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Urban segregation, neglect of Indian Muslims, Dalits 'akin to' American Blacks: Study

By Rajiv Shah 

A new research paper by five scholars from top institutions of the United States and the United Kingdom has come to the drastic conclusion that the levels of urban segregation in India faced by Muslims and Scheduled Castes (SCs) “are comparable to Black/White segregation in the US”, underlining, “Within cities, public facilities and public infrastructure are systematically allocated away from neighborhoods where many Muslims and SCs live.”
The just-released 81-page paper, “Residential Segregation and Unequal Access to Local Public Services in India: Evidence from 1.5m Neighborhoods”, authored by Sam Asher (Imperial College London), Kritarth Jha (Development Data Lab), Paul Novosad (Dartmouth College), Anjali Adukia (University of Chicago), and Brandon Tan (International Monetary Fund), raises the alarm that this “residential segregation of marginalized groups could reinforce inequality and limit access to new opportunities.”
Regretting that these inequalities are “not visible in the more aggregated data typically used to study unequal service allocation”, the study says, “Children and young adults growing up in marginalized group neighborhoods have less schooling, even after controlling for parent education and household consumption.” It adds, “Unequal access to public services in India’s highly segregated neighborhoods may be a significant contributor to disadvantages faced by marginalized groups.”
Stating that the Indian government has “frequently targeted extra public services to districts with many SCs”, the data, obtained from the Socioeconomic and Caste Census (SECC), which took place in the pre-Modi period, covering 1.5 million urban and rural neighborhoods spanning all of India, suggest that a range of public services -- schools, medical clinics, water/sewerage, and electricity -- “are systematically allocated away from neighborhoods where marginalized groups live.”
Asked what do they have to say about the situation today and whether it has changed for better or worse in the post-Modi phase both for Muslims and and SCs, apparently trying to play safe against the backdrop of allegations of sharp spike in human rights violations, one of the authors, Paul Novosad, told Counterview in an email reply, "Unfortunately our research and data did not say anything about the post-2014 era."
Noting that the data suggest “both Muslims and SCs for almost every local service” suffer neglact, the study regrets, “Private providers are not making up for the reduced service access of marginalized groups; in fact, private services also systematically locate away from maginalised group neighbourhoods, in part because these neighborhoods are poorer.”
Underlining that “the magnitude of the disparities is large”, the study says, “For example, compared with a 0% Muslim neighborhood, a 100% Muslim neighborhood in the same city is 10% less likely to have piped water infrastructure and only half as likely to have a secondary school. For schools and clinics, facilities provided entirely by government, the disadvantage in Muslim neighborhoods is double that the disadvantage in SC neighborhoods.”
Pointing out that SCs and Muslims “make up similar population shares in the country (17% and 14% respectively)”, the study says, they however “have distinct group histories”. Thus, “While SCs have been historically consigned to the lowest occupational rungs of society for over a thousand years, but have been targeted by decades of affirmative action policies since independence.”
On the other hand, the Muslim groups have “historically occupied heterogeneous positions in Indian society over the generations; some Muslims are descendants of India’s 15th to 18th century ruling classes, while others descend from lower-caste groups who converted to Islam to escape their status at the bottom of the social pyramid.”
Yet, the study says, “Groups from both of these heritages increasingly find themselves politically marginalized and threatened”, noting, the young people growing up in marginalized group neighborhoods “have systematically worse educational outcomes.”
In fact, it says, “The disadvantages are substantially worse in Muslim neighborhoods than in SC neighborhoods and are economically large even after controlling for parent education, and household consumption. These disadvantages are experienced by members of all social groups living in marginalized group neighbourhoods.”
According to the study, thanks to “affirmative action”, while SCs have been “gaining ground on forward castes in socioeconomic terms, Muslims have if anything been losing ground, particularly in educational attainment, and have experienced significant losses in upward mobility.” This it says is because, “Post-independence India has been characterized by waves of anti-Muslim activism, sometimes resulting in riots, property destruction, and violence.”
Pointing out that 26% of urban Muslims live in neighborhoods that are >80% Muslim, while 17% of urban SCs live in neighorhoods that are >80% SC, which is comparable to the magnitude segregation faced by US Blacks, the study says, “A town that is 100 years older has a dissimilarity index which is 0.09 points lower for Muslims and 0.07 points lower for SCs”. It adds, this could be because cities “become more segregated over time: as cities age, marginalized group neighborhoods could coalesce and absorb more group members.”
Describing how schools are distributed across neighborhoods, the study says, “Secondary school availability falls monotonically with the neighborhood Muslim share.” In fact, “Raising the Muslim share of a neighborhood by 50 percentage points is associated with a 22% lower likelihood of the neighborhood having a public secondary school.” It adds, both urban and rural locations look broadly similar, "though most Muslim neighborhoods have "substantially fewer schools.”
It also notes, “The relationship between SC share and secondary school access is non-monotonic in both urban and rural areas; at low levels of SC shares, it is flat or rising in the SC share, but above a 20% SC share, secondary school presence falls precipitously, such that 50% SC neighborhoods have similar school availability to 50% Muslim neighborhoods.”
In fact, according to the study, private facilities are “also disproportionately allocated away from marginalized group neighborhoods, presumably because people in those neighborhoods have limited ability to pay for services.” It, however, adds, “There are some exceptions... private primary schools and health facilities are more common in rural Muslim neighborhoods.”
Finding similar results for household infrastructure services (access to electricity, closed drainage, and clean water), the study says, these services, only measured in urban areas, are “systematically less available in both Muslim and SC neighborhoods... For these infrastructure goods, the coefficients on the SC share are more negative than those on the Muslim share, suggesting that SC neighborhoods are the most poorly served by public infrastructure.”
The study further says, “A 100% Muslim neighborhood is estimated to have 1.9 fewer primary schools per 100,000 people than a 0% Muslim neighborhood.” It reflects “the access disparity in Muslim neighborhoods; it implies that a 100% Muslim neighborhood is expected to have 1.9 fewer primary schools per 100,000 people.”
An examination of the relationship between the educational outcomes of young people aged 17–18 years old also shows that “SCs have 1.1 fewer years of education than non-SC non-Muslims, and Muslims have 1.3 years fewer.” Also, as for 17–18-year-olds living in a 100% Muslim neighborhoods “have 2.1 fewer years of education than those in 0% Muslim neighborhoods; as for the SC neighborhoods it is 1.6 years.”
The study concludes, “The historic tolerance for residential segregation and unequal access to public services has had disastrous consequences for the United States; it has prevented generations of individuals from access to opportunity, and is a central fracture in a highly polarized political system.” It adds, “At an earlier stage of development and with cities still rapidly growing, India has the opportunity to make a different set of choices.”


Anonymous said…
The USA as well as UK and Europe are moving away from this segregation mentality, with few exceptions of course.

I don't see this happening in India in my lifetime at least.


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