Study reveals caste-based segregation in Bengaluru

A first-of-its-kind snapshot of the distribution of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community in the city reveals a patchwork of caste-segregated neighbourhoods where socio-economically backward castes are ghettoised.

Older areas such as Malleswaram or Basavanagudi exhibit a caste-based pattern, perhaps due to urban planning where caste segregation was inculcated by design a century ago.

Stark in newer areas

However, this divide is equally stark in newer areas where unequal economic growth is driving segregation, shows the study by Indian Institute of Management-Bengaluru researchers Naveen Bharathi, Deepak Malghan and Andaleeb Rahman.

At the base of the study is Census 2011, which shows that 13.21% of the city’s inhabitants are from the SC/ST community.

This population was enumerated for each of the 198 wards as well as for 16,019 census blocks of the city.

For researchers, block-level data gives a peek into the micro-landscape of segregation, as while a ward can have up to 1 lakh people of diverse backgrounds, a block has just 125 households with nearly 700 residents.

The study, Isolated by Caste: Neighbourhood-Scale Residential Segregation in Indian Metros, shows the spatial segregation of this population within blocks: in nearly 40% of blocks, the SC/ST community constitutes less than 5% of all residents.

While this shows inherent exclusion, on the other side, nearly 10% of the blocks shows a ‘high’ congregation of SC/ST population (that is, more than 35% of the residents here were from socio-economically backward classes).

Highly unequal

Consequently, the Gini Index, a statistical tool that captures inequity, shows Bengaluru as highly unequal.

The city has a Gini Index of 0.62, which though better than other Indian metros, is still on the higher end of the spectrum (0 being ideal with no segregation, and 1 being complete segregation).

“There is a myth that cities are caste-free spaces and caste segregation exists only in rural areas. But data clearly shows that there is segregation across the city. Lower castes are being ghettoised into pockets,” says Mr. Bharathi who undertook the project at IIMB.

Drivers of segregation operate in old and new areas of the city

The portrait of caste distribution in neighbourhoods on a street-level indicates that Bengaluru’s immense growth acts as a driver of segregation in “new areas” of the city.

Researchers from Indian Institute of Management-Bengaluru (IIMB) spent over five months digitising and geo-registering 16,019 census enumeration blocks in the city and merged block-level data of distribution of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community to present the “first visual portrait of the extent of caste-based residential segregation”.

The complex map shows that segregation is spread out across Bengaluru: from older areas which have been designed a century ago keeping caste-based segregation in mind, to newer areas where the growth has been seemingly haphazard and driven by a multitude of private developers.

Blocks with no SC, ST population (which comes to 8.08% of the total blocks) and blocks with more than half of their residents being from the community (around 5.69%) are spread out between old and new areas, whether it is K.R. Market area or H.S.R. Layout or Yelahanka.

“In older areas, diversity is increasing slightly as other castes are moving out of older houses to better houses in newer areas. However, in new areas, segregation is subtle. Economic benefits of Bengaluru’s immense growth is being borne by only a few sections, and it is only these classes and castes that can afford housing in newer areas. In the process, socio-economically backward communities get marginalised to slums and other informal spaces,” says Naveen Bharathi, who undertook the study along with IIMB professor Deepak Malghan and Andaleeb Rahman from Cornell University.

The map, for instance, shows that segregation is relatively higher in Whitefield and towards Electronics City than Magadi Road or Kengeri where the tech boom has been relatively quiet. The project aims to overlay block-level socio-economic data of literacy and public amenities to reveal any differential developments within these segregated spaces.

With caste being ingrained in society’s fabric, Issac Arul Selva, a human rights activist who has focussed on marginalised community in urban areas, says segregation is being driven from both upper and lower caste communities, albeit for different reasons.

“Upper castes do not allow lower castes to settle within their areas. This is seen in numerous forms of discrimination, particularly in ensuring houses are not rented to socially-marginalised castes. Even builders fear that if they follow rules and allocate a quarter of developing layouts to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), then the non-reserved plots or flats will not be sold. On the other side, lower castes don’t find protection of their identity or an outlet for cultural expression in upper caste communities. In these cases, plots or houses are sold and they tend to migrate elsewhere,” he says.

Aggravating the diversity is the government policy of relocating slums outside the city: those from Ejipura were shifted to Sarjapur, Baiyappanahalli to Sadamangala, Sanjaynagar or Gandhinagar slums to Kudlu, among others. “Eventually, this will leave a central area, much like the agraharas, where only upper castes stay, while the SC, ST community will be in the fringes,” he says.

For Ejipura slum-dwellers, who have been shifted 15-km away to quarters in Sulikunte near Sarjapur, discrimination in their new environs is a daily experience. Even when slum rehabilitation quarters were being built, locals had risen in protest, claiming the influx of slum-dwellers would lead to increased crime or garbage dumping.

“I cannot find work in this area. The people see us as thieves and criminals. If they treat us this way because we belong to a lower income group, where are we supposed to live?” says an impassioned John Gabriel, 49, a construction labourer.

(With inputs from Rakshitha R.)

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2021 11:41:35 PM |

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