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Higher marginalization of Gujarat Dalit rural households compared to other sections

By Rajiv Shah 
The National Sample Survey Organization’s (NSSO’s) report, “Key Indicators of Situation of Agricultural Households in India”, released in December 2014, has indicated that there is much incidence of marginalization of the scheduled caste (SC) households in rural Gujarat in comparison to other social groups – scheduled tribes (STs), other backward classes (OBCs), and those falling under the “Others” category. The data put out by the NSSO show that there are in all 4,55,300 SC households in Gujarat, out of which 1,52,700, or 33.54 per cent, are involved agricultural activities.
This is compared to 66.9 per cent of out of a total 58,71,900 Gujarat all rural households involved in agricultural activities. A social category-wise breakup, interestingly, reveals that there are 68.07 per cent of 28,73,800 OBC households and 71.15 per cent of 14,48,000 ST households who are involved in agriculture. As for whose falling in the “Others” category, mainly upper castes, there are 72.3 per cent agricultural households out of a total of 10,94,800 rural households in this category.
Providing a complex definition of agricultural households, the NSSO includes in it those which own land, and also those carry out “significant agricultural activities” even if they do not possess land. Thus, to be categorized as agricultural households, they must be involved in cultivation of field crops, horticultural crops, fodder crops, plantation, animal husbandry, poultry, fishery, piggery, bee-keeping, vermiculture, sericulture etc., with “at least one member self-employed in agriculture either in the principal status or in subsidiary status during last 365 days”, says the NSSO.
Then, the agricultural households should be reasonably better off than other sections of rural households: They should have an average Monthly Household Consumer Expenditure (MHCE) of Rs 3,000 or more for home grown consumption of some “specific items”. Importantly, agricultural wage earners, rural artisans and those providing different services in rural areas are not included in the category of “agricultural households”.
Significantly, the all-India average of rural SC households involved in agricultural activities is much higher than that of Gujarat – it is 46.58 per cent of the total rural SC households (3,14,89,800) in India. Equally shocking is the fact that the proportion of rural SC households involved in agricultural activity is higher in 17 other states, including the so-called backward states like Bihar (41.49 per cent), Chhattigarh (82.69 per cent), Jharkhand (50.26 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (49.15 per cent), Rajasthan (64.74 per cent), and Uttar Pradesh (37.9 per cent).
In all, Gujarat has 58,71,900 rural households (ST, SC, OBC and Others), out of which 4,55,300 (7.75 per cent) are SC households. This is against 20.17 per cent rural SC households out of a total of 15,61,44,200 rural households in the country as a whole. In Gujarat, STs form 26.66 per cent of rural households, OBCs – who are the largest chunk – form 48.94 per cent of rural households, and Others form 18.64 per cent of rural households.
While there is no separate analysis about the type of activities the SCs may be involved in, in the rural areas, even among agricultural households, the NSSO suggests, there appears to be considerable marginalization in Guajrat. Thus, 26.7 per cent of the agriculture households – apart from continuing their activities defined by NSSO as “agricultural” – earn their living from wages. This is much higher than the all-India average of 22 per cent.
At the same time, the NSSO report says that there are in all 12.9 per cent of the agricultural households – compared to the all-India average of 6.7 per cent – which do not own land other than that for homestead. Then, there are 86.4 per cent of the households which possess both homestead and other land compared to all-India average of 92.6 per cent of agricultural households.
Further, the NSSO report says that there are just 29.3 per cent of the agricultural households which have National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) cards compared to 44.4 per cent agricultural households in the country as a whole. Then, there are 2.6 per of agricultural households who have Antyodaya cards, 34 per cent of them have below poverty line (BPL) cards, 61.6 per cent of them haves above poverty line ration cards, and 1.8 per cent of them have no cards.

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