Social Justice

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The India Exclusion Report 2015 is based on information and knowledge resources available in the public domain. The report has studied the exclusion faced by five especially vulnerable groups: single women, Devadasis, survivors of ethnic conflict, survivors of communal violence, and the Jarawa tribe.

The key facts from the India Exclusion Report 2015, which has been prepared by Centre for Equity Studies in collaboration with various organizations (please click here to access the report), are as follows:

Urban healthcare and exclusion

• The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in its report on Key Indicators of Slums in India (2012) informs us about the poor conditions of living in urban slums. The survey shows that over a third of slum settlements had no electricity, while close to a third had no access to tap water, latrine facilities, drainage facilities, or garbage disposal arrangements. Only 23.9 percent of the slums benefitted from any slum benefit scheme (such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana, etc.). At the national level, out of an estimated total of 33,510 slums, 59 percent were non-notified, accounting for almost 3.25 million slum households not officially recognised as slums by the government.

• As per the dissertation entitled ‘A Study to Understand the Barriers and Facilitating Factors for Accessing Health Care amongst Adult Street Dwellers in New Delhi, India’ by V Prasad (2011), untreated injuries have resulted in lifelong disabilities, jeopardising the ability to work, further perpetuating homelessness.

• As per the Handbook of Urbanization in India by KC Sivaramakrishnan, A Kundu and BN Singh (2005), in a highly cash-strained environment, some people have to live on pavements and streets to be able to save money for remittances.

• Some of the socially vulnerable groups identified by the Hashim Committee are women, seniors without care, people with disabilities, the homeless, people living with leprosy, mental illness and AIDS, scheduled castes and tribes, children without adult care, street and working children, and children of destitute and stigmatised parents.

• Occupational vulnerability, stated by the Hashim Committee, comes about due to the ‘fact that the large majority of the urban poor are trapped in low end jobs—insecure, low paid, low productivity with debilitating work conditions—mainly in the informal sector.’ Third party interventions in the job market based on commissions, lack of social protection at work, seasonal casual employment (like fishing) and so forth are major reasons for vulnerability. Some of the occupations falling under this category are noted to include ‘daily wage workers, construction labour, petty traders, hawkers, street children, sex-workers, rickshaw-pullers, domestic workers, etc.’

• According to the 71st round of the National Sample Survey, the average total medical expenditure per single ailment is much higher—i.e., INR 741 for males and INR 629 for females in urban areas, as compared to INR 549 and INR 589 respectively in rural areas. Moreover, this survey found that expenditure in private hospitals as compared to public is much higher in urban areas (three times the expense in private than public hospitals for males and almost double for females) as compared to rural areas (1.9 times the expense in private than public hospitals for males and 1.6 times for females). All this results in a greater proportion of expenditure, on average, per person in urban areas as compared to rural (INR 639 as compared to INR 509). For the poorest fifth of urban dwellers, on average the cost to treat a single ailment in a single person is the same as over 10 months of household expenditure; costs are this high or even higher for those who use the private sector more.

• In urban areas, the proportion of in-patient care sought in the private sector has grown from 56.9 per cent in 1995–6 to 68 per cent in 2014, over a 10 per cent increase. As can be imagined, the reliance on the private sector is skewed in wealthier income groups (as they can afford it), and yet, in 2014, private hospitals account for 52 percent of hospitalised cases among the poorest urban quintiles in India, and 56.5 percent among the second poorest.

• The 2011 slum Census reveals that 32 per cent of the slum population in Tamil Nadu and 39 per cent in Punjab is comprised of Dalits. Nationwide, between 2001 and 2011, there has been a 37 percent increase in the Dalit population within slums, says a study by Sivakumar.

• The Technical Resource Group (TRG) supporting the newly launched National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) has found that in urban India, the infant mortality rate is higher by 1.8 times in slum as compared to non-slum areas. Diarrhoea deaths account for 28 percent of all mortality, while acute respiratory infections account for 22 per cent. Nearly 50 percent of urban child mortality is the result of poor sanitation and lack of access to clean drinking water in urban slums.

