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Karnataka - People

Karnataka had a population of 53 million (2001) accounting for 5.13 per cent of India’s population. The population of the state had increased four-fold, from 13.05 million in 1901 to 52.73 million in 2001. The highest decadal growth rate of 26.75 per cent, since the beginning of the century, occurred in 1971-81. The growth rate thereafter slowed down to 21.12 percent during 1981-91 and further declined to 17.51 per cent during 1991-2001, which was indeed a welcome trend.

The sex ratio of 965 in the state stands above the all-India average of 933, with an increase of 5 percentage points in the sex ratio of 2001 over 1991. However, the sex ratio for children (0-6 years) has declined from 960 in 1991 to 946 in 2001, which is a matter of grave concern. The population density in the state is 275 as compared to 324 at the all-India level in 2001. About 66 percent of the population in the state lives in rural areas.

Religious conservatism of high caste Brahmins and the rigid caste structure were perceived as the main reasons for the socio-cultural backwardness of non-Brahmin peasant groups and the main obstacles to their programme of radical social reform. The Vokkaligas, two dominant castes in Karnataka, had suffered sub-divisions before being listed as a single unified caste by the Census of 1901. This categorization, argued one historian, "provided the leaders of the non-Brahmin movement with a significant base for collective mobilization". Serious solidarity efforts were also made internally by different caste associations. The Lingayats established the Mysore Lingyat Education Fund Association in 1905, while the Vokkaligas formed the Kokkaligara Sangha in 1906. However, it was the non-Brahmin movement, which provided these caste associations with a common platform, and held these social groups together.

The non-Brahmin movement in Kamataka took its birth around 1918 and it was spearheaded by Vokkaligas and Lingayats. A delegation of non-Brahmin leaders called on the Maharaja of Mysore in 1918 and protested against the discrimination practised against non-Brahmins. This resulted in the appointment of a committee headed by Sir Leslie Miller, who submitted his report in 1919. On the recommendation of Miller, the Govemment passed an order for an equitable communal representation in the public service. With the emergence of the Congress movement in Mysore State, the non-Brahmin movement was slowly drawn towards the national liberation struggle and it finally merged with the Congress in 1938.

The Scheduled Caste population constitutes about 16.2 percent of the total population in Karnataka, which is almost equal to the share of the Scheduled Caste population in the country. The Scheduled Tribe population, however, which constitutes about 6.6 percent of the total population, is below the share of the Scheduled Tribe population (about 8 percent) for the nation as a whole.

Estimates reveal a reduction in the number of the poor from 156.45 lakh in 1993-94 to 104.40 lakh in 1999-2000 in Karnataka, i.e. by about 33 percent. This performance is much better than the all-India reduction by 18.8 percent (from 3,203.68 lakh to 2,602.50 lakh) during the same period. As a proportion of the population, poverty in Karnataka declined from 33.16 to 20.04 per cent (reduction of about 13 percentage points) as against the all-India decline from 35.97 to 26.10 per cent (reduction of 10 percentage points) during the same period. As a result of economic growth and the poverty reduction strategies of the government, the state is moving towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The government must, however, ensure that the process of growth and poverty alleviation policies continues and the disparities of caste, gender and region addressed at the grassroots level.

The Scheduled Caste (SC) households account for about 20 per cent of the rural population. Together with Scheduled Tribe (ST) households, they form nearly 28 per cent of the rural population. These two social categories have the lowest levels of average consumption and the highest incidence of poverty. About 25 per cent of their respective populations is poor. In urban Karnataka, the combined population share of the SCs and STs is about 15 percent. Nearly half of these two social categories are poor, whereas this proportion comes to only a sixth for other households. Thus, there exists a sharp gap between these social groups and the rest of the population in terms of improvements in levels of living.

There are about 101 sub-castes that have been recognised as Scheduled Castes in Karnataka. The majority of these castes are small in number. While the Scheduled Castes are the largest single group in Karnataka, they are also the weakest in terms of political, economic, social and cultural resources. The population of SCs in Karnataka has increased from 3.12 million in 1961 to 8.56 million in 2001, registering an increase of 174.3 percent as compared to an increase of 158.5 percent in the SC population at the national level.

The predominant castes among the SCs are Adi Karnataka, Holeya, Chalavadi, Mahar, Mala, Madiga, Mang, Mochi, Adi Dravida, Samagara, Dhor, Banjara and Bhovi. The Adi Karnatakas form the largest segment, (34.13 percent) followed by Banjaras (11.85 percent), Bhovis (10.04 percent) and Adi Dravidas (6.98 percent).

