The income criterion is one of the main factors in the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) in identifying how well do different sections of India’s rural households live, or do not live. While the erstwhile Planning Commission rejected the income factor, saying it did not provide sufficient understanding of the well being of rural households, the Niti Ayog appears to take a different view. Niti Ayog vice-chairman Prof Arvind Panagariya believes, he does not think that the “conventional poverty analysis based on the expenditure surveys loses its significance”, adding, it might additionally help identify “a separate official poverty line based on expenditure.”
While identifying the earning capacity in rural households, the SECC data represent only the income of the highest earner, which means the household as a whole may have higher earnings. However, there is little reason to believe, says expert M Vijayabaskar, assistant professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, that the income of rural households is substantial. “When you look at the price index and the necessity for spending on various components, such as health and education, the income is certainly very low,” he believes.
The SECC has divided social groups in three categories – scheduled castes (or Dalits), scheduled tribes (or Adivasis), and Others (a conglomerate of Hindu upper castes, other backward class or OBCs and minorities). For all three categories it has provided three separate income levels – those earning less than Rs 5000, those earning between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, and those earning more than Rs 10,000. We give below a glimpse of comparison between 21 major states of all the income groups:
1. The following table suggests that several states — Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Punjab and Haryana — have higher proportion of Dalit households earning more than Rs 10,000 than Gujarat:
3. The table below suggests that three states, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Gujarat have the lowest proportion of Dalits earning less than Rs 5,000:
4. Coming to the tribals, the three states which have highest proportion of households earning more than Rs 10,000 are Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Haryana. Gujarat has 4.33 per cent such households, less than the national average:
5. In the middle income group, between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, the top three highest proportion of tribal households are Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, with Gujarat lagging behind 10 other states:
6. In the lowest income group, less than Rs 5,000, the lowest proportion of tribal households are in the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. As for Gujarat, with 83.18 per cent households, it is almost equal to the national average.
7. In the Others group, which consists of a conglomerate of upper caste Hindus, OBCs and minorities, the households of three states earning more than Rs 10,000 are Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. Gujarat’s position here is eighth.
8. Among the middle-income earning households, between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, three states top in the Others group — Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat:
9. Three states — Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana — have the lowest proportion of Other households earning less than Rs 5,000, with Gujarat following suit on the fifth position.
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