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Rise in income gap between upper and lower castes "reduces" crimes against Dalits, tribals

Dalit women
By Rajiv Shah
Taking a strange view, a senior researcher of the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, Smriti Sharma, has reached the drastic conclusion that crimes against the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled castes (STs) by the upper castes would go down with the rise in the income levels of the latter. The scholar reaches her controversial conclusion on the basis the analysis of the officially-available data of 2000s.
In a research paper, “Caste-based crimes and economic status: Evidence from India”, published in the “Journal of Comparative Economics” (43, 2015), Sharma has used district-level official data on crimes against SCs and STs and per capita expenditure data of different social groups to say that there was a “decline in the ratio of SC/ST expenditure to upper castes’ expenditure” between early 2000s and late 2000s from “71 percent to 64 percent.”
This decline in the expenditure ratio, leading to “widening of the gap between lower and upper castes”, is associated with a decline in their crime against SC/ST, she suggests. Thus, according to her, a 10 per cent decline in the gap would mean a 3 percent decrease in the overall crime rate, and more specifically “a 3.5 percent decrease in Indian Penal Code crimes”.
According to Sharma, “The incidence of caste violence is positively correlated with the ratio of expenditures of lower castes and tribes to that of upper castes. Dividing the crimes into predominantly violent and non-violent crimes, we find that changes in relative material standards of living between groups lead to changes in violent crimes, particularly those aimed at extracting some form of economic surplus or property from the victims.”
“Moreover”, underscores the scholar, “These are driven by changes in the upper castes’ economic well-being rather than changes in the economic position of the lower castes and tribes.”
The scholar uses the crime data from the annual publication “Crime in India” by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Government of India. The data are based on complaints filed with the police. For this study, she uses the crime data from 2001 to 2010 for 415 districts that make up the 18 large states.
Crimes under SLL are include denying admission to Dalits into places of recreation and worship, educational institutions and hospitals; denying Dalits access to water sources; wrongfully occupying land owned by SC/ST; stripping them naked; practice of untouchability; compelling them to do bonded labor or scavenging jobs and so on.
As for expenditures of different social groups, the scholar takes National Sample Survey n (NSSO) data for relating to consumer expenditure’ and employment-unemployment of two periods, 1999–2000 (55th round) and 2004–2005 (61st round).
The scholar finds that between the two periods, the SC/ST average MPCE SC/ST expenditures increased by 19.6 percent, whereas expenditure of upper castes and OBCs grew by 36.4 percent and 27.5 percent respectively, “indicating that the rate of increase was slowest for the SC/ST groups.”
“While OBC expenditure and SC/ST expenditure have no significant association with crime rate, the upper castes’ expenditure coefficient is negative and significant, implying that a 10 percent increase in their expenditure is associated with a 3.4 percent decrease in crime rates”, the scholar says.
Despite this conclusion, the scholar seeks to clarify, “We are not suggesting that reducing inequalities is undesirable, but stressing that despite significant social and economic transformation, caste hierarchies continue to remain deeply entrenched in contemporary India and these fraught caste relations often result in violent outcomes.”

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