Why is Gujarat like Christians and Delhi like Jains?
The analogy has nothing to do with religious beliefs of these two states. However, the comparison holds if one were to compare wealth levels of the population in these two states with that of the two religious groups, on the basis of data from fourth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-4). The survey was conducted among more than 6 lakh households in 2015-16.
Its large sample size and the fact that it was carried out just a couple of years ago, makes it an extremely useful source of information in analysing India’s socio-economic landscape. The full report of NFHS-4, which has been released recently, has prepared a wealth index. The index has been prepared on the basis of scores on ownership of consumer goods such as television and bicycles, and household characteristics such as availability of clean drinking water.
This information has been used to classify all households into wealth quintiles. Those in the lowest quintile would the poorest 20%, while those in the top would be the richest 20% of the lot.
The report then uses these quintile scores to classify population for states, religious and caste groups and rural-urban areas into each quintile.
The report shows that poverty is predominantly a rural phenomenon in India. 29% of rural India belongs to the bottom quintile, while the figure is just 3.3% for urban India. This means that 29% of the rural population has wealth levels equivalent to bottom 20% of the country’s population.
The results for states and religious/caste groups are even more revealing. Among major states, people in Delhi and Punjab are the richest with more than 60% of their households in the top wealth quintile. Bihar is the poorest with more than half of the households in the bottom wealth quintile.
Jains are the richest religious community, with more than 70% of their population in the top quintile. There isn’t much difference between Hindus and Muslims and they are very close to the national distribution of wealth. Upper castes have almost double the share of households in the top quintile compared to any other caste group. Scheduled Tribes are the worst-off section in terms of wealth.
High levels of income and wealth inequality are a matter of great concern in India. NFHS-4 statistics on disparity in wealth-holdings across various categories tell us that there cannot be a one size fits all policy if the government is serious about addressing this problem.
30 May 2020
31 May 2020