The spread of the SC population by caste/sub-caste is not uniform throughout the state. Some castes are clustered only in a few districts and are sparse in other districts. The Adi Dravidas are clustered in only three districts, namely, Bangalore Urban (37 percent), Kolar (20 per cent) and Tumkur (10 per cent), accounting for two-thirds of the Adi Dravida population in the state. Again, about 90 percent of the Holaya, Holer and Holeya population in the state is concentrated in four districts of north Karnataka, i.e. Gulbarga (37 per cent), Bijapur (20 per cent), Belgaum (20 per cent) and Bidar (17 percent).

The Scheduled Tribes are tribes notified under Article 342 of the Constitution, which makes special provision for ‘tribes, tribal communities, parts of, or groups within which the President may so notify’. There is no definition of a tribe in the Constitution but one may distinguish some characteristics that are generally accepted: self-identification, language, distinctive social and cultural organisation, economic underdevelopment, geographic location and initially, isolation, which has been steadily, and in some cases, traumatically, eroded. Many tribes still live in hilly and/or forested areas, somewhat remote from settlements.

The tribal population of Karnataka increased to 34.64 lakh in 2001 from 19.16 lakh in 1991. The decadal growth rate during this period is a high 80.8 percent, caused not by a spurt in fertility rates but by the addition of several new tribes to the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. Raichur (18.1 percent) has the highest percentage of ST population followed by Bellary (18.0 per cent), while Chitradurga (17.5 percent), which had the highest percentage of ST population in 1991 came down to third place in 2001 on account of its bifurcation.

Historically, the tribal economy was based on subsistence agriculture and/or hunting and gathering. However, since the tribal people treated land as a common resource, they rarely had land titles, and thus, lost their lands to outsiders when exploitation of forest resources began to take place on a significant scale. Rural-urban disparities, far from diminishing, have only intensifi ed: for example, the infant mortality rate (IMR) is 64 in rural areas as compared with 24 in urban areas (2004). There are noticeable regional disparities in spite of overall improvements in the various health indicators. The fi ve districts of northeast Karnataka – Gulbarga, Bidar, Koppal, Raichur and Bellary – and two districts of northwest Karnataka – Bagalkot and Bijapur – have worse health indicators than the rest of the state. The health status of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes is cause for serious refl ection because it is so distanced from the health status of the total population.

Increased morbidity levels have an adverse effect on productivity, resulting in chronic worker absenteeism, loss of person-days and a reduction in income. The hardest hit are the poor, who find their productivity levels falling at the very moment that there are demands on their purse to pay for treatment. Chronic bouts of illness or even one episode can send a family over the poverty line into indebtedness.

Karnataka is ahead of India average in respect of health indicators such as mortality, birth and death rates. However, more effort is needed to achieve performance at par with the best performing states. Areas of concern are moderately high infant mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition among children and women, high incidence of child-hood diseases, inadequacies in water supply and sanitation, and poor socio-economic status of women along with social discrimination.

Over 37% of Karnataka’s 61.1 million population live in urban areas. The vehicular population rose by an alarming 70% in merely six years. Congestion, increased travel times, vehicular air pollution and noise have come to define urban standards. While efforts are being made to improve infrastructure and public transport – and successfully so – the rise of private motor vehicles is probably irreversible. Efforts are directed to promote non-motorised transport (walking, cycling) by creation of the necessary infrastructure as incentive. Likewise, attention is being paid to the better integration of public transport into mobility concepts and door-to-door solutions.

Violence against women has its roots in men’s economic and social domination and their control of female sexuality and reproduction. It is also an instrument in the domination and control of the poor by upper castes. The incidence of physical abuse of women in Karnataka is 21.5 per cent, which is slightly higher than the all-India average.

One category of crimes i.e. a category of deaths exclusively of women – mainly young, newly married women – has emerged in the public consciousness due to the efforts of women’s groups and NGOs. In police records, they are classified under three specific categories, which invoke different sections of the law. These are ‘dowry murders’ (committed by the woman's husband or members of his family for additional dowry or non-payment of promised dowry); ‘suicides’ (forced or voluntary, but in most cases related to dowry demands); and ‘accidents’ (a majority classifi ed under ‘stove burst’ or ‘kitchen accident’). Deaths under these three categories add up to an alarming figure. a new and ugly form of sex discrimination has now become visible – one that is strongly correlated with prosperity and daughter aversion. The child sex ratio (CSR) signals the onset of a scary scenario where women could vanish and society would have just one gender. This alarming trend has its roots in the Indian aversion to daughters and preference for sons, a notion that has strong economic and cultural roots. A son is viewed as an economic asset whereas a daughter is insensitively perceived as a drain on the family’s resources. When this perception interconnects with the low status that society and culture traditionally accord women, then some sections of society conclude that modern technology, through pre-birth sex selection and female foeticide, offers the ‘perfect’ solution to reducing the female population.

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Page last modified: 16-04-2018 18:45:30 ZULU