Poverty is rampant in India, and it is in large part caused by inequality. One example is the major income gap between the rich and poor. The top 10% earn 12 times as much as the bottom 10%. Approximately 42% of India’s 1.21 billion people live below the poverty line, living on less than $1.25 a day (“India Income Inequality Doubles in 20 years, says OECD). In fact, data collected from India’s most recent Socioeconomic Caste Census shows that 75%, of the 300 million households surveyed, earn less than $75 a month (Katyal). India’s persistent inequality, and as a result significant poverty, can be attributed to social and legal factors.
A major social factor contributing to India’s inequality and subsequent poverty is caused by the remnants of the Caste System. People of lowers castes are often discriminated against, especially in schools. Resources are typically focused on the children of higher castes. To make matters worse, teachers usually pay more attention to the children of higher castes. Children of lower castes, as a result, have a harder time in school. In fact, the children of lower castes tend to score better on tests, in which their caste is not revealed (Zagha). The discrimination in schools towards children of lower castes gives children in higher castes an unfair educational advantage. This discrimination has its consequences, as children of lower castes have severe issues in cognitive development, stemming from the fact that they are not receiving sufficient resources and attention in school (Zagha).
Another factor explaining inequality in India is the Constitution, adopted in 1949. The Constitution created a legal obligation for the state to eradicate and reduce India’s inequalities. However, this may not have been the best approach in reducing poverty and inequality. The economy must grow in order for India to best cut down on inequality and poverty. A legal obligation is no substitute for economic growth (Zagha). India, rather than focusing on curtailing inequality through legal means, should focus their attention on growing their economy, as that will better reduce poverty and inequality. Overall, India’s vast inequality is caused by social factors, especially the discrimination amongst castes, and legal factors, including the Constitutional obligation of reducing poverty and inequality.
Zagha, Roberto. 2013. “India’s Inequality: An Uneasy Reconciliation with Economic Growth.” Current History 112 (753).