• By not relying only on individuals’ ability to provide documentation certifying that they were affected by the gas disaster in 1984, the Sambhavana Trust Clinic has created a sense of inclusion to urban health resources for an estimated 50,000 people who otherwise may not have received the care that they needed in municipal hospitals (most of these 50,000 individuals are those affected by ground water contamination).

Urban Water Supply and Sanitation

• As per the Ministry of Urban Development, most households are provided with an insufficient quantity of water: the average per capita supply of 73 lpcd – litres per capita daily (in 1,493 cities) is far below the desired benchmark of 135 lpcd. Average duration of supply is around three hours against the benchmark of 24 hours.

• According to NSSO (2013), almost a quarter of households are not supplied water daily. Nearly 23 percent of households also had a supplementary source of drinking water, indicating insufficiency or unreliability of the primary source of drinking water.

• According to the Census 2011, nearly a quarter (estimates ranging from 18 million to 23 million) of households do not have access to water supply within their premises, and only slightly more than half the households have access to a water source for exclusive use. On an average, more than half an hour (31 minutes) is spent to fetch water from outside (including waiting time).

• A survey done by Pratham Education Foundation, Montreal University and Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies in a New Delhi slum found that 42 percent (284 of 685) of household drinking water samples were contaminated with coliform bacteria.

• According to the Census 2011, nearly 10 million (13 percent) households do not have access to any sanitation facilities, and hence they resort to open defecation. Another 6 percent depend on public or community latrines, and 4 percent have access only to unimproved latrines.

• A high percentage of households (27 percent) depend on some form of shared facilities, including public toilets, community toilets and shared facilities among multiple households, says NSSO 2013. Shared facilities present their own set of problems: long waiting time, lack of cleanliness, fixed timings and payment, etc.

• According to the Census 2011, only one-third of the urban population is connected to networked sewerage systems (mostly in large metropolitan cities, and in rich and middle class colonies), while a much larger proportion of the households depend on on-site systems, primarily septic tanks and pit latrines.

• The total annual economic losses due to inadequate sanitation in India is estimated to be Rs. 2.4 trillion ($53.8 billion), equivalent to about 6.4 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006. The health-related economic impact of inadequate sanitation was Rs. 1.75 trillion ($38.5 billion), 72 percent of the total impact. Access time and water-related impacts made up the other two main losses.

• The lack of latrines in schools and absence of menstrual health management are impediments for girls attending school post-puberty and increase the likelihood of them dropping out of school. Each year 23 percent of Indian girls drop out of school due to the lack of functioning toilets and 66 percent skip school during menstruation.

• According to Census 2011, there are a total of 8 lakh dry latrines in the country that are serviced by humans; almost 2 lakh such latrines are in urban areas.

• The taskforce constituted by the Planning Commission in 1989 estimated the number of scavengers belonging to Scheduled Castes as 4 lakhs (out of 7 lakhs in total) with 83 percent in urban areas and 17 percent in rural areas. There were another 3 lakh scavengers from other minorities including Muslims, Christians and tribals. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in the year 2002–03 identified almost 6.8 lakh manual scavengers; of these, over 95 percent were Dalits, who are forced to undertake this task in the garb of their ‘traditional occupation’.

• Census 2011 reports that there are 750,000 families who still work as manual scavengers living mostly in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir. Surveys carried out by organisations working with manual scavengers estimate the number to be much higher, around 12–13 lakhs, especially because the official estimates do not include railway employees who have to clean excrement from the railway tracks.

Exclusion of women

• Time allocation data (available only through a pilot time-use survey carried out in 1998–99), showed that Indian men’s contribution to unpaid care was 10 percent that of women, across income groups. Participation in unpaid care work is significantly higher for women, compared to men: according to the NSS 2011–12 data, approximately 43.8 percent of women of all ages were engaged solely in domestic work, while for men, participation was negligible.

• According to 2011–12 NSSO estimates, 15.1 percent of women between the age of 15–59 in rural areas are contributing family workers, relative to 6.6 percent own-account workers. In urban areas, the share is only 3.5 percent, relative to 5.1 per cent own-account workers – the share of workers engaged only in domestic duties is a lot higher in urban areas, however. Available data suggests that women are shifting from waged employment to unpaid work, be it attending to domestic duties or contributing to family work.

