Backward Castes, Dalits, Adivasis Still Most Affected By Poverty In India

by Arjun Banerjee 2 months ago Views 4346

UN Multidimensional Poverty Report 2021
The report ‘Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021: Unmasking Disparities By Ethnicity, Caste and Gender’ released on Thursday has found that 1.3 billion people across 109 countries, “live in acute multidimensional poverty”. Multidimensional poverty index complements the measure of monetary poverty by including three broad dimensions: health, education, living standards. Within these dimensions are further subdivisions, each corresponding to an SDG goal.


This is the first time that the global MPI report is disaggregated on the basis of race, gender, and caste, in the case of India. The press release associated with the report notes that inter-group disparities are greater than regional disparities within countries, noting: “The figures are also stark in India, where five out of six people in this situation [multidimensional poverty] were from ‘lower tribes or castes’”

ST’s, SC’s, OBC’s Face The Most Multidimensional Poverty

Of the 1.3 billion people across 190 countries In this category (multidimensionally poor) 29% live in South Asia, according to the report, and the highest proportion is in Sub Saharan Africa, i.e. 53.4%. Among the 109 countries covered by the MPI 2021, racial and ethnic data is available for 40 countries, and caste as a category is included in case of India.

In the context of India, the global MPI can be disaggregated in terms of “291 ethno-racial categories and five caste categories”. The report finds that “In India five out of six multidimensionally poor people are from lower tribes or castes. The Scheduled Tribe group accounts for 9.4 percent of the population and is the poorest, with 65 million of the 129 million people living in multidimensional poverty”.

As the chart shows, the figures of this report reveal that development and prosperity have been highly skewed and inequitable, reinforcing the centuries-old deprivations and discrimination on the basis of social hierarchies.

Scheduled Tribes face multidimensional poverty in more than half of their total population in India, i.e., in 65 million out of 129 million people. This is followed by Scheduled Castes (many of whom self-identify politically with the word “Dalit”), of whom 33%, i.e., 94 million of 283 million people, live in multidimensional poverty.

For Other Backward Classes (OBCs), there is 27.2% incidence of multidimensional poverty, which means 160 million out of 588 million people. The report also notes that the intensity of multidimensional poverty in OBCs is almost the same as its rate of incidence in Scheduled Tribes. It concludes this section by noting: “Overall, five out of six multidimensionally poor people in India live in households whose head is from a Scheduled Tribe, a Scheduled Caste or Other Backward Class[es]”

Multidimensional Poverty And Women

The report also places emphasis on understanding gender and its interrelations with incidence of multidimensional poverty. It clearly finds that a lack of education and opportunities for females is common among a majority of the multidimensionally poor households, saying that: “Two-thirds of multidimensionally poor people—836 million—live in households in which no girl or woman has completed at least six years of schooling”.

It also finds that “one-sixth of all multidimensionally poor people (215 million) live in households in which at least one boy or man has completed at least six years of

schooling but no girl or woman has”. Similarly, every sixth of such households is headed by a female.

Two-thirds of the 1.3 billion multidimensionally poor people in the world, i.e., 836 million, live in households where no female member has completed at least six years of education. Out of these 836, 350 million are in South Asia, and 227 million are in India. Similarly, 51.75 million multidimensionally poor people living in female headed houses are from India.

Domestic violence in male-headed households is also directly corelated to incidence of multidimensional poverty. Living in multidimensionally poor households puts women at greater risk of physical and sexual violence.

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