The tribes of India, who make up only 7% of its population have perhaps taken the brunt of such exclusion and tribal communities occupy the lowest rungs of deprivation. As per the NFHS-3, under five mortality rates, child malnourishment and anaemia in women is higher among shceduled tribes as compared to scheduled castes and other social groups. In absolute terms, the number of people below the poverty line declined between 1993-94 and 1999-2000 for all other groups except the Scheduled Tribes (ST). In terms of the Head Count Ratio and the Poverty Gap Index, both indicators again show significant declines in the case of other groups but marginal decreases only among the STs. The disparity can also be seen in the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) by different social groups as per the National Sample Survey’s Report No.514 of 2007. The average MPCE of all classes of households was 1.37 times that of the scheduled tribes in the 55th round of NSS. This ratio further rose to 1.47 times in the 61st round, indicating that the MPCE levels of tribal households have increased at a slower rate compared to the MPCE of all classes of households.
Selected Human Development Indicators Across Social Groups
|Adult Literacy Rates, 2001 1|
|Level of Education (Females), 2005-062|
|No Education||<5 Years of Schooling|
|Other Backward Castes||43.9||7.6|
|Child Mortality Rates, 2005-06 2|
|Other Backward Castes||56.6||72.8|
|Other Backward Castes||35.7||45.2|
|Incidence of Anaemia, 2005-062|
|Other Backward Castes||54.4||70.3|
Sources: 1. Census of India, 2001; 2. National Family Health Survey – 3, National Summary Sheet, 2007
Poverty and distress are thus increasingly concentrated in the drylands of India and its hilly and tribal areas (Shah, et.al., 1998), which are also home to violent expressions of discontent. In the list of “170 most backward districts including 55 extremist affected districts” (Planning Commission, 2005), 118 are located in 5 big states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (Shankar and Shah, 2009). At the other end of this spectrum are thousands of farmers continuing to commit suicide (Ghosh 2005). This is no ordinary crisis but one which reflects the complete breakdown of governance in large parts of the country (Shah, 2007). At the heart of this exclusion are two sub-themes. First, the drylands of India, which are home to more than half the workforce but whose share is only 18% of the GDP. The second sub-theme has been that the decentralization vision has been seriously hampered by an ineffective devolution of funds and functionaries to the PRIs.