• A 2010 study on 2.6 lakh rehabilitated bonded labourers from Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh (over 43 percent and 39 percent were ST and SC, respectively and 16 percent OBC) estimated that about 19 percent of them were women, indicating that a considerable number of women do find themselves in situations of bondage.

• Dalit, Tribal and Muslim women have the lowest levels of education among social and religious groups, even in comparison to men from the same groups. Data from the NSS 2009–10 shows that in rural areas, 58.1 per cent Dalit, 58.3 percent ST and 52.6 per cent Muslim women were illiterate, compared to the average 43.9 percent and only 1.1 percent Dalit, 0.9 percent tribal and 0.9 percent Muslim women were graduates. In urban areas, while average proportion of graduate women was 14.7 percent, only 7.2 percent of Dalit women, 9.8 percent of tribal women and 4.8 percent of Muslim women were graduates.

• An analysis of NSS data from 2009–10 shows that over 31.5 per cent of Dalit women and 35.5 percent of tribal women in urban areas were in casual labour, compared to 5.8 per cent of upper caste women. In rural areas as well, the proportion of upper caste women in casual labour was 19.4 percent, compared to 56.3 percent for Dalit women and 43.8 percent for tribal women. Further, the highest decreases in labour force participation over the past decade have been for these groups in rural areas, which in the absence of an improvement in household wealth, is especially worrying. Muslim women are concentrated in self-employment, in home-based sub-contracted work with low earnings.

• Only 16.1 percent of working age women with disabilities were employed in 2002, although just 29 per cent of the same group were recorded as being ‘unable to work owing to disability.

• NSSO data shows that participation rates for rural elderly women have fluctuated around 20 percent between 1983 and 2011–12.

• Almost 70 percent of all elderly workers and 93 per cent of all elderly women are either illiterate or have not completed primary education. This elderly workforce is therefore primarily engaged in low-end, unskilled work, with elderly women more downwardly classified as compared to men—39 percent of elderly women work in elementary occupations, as compared to 26 percent elderly men84 and receiving lower wages than men, regardless of whether they are engaged in regular or casual employment. In addition, the largely informal nature of India’s labour market means that few workers manage to avail of employer’s pension—only 3% of elderly women receive it and 15 percent elderly men. With no control over resources, elderly women are also likely to face abuse in hands of family members. One in 10 elderly persons reportedly face some form of abuse after 60 years of age and, in the case of women, the perpetrators are usually family members.

• In India, high growth of around 8 percent per annum between 2003–4 and 2011–12, did not create commensurate employment, leading many analysts to term this period as one of ‘jobless growth’. In fact, the employment elasticity of growth has declined over time. Employment elasticity fell from 0.44 during 2000–05 to 0.01 during 2005–10 though rising to 0.2 during 2010–12.

• As an NCEUS report from 2009 estimated, 91 percent of women are in informal jobs without contracts or legal protection, compared to 86 percent of men. Women are also typically represented in segments with lower earnings. NSS findings from the 68th round estimated that on an average, daily wages from regular salaried work were twice the wage-amount from casual wage labour in rural areas and almost three times the amount in urban areas and the same report states that only 5.6 percent of women on the labour force in rural areas were in regular employment, compared to 10 percent men. In urban areas, data shows that regular waged work has seen an increase, but official and independent research suggests also that this is mainly attributable to a rise in numbers in the highly feminised sector of paid domestic workers.

Single women

• According to the 2001 census, 7.4 per cent of the female population of India is ‘single’. There were 3.44 crore widows in India, and 23.43 lakh divorced/ separated women—a total of 3.67 lakh single women. ‘This figure is likely to increase with the inclusion of “customarily” separated women and women whose husbands are missing.

• Under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), the central government contributes Rs. 200 per pensioner per month and the states are urged to contribute an equal amount.’ As per the guidelines the beneficiaries are supposed to get benefits regularly each month before the 7th of the month. According to the 9th report of the Supreme Court Commissioners, many states including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are currently paying a monthly pension of less than Rs. 400 per month.

