Key Insights on the Reality of Rural India: Socio-Economic & Caste Census data

By | September 13, 2015

Recently, India released a selection of data from the 2011 Census of India – their focus was rural India’s socio-economic reality, primarily aimed at policymakers and programme designers. This was the first time the Government of the Republic of India has collected information on caste. The last such census was back in 1931, by the British Raj.

I’ve gone through the standard talking points and a variety of articles online to synthesize and pinpoint the factoids that caught my attention.


Rural Rajasthan is India’s least literate state. Photo Credit: Niti Bhan, Sawai Madhopur

Mobile  phone ownership – More than 2 out 3 households

While only one per cent of rural households own a landline phone without a mobile, a whopping 68.35 per cent have mobiles as their only phone(s). In Uttar Pradesh, as many as 86 per cent rural households own no phone but mobiles. Households with both landline and mobiles constitute an additional 2.72 per cent of the rural population, with Kerala the highest among the states at 28.33 per cent. In Chhattisgarh, this is particularly high at 71 per cent, mainly due to lack of connectivity and mobile towers, a reflection of the lack of development in the state. Source

India rural census

Literacy and Education – More than 1 in 3 illiterate

Educational levels remain dismal, with over a third of rural India illiterate. The proportion of those passing through the primary, secondary, senior secondary and higher secondary stages drops at each successive level, from nearly 18 per cent to 5 per cent, while only 3.45 per cent are graduates or above. The highest proportion for graduates is in the National Capital Territory and Delhi, at 9.6 per cent; among the states, Kerala tops at 8 per cent. Source

Rajasthan leads the pack of illiterate states with 47.58% of its population falling in that category, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 44.19% of its people in rural areas being illiterate. Bihar is at the third place with 43.85% and followed by newly carved state Telangana with 40.42% population belonging to this category. Source

Informal Sector and Irregular Incomes – 9 out of 10 people

Rural India remains largely dependent on self-employment or the unorganised sector. Less than 10 per cent households are dependent on salaried jobs, of which the majority are in government jobs. Also, 0.09 per cent of rural households are houseless, compared to 0.15 per cent in the urban areas. Source Fewer than 5 per cent pay income tax. Source

villagesNearly one in every three rural households still have an uncertain source of income and continue to live in one-room kutcha houses. They compose 31.26 per cent of the 17.91 crore rural households covered by the census — and will now be considered as ‘poor’,  eligible for benefits applicable to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Of the rural households covered, 21.53 per cent belonged to scheduled castes and tribes Source

Over half of rural India owns no land at all. Among households who do own land, 40 per cent is not irrigated. Just 4 per cent own any sort of mechanised agricultural equipment, and just 10 per cent own any irrigation equipment. Fewer than 4 per cent have an agricultural credit card that entitles them to at least Rs 50,000 per month. Source

The Big Picture


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