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Forward caste inequality-within "higher" than SC, ST, OBC, led to Jat, Patidar protests

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research paper, published the Paris School of Economics’ World Inequality Lab, suggests that the inequality within the forward caste (FC) group in India is the highest compared to what it is among scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes and other backward classes (OBC). The paper, authored by Nitin Kumar Bharti, points out that the inequality “within FC has increased and it is potentially one of the reasons behind uneasiness among certain FC groups in country and their demand for OBC status.”
The data analysed by Bharti suggests a clear pattern: Thus, in 2002, the wealth of the bottom 50% FC group between 2002 and 2012 went down from 9.25% to 6% of the top 10% of FC group. On the other hand, the wealth of the bottom ST 50% of the ST group during the same period went down from 11.75% to 9.5%; of SC group went down from 11.5% to 10.5%; and of OBC group went down from 9.75% to 8.75%.
Bharti says, “Bottom 50% of the population has lost 2-4 pp within all the caste categories. The major decline of their share in FC followed by ST, OBC and SC and Muslims.”
While Bharti wrote the paper in November 2018, before before the Government of India’s controversial decision to provide 10% reservation to the economically weaker sections (EWS) to the FC group, his analysis suggests, the increasing intra-caste inequality within the group was a major reason behind it.
Analysing data obtained from the National Sample Survey-All India Debt and Investment Survey and the Indian Human Development Survey for different years, Bharti explains several FC groups'  efforts to “gain access into reservation benefits” in this context.
Wealth share in lower deciles within different caste groups
The paper says, “Jat, an agrarian community from North India, are demanding the OBC status in Central government list of OBC. Patidar (people with well known surnames Patel) group in 2015, started agitation for similar demand which became the central issue in 2017 state’s election. The surprising demand for OBC from these communities can be rationalized through the close threshold ownership and a sense of competition for scarce resources.”
Suggests Bharti, a major reason for sharp within-caste differentiation in FC is, the upper groups gained, while the lower groups failed.
He says, “Top 1% within FC owned almost 13.6% of the total FC wealth in 2002 which increased to 29.4% in 2012. Top 5% owned 32% in 2002 which increased to 47.6% in 2012. And top 10% now owns 60% of the total FC wealth.” He adds, this suggests “inequality within FC group is the highest”, though adding, “This is a drastic change in ten years which needs more enquiry.”
Bharti continues, “We see a very high within caste inequality which has increased from 2002-2012. It hints that treating these big administrative castes as homogeneous groups is far from reality”, adding, “The major gain is in the top decile and a minor gain in the bottom decile within every caste.”
If categorized in 5 brackets from poorest to richest, says Bharti, “We see that 50% of the Brahmin, 31% of Rajputs, 44% of Bania and 57% of Kayasth fall in richest category. For other caste groups only 5% ST, 10% SC,16% OBC,17% Muslims fall in richest category.”
Stating that “the divide between FC and rest of the caste is more prominent in 2012 than before”, Bharti says, “Interestingly within ST the allocation of wealth to top 1%, top 5% and top 10% population increased than that of in SC in 2012 which was opposite three decades earlier.”
He adds, “Within ST, top 10% of share increased from 40.3% in 1991 to 51.4% in 2012... Top 10% of SC share increased from 43.6% in 1991 to 46.7% in 2012...” And “within OBC, top 10% share increased from 46.2% in 2002 to 52% in 2012.”

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