• Evidence suggests that NOAPS has benefited sections of the vulnerable population, in the data obtained from the Ministry of Rural Development: in 1998–99, 30 percent of the women benefited while in 1999–2000, 36.7 percent of the women benefited. A gender breakup also indicates that 13 states had 30 percent or more coverage of women in the scheme in 1998–99 and 1999–2000.

• Widow pension schemes have been functional in India since the 1960s. In 2002, the Government of India introduced a new scheme, the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension scheme, which increased the amount of financial assistance given to widows to Rs. 400 per month. This scheme covers widows between the age group of 40–64 years, from families with incomes below the poverty line. Like the old age pension scheme, the centre contributes 50 per cent of the funds, i.e., Rs. 200, with the rest being contributed by the states.

• A 2007 study, Destitution of Widow in Rajasthan by the Budget Analysis Rajasthan Centre, found that almost 50 percent of BPL widows did not get pensions. Till 2001, four of the north-eastern states had failed to introduce the scheme. In other states, a ceiling has been imposed on the maximum number of person to be covered under the scheme. Tamil Nadu and Kerala, however, have been unique in this respect, by totally eliminating the ceiling.


• Estimates of the number of Devadasis are available to us from various sources for the three states in India where the practice is highly prevalent: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

• The Karnataka government conducted two surveys, first in 1993–94 and the second in 2007–08. The first survey found 22,873 Devadasis and the second enumerated 23,787. In undivided Andhra Pradesh, a survey in 1987–88 found 24,273 Devadasis. However, the one-man commission appointed by the government to examine the status of Devadasis estimated the number to be about 80,000 (across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana). The State government of Maharashtra, reported the existence of about 3,900 Devadasis during a survey carried out by the National Commission for Women. These figures are highly underestimated and, according to the one-man Commission report, the estimate is about 4.5 lakh Devadasis spread across many states in India.

• The report submitted by the one-man commission estimates the number of Devadasis in Andhra Pradesh to be about 80,000—much higher than the figure of 24,273, provided by the AP social welfare commission. Importantly, the Commission report was submitted to the (undivided) Andhra Pradesh Government two years ago and has still not been made public. Furthermore, Ms. Subhadraa, a leading Hyderabad-based activist mentioned that more than 100,000 Devadasi women gathered last year for Yellamma deity’s annual festival, indicating that the number of Devadasis in the country is much higher than what the government estimates.

• Research by Sampark shows that Devadasis are being dedicated at ages much younger than 21 years. In fact more than 70 percent of the respondents were dedicated at less than 15 years of age. 69 percent of Devadasi women were made sexually active at the age of less than 16 years.

• The practice of offering girls as Devadasis is followed by Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Communities. A majority of the households with Devadasi members at present do not have a history of dedication in the family indicating the fact that they were first-generation followers of the practice.

• The study carried out by Sampark found that 84.57 percent of the Devadasi women belonged to the Scheduled Castes, followed by 5.14 percent Other Backward Castes (OBC), 4.57 percent Scheduled Tribes, 4 percent General and with 1.71 percent belonging to other categories.

• Most Devadasis come from Dalit families that are asset-less and live in abject poverty, dedicating girls as a result of their economic vulnerability. Research findings showed that the majority of respondents, 79 percent, were dedicated as Devadasi through close family members (father, mother or grandmother), in Belagavi 93 percent and in Mehboobnagar 91 percent. In Sholapur district, 31 percent of the respondents said that temple priests and self-styled godmen (locally known as Gurus) were also involved in the induction.

• Most Devadasis are involved in manual labour like agricultural work. All Devadasis are sex workers. Many Devadasis have relationships with a patron and a few of them are married. As many as 95 percent of the women were not able to register their patrons as parents in the admission records of schools for their children. This indicates that the children of Devadasis are not able to prove connections to a father and are therefore unable to claim any inheritance rights.

• Although the government has announced schemes for the rehabilitation of Devadasis, the implementation has been wanting for lack of funds as well. In Karnataka, an NGO working with Dalits reported that Devadasi women had not received their pensions for the past 19 months, as they had not received funds from the central government. Hence, non-disbursements of funds, lack of appropriate allocations and allotment of funds are key challenges in the implementation of state rehabilitation schemes.


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