2023 Recap: Tracking the Development of Castes According to Modi- Poor, Youth, Women, Farmers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the importance of the poor, youth, women, and farmers as the "primary castes" for India's development during an interaction with Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra beneficiaries, while ignoring the actual reality Dalit and Adivasis face. He highlighted their progress as crucial and integral to the nation's development, amidst the Opposition's call for a nationwide caste census.
Tracking the Development of Castes According to Modi- Poor, Youth, Women, Farmers
Tracking the Development of Castes According to Modi- Poor, Youth, Women, FarmersGraphic- The Mooknayak

New Delhi- According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there are 4 “primary castes” whose development is of utmost importance to him. While there is no doubt that the communities require a social push, ignoring the intersectionality among the factors sets a precedence for wrong measures. As a new year begins, The Mooknayak analysed how the 4 “primary castes” fared:

Poor

According to Global Multidimensional Poverty Index of 2023 released by United Nations Development Programme and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, over a third of all poor people live in South Aisa- which is 389 million people. According to a report by Forbes published in December 2023, India contributes significantly to this number, accounting for almost 70 percent of the increase in extreme poverty.

About 18.7% of the Indian population is classified as 'vulnerable' to multidimensional poverty by the UNDP. This group includes individuals who are not considered poor but experience deprivations in 20-33.3% of all weighted indicators. The three major areas of deprivation among Indians are related to cooking fuel, housing, and nutrition, affecting approximately 13.9%, 13.6%, and 11.8% of the population, respectively.

Adding a caste lens to the data: The research article titled "Poverty, Wealth Inequality, and Financial Inclusion among Castes in Hindu and Muslim Communities in Uttar Pradesh, India" explores the social and educational status of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Dalit Muslims in Uttar Pradesh during 2014–2015. The study, authored by Chhavi Tiwari, Srinivas Goli, Mohammad Zahid Siddiqui, and Pradeep S. Salve, uses data from a primary survey conducted by the Giri Institute of Development Studies (GIDS).

The findings reveal that Paasi, a caste, exhibits the lowest mean per capita expenditure, indicating the persistence of caste-based hierarchy in economic activities. The study emphasizes the enduring impact of caste-based social stratification on poverty levels in India. According to caste-based rural poverty estimates, Muslim Dalits and Hindu Dalits have the highest poverty rates, while Thakurs exhibit the lowest levels among sub-castes.

Youth

Globally, the youth population is increasing, and India is projected to contribute significantly, adding approximately one-fifth of the incremental youth population over the next two decades. The demographic shift, known as the "greening" of India's population and workforce, which commenced in the late 1970s, is expected to result in the addition of nearly 200 million working-age adults to the country's population by the year 2040.

World Bank data, disclosed in September 2023, affirms the persistent issue of youth unemployment in India. The youth unemployment rate in the country was reported at 23.2%, surpassing neighboring countries such as Pakistan (11.3%), Bangladesh (12.9%), and Bhutan (14.4%) in 2022. Despite a slight decline from 23.9% in 2021, India's youth unemployment rate remains marginally higher than the 22.9% recorded in the pre-COVID year of 2019.

Simultaneously, on September 20, 2023, Azim Premji University’s Centre for Sustainable Employment released "The State of Working India 2023" study. The report reveals that unemployment among graduates under the age of 25 reached a concerning 42.3% in the period of 2021-2022, while the overall joblessness rate stood at 8.7%.

Adding a caste lens to the data: The latest employment data from the NSS-PLF survey for 2018-19 indicates higher unemployment rates for Scheduled Caste (SC) workers at 6.4%, compared to the national average of 5.8%. Notably, the impact is most significant among non-farm workers, with around 70% being informal wage workers lacking job and social security. Among non-farm workers, SCs have the highest proportion of informal workers at 84%, exceeding figures for Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and high castes.

