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Poverty among SC and ST rural households in Bundelkhand

It is generally said that a high proportion of SC/ST households is a determinant of poverty and this proportion is used as an indicator in some methods of determining 'backwardness' of a district. However, this indicator cannot be used blindly. The 2002 BPL Survey reported that nearly 50% of the households in Jalandhar belonged to SC groups. Yet poverty level in the district was lower than in any Bundelkhand district.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that generally SC and ST households are poorer than households belonging to other social categories. This is clearly reflected in 2002 BPL Survey data for Banda SC households and Panna ST households, when compared with data for all rural households in these districts, as shown in the table below.

2002 BPL survey data on SC and ST and all rural households (RHHs) of select districts, on select indicators

% RHHs with Banda SC households Banda all households Panna ST households Panna all households
Average income <Rs 1500 per month 87 72 94 88
Nil operational holdings 46 30 36 26
No house 2 2 2 2
No pucca house NA 88 NA 94
Less than one square meal a day for major part of year 2 2 4 3
Not enough food throughout the year 78 64 95 87
No literate adult 41 28 80 45
Bonded labourers 2 2 8 5
Children not going to school and working 20 15 43 30
Children working 53 48 59 60
Causal labour as main source of livelihood 42 25 71 52
Subsistence farming as main source of livelihood 43 57 21 35
Debt 57 49 90 83
Casual labour migrants 20 14 48 37
Seasonal employment migrants 32 24 15 12
Migrants for any reason 78 71 75 62

Percentages derived from absolute figures and rounded  off to nearest integer. NA= Not available 

On virtually every parameter, SC and ST households are much worse off than the population as a whole. The largest variation is under the parameter of adult literacy. Very high incidence of illiteracy among adults (80% in case of Panna ST households) severely cripples their capacity to explore alternative livelihood opportunities. A vicious circle of poverty is thus perpetuated. The poorest lack adequate education and because they lack adequate education, they continue to be poor.  Of note also is the incidence of bonded labour in Panna ST households.  (As noted in 2002 BPL Survey Data, actual incidence of bonded labour is likely to be higher).

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