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51% of village homes live on manual casual labour

New Delhi, July 3: Nearly a quarter of rural families in India don't have a literate adult above 25 years. Nearly onethird are landless, and half derive their income mainly from manual labour. Above all, nearly half of rural Indian households can be considered "poor" in the sense of facing some deprivation.

These are findings of the "socio-economic caste census" (SECC) that has, for the first time, mapped rural India in such minute detail, from the nature of houses families live in to their occupations, what assets they own and the number of beggars and ragpickers. The findings paint a much more bleak picture than official poverty figures normally do.

The crucial finding of the census is that 8.69 crore of the 17.91 crore rural households show one of the seven markers of deprivation listed by the SECC - households with kuccha house, no adult member in working age, households headed by a female with no working age male member, those with handicapped members and no able-bodied adult, households with no literate adult above 25 years, landless households engaged in manual labour, and SCST households.

It means 49% of rural India shows signs of poverty even if the depth of poverty is not enough to categorise them as poor in the technical sense. The survey, released by finance minister Arun Jaitley four years after it was commissioned by the UPA government and conducted across 640 districts and 17.91 crore rural households, constitutes a crucial step towards better targeting of welfare schemes based on the needs of each family.

Like, the 2.37 crore households that have been found to have "one room or less and kuccha walls and roof "would be the first claimants for any "rural housing" scheme.

The survey has also collected the caste details of each family, but data on this aspect was not released on Friday .

Traditionally, a family should have a certain degree of poverty to qualify as poor, like a household should be saddled with at least two or three of the seven deprivation indicators listed by the SECC.

A socially significant discovery, or confirmation, is that 21.5% of rural households belong to SCs and STs. They stand at 3.86 crore households.

Given that the survey has scanned rural poverty to its micro details of what each household lacks, Arun Jaitley said, "It's after seven-eight decades that we have this document after 1932 of the caste census... It's going to be a very important document for all policymakers both at Central and state governments... this document will help us target groups for support in terms of policy planning."

One of the interesting bits of the findings are the source of rural household incomes. Nearly 30% are engaged in cultivation, while 51% of families are eking out a livelihood from manual casual labour. On the other hand, the service class - government, public and private sector - constitutes just 14%.

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