Furthermore, 63% of SCs engaged in regular salaried non-farm work, a group notably affected, compared to figures for high castes (50%) and OBCs (60%), contributing to the national average of 59%. Additionally, scholarship schemes for Dalit and Adivasi students face challenges such as a lack of information, underutilization of funds, delayed disbursement, non-payment, technical glitches, and fund diversion. As a result, the future of these students, especially women, is uncertain.

Women

The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) annual report reveals a distressing 4% surge in crimes against women in India in 2022, encompassing cruelty, abductions, assaults, and rapes. The reported cases rose from 3,71,503 in 2020 to 4,45,256 in 2022, indicating a troubling increase from 4,28,278 in 2021. Major offenses include cruelty by husbands or relatives (31.4%), kidnapping and abduction of women (19.2%), assault with intent to outrage modesty (18.7%), and rape (7.1%).

The crime rate per lakh women population increased from 64.5 in 2021 to 66.4 in 2022. Disturbing trends were observed in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of cases (65,743), followed by Maharashtra (45,331) and Rajasthan (45,058), each with varying chargesheet rates.

Adding a caste lens to the data: Over the past four fiscal years, there has been a consistent reduction in budget allocations for SC and ST women. In FY 2022-23, Rs. 11,958.95 crore was allocated for SC women, and Rs. 5,744.20 crore for ST women. The Gender Budget for FY 2023-24 indicates further cuts, with Rs. 7,543 crore allotted for SC women and Rs. 2,658 crores for ST women.

Challenges persist in ensuring justice and equality for SC and ST women, especially in terms of livelihood and employment opportunities where discrimination and exploitation are prevalent, particularly among manual laborers. Women engaged in manual scavenging face obstacles in accessing the Self-Employment Scheme (SRMS) for alternative livelihoods. Unfortunately, none of the schemes under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) have fully benefited SC women. The allocation for Dalit women has seen a decline from 1% in 2021 to 0.97% in FY 2022-23, and for FY 2023-24, there is an additional reduction by 0.53%. These trends highlight persistent challenges faced by marginalized communities in securing adequate support and resources.

Farmers

The most recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2022 indicates a troubling surge in suicides among individuals engaged in farming in India. With 11,290 reported cases, there is a 3.7% increase from 2021 and a 5.7% rise compared to 2020. This data suggests that, on average, one farmer died by suicide every hour in India in 2022. The trend of farmer suicides has been consistently growing since 2019, when the NCRB recorded 10,281 deaths.

The challenging agricultural conditions in 2022, marked by factors like drought and untimely rainfall, have intensified the struggles faced by farmers, contributing to this unfortunate pattern. According to the latest NCRB 2022 annual report, approximately 154 farmers and daily-wage laborers die by suicide in India daily, primarily attributed to "family problems" and "illness". In 2021, this figure stood at 144. Maharashtra reported the highest number of farmer suicides, followed by Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Madhya Pradesh.

Adding a caste lens to the data: According to 2011 census, 71% of Dalit farmers are agricultural labourers and only 29% are cultivators. Census of India highlights that while the majority of Indian farmers own the land they cultivate, Dalit farmers predominantly work for wages. The census categorizes farmers as either cultivators, who own the land, or agricultural laborers, who work for wages on land they do not own. Dalit farmers are more likely to fall into the category of agricultural laborers, although regional variations exist. In states with larger tribal populations, such as those in the north and northeast and to a lesser extent in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Dalit farmers are less inclined to work for wages.

What did Narendra Modi Say?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that he regards the poor, youth, women and farmers as the "primary castes." During an interaction with beneficiaries of the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra on 30th November, he emphasized that the development of these four groups is pivotal for the progress of the country. This came amid the Opposition’s call to conduct a nationwide caste census.

Expressing his perspective, the Prime Minister stated, "In my view, there are four major castes in the nation. The foremost caste, in my eyes, is the poor. The most significant caste, according to me, is the youth, followed by women, and farmers." He emphasized that the advancement of these four castes is integral to making India a developed nation.

He further elaborated, saying, "The upliftment of these four castes will lead to the development of India. If progress is achieved for these four, it implies progress for everyone."

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