Owning a house is a dream shared by many Indians. This dream is mediated by several realities, including social status. What does it mean to own a house for members of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), historically marginalised sections of society?
An analysis of the 2011 census data reveals that 74% total SC households in urban areas own house as against 69% for the non-SC/STs. A state level analysis shows similar pattern, though SC households in south Indian states have more chances of owning a house than other states (Figure 1). Though the National Sample Survey (NSS) data gives slightly different figures, one point that emerges from both data is that the house ownership for SC households is not very different from the non-SC/STs.
However, ownership alone does not tell the whole story i.e. it does not necessarily imply better living conditions unless basic services are in place. On this front, a different picture emerges when we compare housing conditions and amenities in urban areas across social groups. The five parameters considered here are housing conditions, in-house drinking water, in-house latrine, access to drainage facility, and number of dwelling rooms. Figure 2 shows that in terms of the quality of housing and basic services, SC and ST households are always worse off than non-SC/ST households.
The census data does not allow city-level analysis. Similar analysis using the NSS data for million-plus cities vs other urban areas is given in Figure 3. The x-axis shows five parameters related to housing conditions and amenities. The y-axis shows the share of SC households with these facilities divided by the share of non-SC/STs. A value of less than one implies fewer SC households with access to these facilities than the non-SC/STs households. The result shows that irrespective of city-size, the quality of housing conditions and services in SC households is worse than in non-SC/ST households.