Political sociology of poverty requires an analysis of the relationship between the political, economic and socio-cultural actors, institutions and processes in the context of poverty. It assumes that poverty is a complex and cumulative consequence of power relations over a period of time between groups within a region and between regions in the modern world system. This paper on political sociology of poverty in India is based upon the assumption that:
- the caste system and economic inequality complement each other in the case of the poorer sections of Indian society
- Indian society has experienced complexities in identification of class system due to the manifold gradations of social rank, which have evolved in the form of caste and tribe along with quasireligious settings of deprivation
- the colonial and post-colonial polity have been organized around the recognition of nebulous coexistence of 'caste' and 'class' principles in the approach of state and political community towards the weaker sections of the society.
The Indian Constitution and political community have given recognition to the grave condition of resourcelessness of the weakest sections of Indian society through the system of 'Scheduled' castes and 'Scheduled' tribes. In other words, while recognizing the heuristic value of 'caste', 'gender', 'tribe' and 'class' as separate analytical and sociological categories, this paper suggests that caste, tribe and class merge into each other in the domain of absolute as well as chronic poverty in India. This clarification is important as there are a large number of instances of 'caste into class' and 'class into caste' as well as tribe-caste convergence in terms of economic conditions. But they do not negate the fact that for the last several decades there is marginal difference in the caste status of the absolutely poor classes and there is very limited evidence of economic prosperity ('creamy layer') among the depressed castes and tribes particularly in the rural domain of the Indian economy.
Poverty In India:Between Politics of Povertyand Poverty of Politics, CPRC-IIPA Working Paper No. 3, Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 53 pp. [This paper has been published as a chapter in a book entitled Chronic Poverty in India, edited by Aasha Kapur Mehta, Sourabh Ghosh, Deepa Chatterjee, Nikhila Menon, IIPA/CPRC, 2003, 389 pp.]