In a Poor Country, India’s Scheduled Tribes Are the Poorest

Wealth brackets in NFHS-4 are calculated on the basis of the numbers and kinds of consumer goods owned.

Updated
India
2 min read
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Scheduled tribes are India’s poorest people, with five of 10 falling in the lowest wealth bracket, according to latest national data.

The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4) shows the following: 45.9 percent of scheduled tribe members were in the lowest wealth bracket compared to 26.6 percent of scheduled castes, 18.3 percent of other backward caste, 9.7 percent of other castes and 25.3 percent made up of those whose caste is unknown.

In a Poor Country, India’s Scheduled Tribes Are the Poorest
There has been a 4 percentage point drop in the percentage of scheduled tribes in the lowest bracket compared to a decade ago, from 49.9 percent in 2005-06 to 45.9 percent in 2015-16. 

But there has been a rise of 13.5 percentage points in the population of those who “don’t know” their caste in the lowest bracket – from 12.1 percent in 2005-06 to 25.6 percent in 2015-16.

Further, 70.7 percent of Scheduled Tribes, 50.8 percent of Scheduled Castes and 47.3 percent of those who “don’t know” fall in the lowest two wealth brackets, compared to 37.6 percent of other backward castes and 24.8 percent of other castes.

Wealth brackets in NFHS-4 are calculated on the basis of the numbers and kinds of consumer goods owned, ranging from a television to a bicycle or car, housing and markers such as the source of drinking water used, toilet facilities, and flooring material used in homes.

Scheduled tribes comprise 8% of India’s population – 104 million as per the 2011 Census – yet, they account for one-fourth of its population living in the poorest wealth quintile, according to a World Bank brief, India’s Adivasis. Despite a decline of one-third in their poverty rate between 1983 and 2011, poverty rates remain high because of their low starting point, the briefnoted.

Among scheduled caste/tribe boys under five years of age, 32-33% are underweight, compared to 21% in the general population, IndiaSpend reported in October 2017.

Further, social exclusion prevents Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from accessing government health services and programmes and this worsens their health and nutritional status, according to this August 2015 study.

(This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.)

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