More rural households own mobile phones than a landed asset and an overwhelming majority of Indians still reside in the countryside, suggesting that the country isn’t creating enough sustainable cities necessary to lift millions out of poverty, the socio-economic caste census 2011 has shown.
In one of its starker findings, the census showed about 56% of rural Indian households had no land or property, but 68.35% owned a mobile phone.
Overall, the census data on rural life show that despite faster economic growth, inequalities are rising.
This roughly suggests mobile connectivity has become a basic service, helped by cheaper handsets as well as call rates.
Moreover, poorer sections are quick to adopt technology if it is affordable and useful, analysts say.
However, on the flipside, this is hardly an indicator of, or helpful for, social mobility.
“Those with a mobile phone but no landed property or sufficient income are unlikely to break the barriers of survival. But having a cellphone does improve quality of life in many ways for all users.
“It’s no trade-off really,” said Ruhi Jha of the Perrington Project which runs a grassroots livelihoods project in three states.
The data also showed a majority of rural households fell in the low-income category, despite the country’s achievements in poverty reduction.
In the year ended 2012, there were 269.3 million people or 21.9% of the population living below the poverty line from 37.5% in 2004-05, according to the government.
India is on course to reducing poverty by half in 2015 from the 2000 level, but it needs to do more in the areas of education, gender and malnourishment, according to a UN report released in February.
According to the socio-economic caste census data, in 74.5% of rural households, the highest earning member made less than `5,000 a month.
Only 8.3% of rural households had a member earning Rs 10,000 or more a month.
About 30.1% of households were directly engaged in farming, but another 51.14% were employed as farm or manual labourers.
For nearly half of all rural households, a hard life of casual labour was the mainstay of income, the census showed.