Release of India Exclusion Report 2016

In news:

The Indian Exclusion Report (IXR) 2016 released by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) in New Delhi. The 2016 IXR Report reviews exclusion with respect to four public goods:

  • Pensions for the elderly,
  • digital access,
  • agricultural land,
  • Legal justice for under trials.

It also profiles four highly vulnerable groups in terms of their access to these goods.

Despite the diverse public goods reviewed, the dominant finding of this report, like the last one, is that the groups most severely and consistently excluded from provisioning tend to the same historically disadvantaged groups: Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and persons with disabilities and age-related vulnerabilities.

Highlights:

On the provision of agricultural land as a public good

  • The pattern of land distribution broadly reflects the socio-economic hierarchy — large landowners invariably belong to the upper castes, cultivators to the middle castes, and agricultural workers are largely Dalits and Adivasis.
  • The rate of landlessness was highest among Dalits, at 57.3%. Among Muslims, it was 52.6%, and 56.8% of women-headed households were landless. Around 40% of all those displaced by “development activity” were Adivasis.
  • Where Dalits, Muslims and women owned land, the holdings were meager in size, with only 2.08% of Dalit households owning more than two hectares of land. Also, the quality of land owned by Dalits was very poor, with 58% of it having no irrigation facility.
  • Land reform efforts have not benefited Dalits, women or Muslims significantly, according to the IXR. Land allotments to SC/ST households were often only on paper, as allotters were forcefully evicted or not allowed to take possession, noted the report.

On the subject of digital exclusion:

  • Almost 1.063 billion Indians were offline even though India ranks among the top five nations in terms of the total number of Internet users”. Poverty and geographic location were the two major barriers to digital access, with urban locations enjoying better Internet penetration rates.
  • Internet reach: Government initiatives to improve IT access have been riddled with implementation problems like poor infrastructure, a lack of adequate institutional frameworks, low literacy in the targeted areas, and poor cooperation from government officials.
  • The Digital India programme aimed to cover 1,00,200 panchayats under Phase I by March 2014; but in April 2016, only 48,199 panchayats were covered, and only 6,727 panchayats had Internet access.
  • It also warned that in the new thrust towards a cashless economy, digital exclusion can often also result in financial exclusion.
  • The IXR also noted with disapproval India’s refusal to be a signatory to a non-binding UN Human Rights Council resolution to protect human rights on the Internet and said that it signalled a reluctance to incorporate a rights-based approach to access.

Pensions for the elderly

  • The report raises pertinent questions regarding half of India’s 103 million elderly outside any social security scheme, 40% of disabled women in rural India without jobs and exclusion of the poor on account of digital illiteracy as government pushes Digital India.
  • The gains have thrown new concerns of exclusion which needs to be addressed and discussed. In India, pensions cover only 40% of the elderly, landlessness among Dalits and Muslims is highest and these two (legally illiterate) communities are in high proportion in jails.
  • The report also highlights that though India’s score on Global Hunger Index has improved since 2008 its ranking has fallen as other countries such as Rwanda, Cambodia, and Myanmar have done better than the world’s fastest growing economy.

About CES:

CES was founded in August 2000 as an independent organisation engaged in research and advocacy on a range of social and economic justice issues in India. It examines the nature and causes of social injustice and inequity that befall the poorest sections of India to find ways to move towards a more equitable, humane and peaceful society.

CES seeks to influence and shape public policy and law in favour of the most disadvantaged communities in this country through a range of work, which includes:

  • law and social policy design and advocacy
  • research into the interface of disadvantaged people with government, law, policy and programmes
  • grassroots engagement to help develop alternatives to existing policy, programmes and law
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