Maha Rafi Atal in The Monkey Cage (image EPA/Sanjeev Gupta):
[T]he growth India has experienced in the past two decades is unevenly distributed, and may be exacerbating structural inequalities between groups. Themost recent National Sample Survey concluded that the monthly per capita household expenditures (MPCE) of Muslim families are 14 percent lower than they are for Hindu families. The gap is worst in cities: urban Muslims have an MPCE 30 percent lower than their Hindu counterparts. Given that much of India’s economic development has taken the form of urban job growth and migration, the impression is that the benefits have accrued primarily to the majority.
Just as important are divisions between Hindu castes. Of particular interest are studies that investigate the relationship between caste and social class, where the consensus is divided. Divya Vaid argues that class and caste are more congruent at the extremes of the caste system than in the middle, and that this congruence has weakened only marginally over time. By contrast, Samuel Stroope contends that class and caste are becoming more distinct from one another in urban areas. But Stroope also finds high-caste individuals are gravitating toward religious exclusivity: that might be a reaction against the erosion of high-caste economic privilege.
In rural areas, meanwhile, growth has taken the form of large-scale industrial development on land purchased under eminent domain-style legislation, with this property bundled into ‘Special Economic Zones’ offering a range of tax incentives.Lancy Lobo and Shashikant Kumar’s landmark study on land politics in Gujarat has shown that the burden of displacement has fallen disproportionately on disadvantaged castes, many of whom had customary, rather than written, rights to land and were left out of compensation schemes.
Economic growth is not eliminating the differences between religious and caste groupings. Moreover, a number of studies suggest sectarian violence may itself be a consequence of uneven development.