Caste shadows migration patterns in Karnataka, says study

Karnataka continues to have a strong bias against Dalits, says ICSSR chief Sukhadeo Thorat.

July 30, 2015 12:28 am | Updated July 31, 2015 02:09 pm IST - BENGALURU:

NEW DELHI, 09/06/2009: Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC), Prof. Sukhadeo Thorat speaks during an interview with "Frontline", at his Office in New Delhi on June 09, 2009.
Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

NEW DELHI, 09/06/2009: Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC), Prof. Sukhadeo Thorat speaks during an interview with "Frontline", at his Office in New Delhi on June 09, 2009. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Karnataka — one of the fast urbanising States with 38 per cent people living in urban centres, as per the 2011 Census — continues to have a strong bias against Dalits as reflected in migration patterns and access to education and employment, said Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

Speaking on the ‘Status of Dalit Development in Karnataka’ after inaugurating the Labour and Migration Unit at the Indian Social Institute here on Tuesday, Prof. Thorat drew from the Census data and the National Sample Survey statistics to illustrate patterns of exclusion and distress being a major push for migration.

The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data (2007–08) shows that while the rate of migration in Karnataka is pegged at 38, there are vast differences between caste groups. It is 25.7 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes (STs), 34 per cent for the Scheduled Castes (SCs), 41 per cent for the other backward classes (OBCs) and 38 per cent for others.

Significantly, it is rural-to-rural migration that is highest among SCs (73 per cent) and STs (78 per cent), as opposed to OBCs (58 per cent), others (42 per cent), and average (56 per cent). In contrast, SCs (14 per cent) and STs (16 per cent) share in rural-to-urban migration is lower than the average (21 per cent), OBC (20 per cent) and others (25 per cent).

“Typically, rural-to-rural migration is in search of agricultural wage labour from dry to irrigated areas, from subsistence crop areas to commercial crop areas,” observed Prof. Thorat. While migration is not by definition a negative trend, and it could be for better opportunities, the reasons for migration show a picture skewed against Dalits, he said.

Prof. Thorat urged scholars to study these patters of migration vis-à-vis data on employment market, and availability of assets to various sections.

Citing NSSO data (2011–12), he said against the average of 4 per cent graduates and above being unemployed in Karnataka, a whopping 11.6 per cent among SCs do not have access to employment. It is 4.2 per cent among others and 3 per cent among OBCs. Enrolment ratio of SCs (7 per cent) and STs (5 per cent) into higher education is way below the average of 17.9 per cent. The ratio of enrolment into higher education among others is 22.2 per cent and among OBCs it is 21.3 per cent, as per the NSSO data.

A similar skewed pattern can be seen in access to resources. Average size of landholding is lowest for SCs in Karnataka at 0.42 hectares, against 0.77 hectares for STs, 0.89 hectares for OBCs and 1.39 hectares for others. “While it might appear like tribal people are better off in terms of landholding, it should be remembered that they still remain the poorest. Their lands are of poor quality, small and are in hilly areas. They have been denied access to modern methods of cultivation,” he said.

The picture is not any brighter on the non-agrarian side. The share of the self-employed among the SCs in rural areas is 6.7 per cent in private non-agrarian enterprise and 25.1 per cent in urban enterprise. The average in the two categories is 11.5 per cent and 41.2 per cent, respectively.

The invisible internal migrants

An estimated 32.6 crore (28.5 per cent of the population) in India are internal migrants, according to the National Sample Survey data for 2007–08, but this category of migration remains “grossly underestimated due to empirical and conceptual difficulties in measurement”, said Bernard D’Sami of the Loyola Institute of Social Science Training and Research, Chennai.

In his paper on internal migration, presented at the Indian Social Institute here, he talked about how this category remain vulnerable and invisible, especially seasonal migrants with “livelihood deficit.”

Talking about some inter-State coordination measures that can be taken to provide protection to these groups, Prof. D’Sami cited the example of a memorandum of understanding signed between Odisha (sending State) and Andhra Pradesh (receiving State) to reduce vulnerability to bondage. This resulted in setting up of a migrant workers’ cell to reduce their vulnerability, he said.

A few pointers :

"Migration is good if it is for a good opportunity, but distress migrants migrate out of compulsion, and they end up being in a worse situation than in their place of origin. They work for very low wages and in bad conditions. Dalit labourers selectively face discrimination in hiring. In rural areas, they are denied employment in certain categories of jobs, while in others they are forced to engage." -- Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

Population share in rural-urban areas in Karnataka

Social group – Rural – Urban

SCs – 71.6 – 28.4

STs – 80.7 – 19.3

Others – 57.2 – 42.8

All – 61.9 – 38.1

Source: Census of India, 2011

Rate of migration according to social groups in Karnataka

Total – 38

Scheduled Castes – 34

Scheduled Tribes – 25.7

OBCs – 41

Others – 38

Source: National Sample Survey (2007-08)

Levels of wage labour

Social group – Rural (farm and non-farm) – Urban (casual labour)

STs – 36.7 p.c. – 33.9 p.c.

SCs – 68.6 p.c. – 30 p.c.

OBCs – 28.3 p.c. – 12.6 p.c.

Others – 17.8 p.c. – 11.2 p.c.

Total – 34.8 p.c. – 14.9 p.c.

Source: National Sample Survey (2011-12)

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