Caste continues to play a significant role in the educational and professional choices available to an individual, and the resultant income and assets in India, a new study has revealed. Only 22.3 per cent of the upper caste Hindus own 41 per cent of the country’s total wealth and form the richest group, whereas 7.8 per cent of Hindu Scheduled Tribes own the lowest share of the country’s assets at 3.7 per cent, finds the study.
The study, ‘Wealth Ownership and Inequality in India: A socio-religious analysis,’ was conducted from 2015 to 2017, and the study’s findings were revealed recently. It was undertaken by the Savitribai Phule Pune University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Delhi.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the study notes that historically, the right to property and education was available only to the Hindu high caste population, and this trend has remained largely unchanged.
Nitin Tagade, lead author and assistant professor at the Department of Economics, SPPU, told The Indian Express, “Caste still continues to determine the level of education, nature of the profession and resultant income and assets that an individual will own in this country. Ownership of assets, be it in the form of land or building, was found to be higher among Hindu High Castes (HHCs) than any other caste in India.”
The study covered 1,10,800 households, 56 per cent of them in urban areas and the rest in rural areas, across 20 Indian states. The population was classified into multiple groups — Hindu Scheduled Class (HSC), Hindu Scheduled Tribes (HST), Hindu Scheduled Castes (HSCs), Hindu Scheduled Tribes (HSTs), Non-Hindu Scheduled Castes (NHSCs), Non-Hindu Scheduled Tribes (NHSTs), Hindu Other Backward Classes (HOBCs), Hindu High Castes (HHCs), Muslim Other Backward Classes (MOBCs), Muslim High Castes (MHCs) and Rest.
A marked divide in wealth distribution was also found in the study depending on whether members of a particular caste lived in urban or rural areas. 34.9 per cent wealth in urban areas was held by Hindu HCs, whereas those living in rural areas they owned only 16.7 per cent of the total wealth. Similarly, Hindu STs were richer in rural areas and owned 10.4 per cent wealth, in comparison to a mere 2.8 per cent per cent wealth share owned by their urban Hindu STs.
The reason behind the disparity is that a very small number of Hindu STs migrate to urban areas either for an education or a job, both earned through some reservation. However, a majority of the ST migrant population land up working in unorganised sectors and have poor income. That is precisely why Hindu STs are a majority among slum-dwellers in cities, the study says.
In terms of wealth, the top 1 per cent of the total households own 25 per cent of the country’s total assets, while the top 5 per cent owned 46 per cent of it. In stark contrast, the bottom 40 per cent households were found to own just 3.4 per cent of the country’s total assets, which was Rs 3,61,919 billion, as per the All India Debt and Investment Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office in 2013, The Indian Express reported.
The study also highlighted that five states — Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Haryana — owned about 50 per cent of the country’s total wealth. The wealthiest states, according to the study, included Maharashtra (with 17 per cent of the country’s wealth share), UP (11.6%) and Kerala (7.4%), whereas the poorest states were Odisha(1%), Jharkhand (1%), Himachal Pradesh (1%) and Uttarakhand (0.9%).
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Source: Financial Express