Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Why caste should inform debates on inequality in the country?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Disparities in consumption patterns among different socioeconomic groups

Why in the News?

A recent working paper from the World Inequality Lab has sparked renewed debate about the growing divide between the rich and the poor.

Disparities in Consumption Patterns:

  • Population vs. Consumption Share: Scheduled Tribes (ST): Despite making up 9% of the population, their consumption share is only 7%. Scheduled Castes (SC): Represent 20% of the population but have a consumption share of 16%. Other Backward Classes (OBC): Align more closely with their population percentage, constituting 43% of the population and a 41% consumption share.General Category: Comprises 28% of the population but commands a significantly higher consumption share of 36%.
  • Reduction in Consumption Inequality: The overall Gini coefficient decreased from 0.359 in 2017-18 to 0.309 in 2022-23. Gini coefficients for ST, SC, OBC, and General categories also saw reductions, indicating a slight improvement in the equitable distribution of consumption within these communities.

  • Economic Disparities Among Social Groups: The bottom 20% decile experienced a decrease in consumption levels for ST, SC, and OBC groups, although marginally. The General category saw a more pronounced decrease in consumption levels among the poorest segment, highlighting a relative decline in consumption among this group.
  • Concentration of Wealth in Higher Deciles: Consumption has increased for all social groups in the top 20% decile. The General category experienced a significant 10% points surge in consumption between 2017-18 and 2022-23, implying a potential concentration of wealth among high-caste elites and persistent economic disparities.

Efforts to Augment Income Generation Abilities:

  • Targeted Policies:
    • Reservation: Affirmative action programs to improve opportunities for SCs, STs, and OBCs.
    • Rural Development Initiatives: Policies aimed at enhancing infrastructure, education, and healthcare in rural areas.
    • Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT): Financial aid is directly transferred to beneficiaries to ensure they receive the intended benefits without middlemen.
  • Focus on Lower Deciles: Emphasis on increasing income generation and consumption abilities, particularly within the lower deciles of SC, ST, and OBC communities—the importance of fostering social harmony and economic stability through equitable income distribution.
  • Monitoring and Intervention: Continuous monitoring of consumption trends and economic disparities. They are implementing targeted interventions addressing the specific socio-economic challenges faced by different groups to ensure sustained progress towards economic equity.

Way forward:

  • Strengthen and Expand Affirmative Action Programs: Enhance and rigorously implement affirmative action policies such as reservations in education and employment for SCs, STs, and OBCs. This should include increasing access to quality education, vocational training, and skill development programs to empower these communities economically and socially
  • Promote Inclusive Economic Development Initiatives: Implement comprehensive rural development initiatives that focus on improving infrastructure, healthcare, and education in marginalized areas.

Mains PYQ: 

Q What are the main factors responsible for gender inequality in India? Discuss the contribution of Savitribai Phule in this regard.(UPSC IAS/2020)

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