In the backdrop of the Supreme Court debate on a quota in education for Other Backward Classes, the findings of a government survey that OBCs’ monthly per capita expenditure is close to the national average, and in some states even better than the general category, could give the issue a new twist.
In rural India, where a majority of the OBC population resides, the monthly expenditure of an OBC family is Rs 556, just Rs 2 less than the national average, a National Sample Survey Organisation report says. “In urban areas, they are closer to the national average than any other social group,” the report, which was released on Friday, adds.
In comparison, the monthly expenditure of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in rural areas is far lower. The SCs spend Rs 474 per month and the STs Rs 426. The general category spends Rs 685 per month. The monthly expenditure of all socio-economic groups in urban areas is better due to availability of jobs.
The report also springs some surprises with state-wise comparisons. For instance, OBCs have the highest per capita monthly expenditure at Rs 635 in West Bengal, about Rs 50 more than the general category.
The situation is similar in Assam and Manipur. In Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir, the difference is just a few rupees.
In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where OBCs make up more than 50 per cent of the population, the difference is Rs 100. But in the more prosperous states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which have a similar demography, the difference is close to Rs 200.
The reason for OBCs’ higher income can be attributed to their being self-employed and owning agricultural land, like the general category population. The SC/STs are mostly agriculture labourers, the report indicates.
Akhil Mathur of the Council for Economic and Social Research explains that even traditionally, OBCs have had landholdings, though less than the upper castes. Landownership figures in the report show the percentage of OBCs and
general category members owing up to two hectares of land is quite similar. But in case of holdings that are more than two hectares, the balance tilts in favour of the latter.
With good landholdings, the report indicates that OBCs’ food consumption habits are also much better than those of other social groups.
“The SCs are the most disadvantaged group when it comes to landholdings,” the report states.
The report concludes by saying the average standard of living of SCs and STs is on the lower side in comparison to OBCs and the general category.