Depriving the poor

All political parties try to look as messiahs of the poor. All claim that their heart beats for only the poor and the oppressed; and that the reason why they want power is for serving the poor.

They also boast that their only aim is to uplift poor and oppressed from the life of miseries, poverty, hunger and unemployment. Policies are announced to achieve this end. Even if it is by fudging of data, people in the government try to prove that poverty and hunger have come down during their rule, incomes of the poor have increased and number of people under poverty line has come down, thanks to their pro poor policies.

Policy of reservation and enlarging the base of the reservation based on caste is yet another argument of the politicians. It is argued that policy of reservation is to ensure social uplift of the down trodden, by better chances in government jobs and admission in government educational institutions. However latest statistics published by the Census of India, prove contrary to these claims. It seems that whatever these politicians claim are all vote bank gimmicks, which lack conviction.

 According to the data, in scheduled tribe category 44.7 per cent people were farmers working on their own land in 2001; however this number came down to 34.5 per cent in 2011. In case of scheduled castes this number declined from 20 per cent to 14.8 per cent during the same period. This data is corroborated by another data from census, according to which number of people who were working not on their own land but on others’ land (landless labourers), increased from 36.9 per cent in 2001 to 44.4 per cent in SC category and from 45.6 per cent to 45.9 per cent in case of ST category.

In just ten years, such a big chunk getting deprived of their land is a matter of grave concern, concedes Pronab Sen, chief of Statistical Commission of India. Land of scheduled tribes is actually community owned; deprivation of the same is baffling, accepts Pronab Sen. Erosion in the economic conditions of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes exposes the reality of the claims of improving the standard of living of the poor.

Only one data, which comes as a relief is the increase in the literacy rates in these sections, especially among SC/ST females. It is notable that literacy amongst SCs increased from 54.7 per cent to 66.1 per cent, whereas in case of STs this increased from 47.1 per cent to 59 per cent. However these literacy rates are much lower than the national average of 73 per cent. Declining quality of employment Census data clearly reveals that it is not only erosion in economic condition with the loss of land titles by these sections, even quality of their employment has also hit downwind as stability of employment has also eroded all these years.

 Number of people categorised as main workers (those with continuous employment of 6 months or more), have come down from 73 per cent and 69 per cent to 70.7 per cent and 64.8 per cent in SCs and STs classes respectively. This shows that casualisation of labour has increased in these sections of the society.  Statistics on casual labour in SC/STs also corroborates the same.

Traditional occupation

Not only are the dalits ousted from their land and are also leaving their traditional occupations, even participation of women of these sections has also declined significantly, which is also a matter of grave concern. It is notable that in 2001 29.4 per cent SC women were working, which declined to 28.3 per cent in 2011. In case of STs women this number declined from 44.8 per cent to 43.5. Declining participation of dalit women in work force not only indicates their declining income, it is also demonstrative of erosion in women empowerment.

Issue is not of the dalits alone, as this problem of deprivation is not caste based. All deprived sections are at a loss. In fact all poor and small farmers are losing their land, their household industries, small occupations like small shops etc. and are losing their self employment and are joining the army of casual labour.

According to a report of 66th round of NSSO, between 2004-05 and 2009-10, nearly 250 lakh people lost their self employment and the casual labour increased by 220 lakh in these five years. Latest census data corroborate these statistics. It may be noted that NSSO statistics is based on a sample survey, whereas the census data is based on whole population and therefore are more dependable.  Census data therefore clearly indicates at worsening of condition of poor and down trodden.

 After losing their land, now they are forced to work on others' land. This dangerous phenomenon cannot be taken lightly, as this is a major cause of dissatisfaction and a breeding ground for naxalism.

Attempts by the government to calm down the poor for these losses by first introducing employment guarantee and then Food Security Act, cannot be regarded as true and lasting solutions. In the long run any solution based on continuous government aid cannot be sustainable.

Solution for the eradication of poverty can come only by safeguarding the productive assets of the poor and provision of permanent employment. We need to adopt policies, where poor man is not deprived of his land in the name of development. In this labour abundant country we need labour-intensive technologies, as opposed to capital intensive technologies, wherever possible. Efforts should be made to improve the condition of the poor and not increase the riches of the prosperous.

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