03/07/2015 6:02 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

New Socio-Economic Survey Highlights Plight Of Rural Households

STRDEL via Getty Images
Indian villagers carry their belongings as they flee from the village of Tenganala in Sonitpur District, some 250kms east of Guwahati on December 24, 2014, after their relatives were killed by militants. Violence in the restive Indian state of Assam has killed 68 people including 12 children, authorities said, as separatist rebels dramatically intensified a long-running campaign in the tea-growing area. Heavily armed militants launched a series of coordinated attacks in rural Assam late December 22, pulling villagers from their homes and shooting them at point-blank range, witnesses said. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Rural Development Minister Rao Birendra Singh released the results of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC 2011) today, the first exercise of this nature since independence. It shows that most of the rural population is engaged in unorganised jobs, and that scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households are faced with lower income and opportunities compared with overall figures.

A total of 17.91 crore rural households were surveyed across India. Only 5 percent had a salaried government job, and 3.57 percent had a salaried private sector job. That means over 90 percent of rural India is engaged in unsalaried work. Also the private sector is a smaller provider of jobs in rural India compared with the government. The percentage figures of salaried employment are even lower for scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST).

And almost 51.14 percent or 9.16 crore people are engaged in manual casual labour, the survey shows, pointing to lack of development and other job options.

The highest earning member in 74.49 percent of households makes less than Rs 5,000 a month. When it comes to scheduled castes, the number rises to 83.56 percent (out of total of 3.3 crore SC households surveyed), and 86.57 percent of ST households (out of 1.96 households).

This is also reflected in ownership of vehicles. 17.43 percent of all households own a two-wheeler. But only 11.27 percent of SC and 8.42 percent of ST households can afford that.

Only 4.58 percent of households pay income tax or professional tax. The vast majority falls below the government's tax slabs which is an indicator of the low levels of income overall.

Mobile phone ownership far outstrips landlines. That is not a surprise because other studies have shown that India has leapfrogged into the mobile age before landlines could spread to rural areas. 68.35 percent of all households own a mobile phone. The figure for SC households is comparable at 66.64 percent but drops sharply for ST households in which only 41.4 percent have a mobile phone and 57.37 percent have no communication device at all.

25.63 percent of all households surveyed own cultivated land. The figures are lower for ST and SC households. More worrying is the fact that 29.7 percent own land that is not cultivated. For ST households, that figure is as high as 42.71 percent. In other words, such households have land that's of little use.

Such lands, which are not yielding any income, might be useful to buy for building factories and industries if the Land Bill is passed in parliament. That will create jobs, which will raise incomes of households which are hardly earning anything from sitting on unproductive land.

The caste census and survey results for urban households will be released later.

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