorities, Article 350(B) provides for a Special Officer to safeguard the interests of the Linguistic Minorities. Besides these specific Articles, there are also a number of Constitutional provisions enabling protection and promotion of the interests of these Socially Disadvantaged Groups.

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The country had perceived the backwardness and hardship endured by the SCs and STs in the 1950s and created particular arrangements for their financial, social, and political strengthening. The Government has been using a two-overlap system to beat the hardship of the SCs and STs. This incorporates (a) measures against discrimination for equal opportunity in economic, civil, education and political circles; and (b) formative and engaging measures especially in financial, education and social circles. The remedial measures against exclusion incorporate the enactment of the Anti-Untouchability Act, 1955 (renamed as the Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1979), and the Scheduled Caste/Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Under the former, the practice of untouchability and separation out in the open spots, and public community life is dealt with as an offence. The latter gives legitimate insurance to the SCs and STs against violence and abominations by the higher castes.

Notwithstanding the above legitimate protections against exclusion and discrimination, the government has likewise attempted to give equal opportunity and scope for participation in economic and political procedures of the nation through the ‘Reservation Policy’. Under this a particular quota (in light of extent of the populace) is saved in Government and different administrations, educational establishments, public housing and other public and open circles, and in different democratic bodies including the Parliament, State Assemblies, and Panchayat Institutions. These pro-active measures are utilized to guarantee proportionate representation of the SCs and STs in different open circles, which generally might not have been conceivable because of proceeding with caste and untouchability based exclusion and discrimination.

Inside the agricultural economy, there is a requirement for development in the entrance to agrarian land by the SCs, and for development in rural wages. Since three-fourths of the SCs keep on being landless and near landless, the dispersion of agricultural land will fill in as societal security. Since an overwhelming level of the SCs rely upon wage employment in agriculture, policies concerning satisfactory/adequate wages in agricultural employment are basic. Accessibility of work with subsistence wage in the agriculture sector is fundamental as is the acknowledgment of the need for full employment throughout the year. A strategy, which advances non-agricultural employment with subsistence wage, is an absolute necessity.

It is implied that the ability to take advantage of employment opportunities outside agriculture in rural and non-farm sector is fundamentally dictated by educational and skill development of the SCs. Consequently, the requirement for measures supporting post-primary school, higher education and skill development for the SCs, is crucial.

On account of STs, higher rural employment and agricultural wage rates end up vital thinking about their overwhelming reliance on the rural economy (especially agriculture and allied sector in rural areas). Despite the fact that STs have better access to agricultural land, rural poverty among them has not shown decline, primarily as a result of low productivity. In this way, there is a requirement for policies for expanding the productivity of the agricultural lands, cultivated by them, through introduction of better technology. In spite of the fact that the factors such as expanding urbanization and non-farm employment have proved crucial for the STs, these positive procedures are not adequate to decrease the overwhelming reliance of the tribal community on agriculture in rural areas. In this way, sustained efforts are required to expand the participation of the STs in non-agricultural economic activities, which can be brought about through policies promoting education and skill development.

[1] Definition by Oppenheim.

[2] Definition by Adam Smith.

[3] Definition by Gillin and Gillin.

[4] Definition by Dr. River.

[5] Article 366(24) of the Constitution of India.

[6] Article 366(25) of Constitution of India.

[7] Calculated from Differences in Level of Consumption among Socio Economic Groups, NSS, 55th Round, 1999-2000.

[8] Ibid.

[9] In this report HDI is estimated for the period of 1980s and 2000s and HPI for the period of 1990s and 2000s. During the estimation of both HDI and HPI, variables are taken for the closest year available (if exact year variables are not available) or for the exact year.

[10] Ibid.

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Aayushi Bana

Aayushi Bana, Content Writer, Law Corner Student of 7th Semester, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

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