Gujarat agriculture ‘failed’ disadvantaged sections

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh data in the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, ‘Household Consumer Expenditure across Socio-Economic Groups,’ make an important revelation. Released in February 2015, the figures provided in the report suggest that the purchasing power of the three socially disadvantaged groups in Gujarat – scheduled tribes (STs), scheduled castes (SCs) and other backward classes (OBCs) – is considerably less than in most of the Indian states, especially in the rural areas. But this is not the case with the dominant sections in the rural areas, identified as ‘Others’.
Calculated as monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE), the purchasing power figures are based on NSSO’s survey in 2011-12. The data speak for themselves, and need little comment. In Gujarat’s rural areas, the STs’ average MPCE is Rs 1,155, which is less than 12 out of 20 major Indian states (Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra).
The SCs’ average MPCE is Rs 1,374, which is less than 11 major states (Kerala, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Rajasthan).
And the OBCs’ average MPCE is Rs 1,582, which is less than 11 major Indian states (Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Karnataka).
There is reason to wonder whether things failed to improve for the socially-disadvantaged groups despite the high claims of huge growth in agriculture rate – hovering around double digit – under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi.
The pattern suggests the obvious detail, that the STs’ purchasing power in rural India, as in Gujarat, is considerably less than the other two disadvantaged groups, SCs and OBCs.
But there is one more detail which shouldn’t be overlooks: that ‘Others’ in rural Gujarat – mainly consisting of dominant social groups – have an MPCE of Rs 1,988, which is not just higher than the three disadvantaged groups. It is also higher than all 20 major states but five – Kerala (Rs 3,156), Punjab (Rs 3,009), Haryana (Rs 2,531), Himachal Pradesh (Rs 2,255), and Rajasthan (Rs 2,119).
There is reason to conclude that high agricultural growth has actually helped the dominant sections in rural Gujarat. The comparative data clearly suggest that all three disadvantaged groups in rural, STs, SCs and OBCs, are worse off than majority of other major states, which is not the case with upper castes.
As for Gujarat’s urban areas, the pattern is quite different from the one that is prevailing in rural Gujarat. Here, STs’ and OBCs’ MPCE is worse than majority of Indian states, but this is not true for SCs.
Comparative figures suggest that STs’ MPCE in urban Gujarat at Rs 2,014 is less than 12 other states (Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand). This would possibly suggest that tribal migrants in urban areas, mainly working at construction sites, are more ill-paid in Gujarat than most of India.
As for SCs, their MPCE is quite high in urban Gujarat – Rs 2,359 – compared to most of the 20 major states but three (Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala). Presumably, this could be because a big section of Dalits living in the urban areas work in government of semi-government offices, with many of them able to gain from the reservation policy.
Interestingly, the urban Gujarat OBCs’ MPCE – Rs 2,086 – is not only less than that of the SCs but is only a little higher than the STs (Rs 2,014). Also, the urban Gujarat OBCs’ MPCE is lower than 12 other states (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Rajasthan).
Those in the ‘Others’ category in urban Gujarat, belonging to the upper castes, evidently, have a much higher MPCE (Rs 2,946) as compared to STs, SCs and OBCs. Yet, it is lower than eight other states– Kerala (Rs 5,376), Haryana (Rs 4,669), Karnataka (Rs 4,378), Maharashtra (Rs 3,699), Himachal Pradesh (Rs 3,329), Punjab (Rs 3,209), Andhra Pradesh Rs (3,080), and Chhattisgarh (Rs 2,980).

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