[check tables 5 and 6 in the paper 'India's Common People: Who Are They, How Many Are They and How Do They Live?' by Arjun Sengupta, KP Kannan and G.Raveendran in the April 15 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly. thanks, prof.swarup].
yes, they actually call it a 'creamy layer'.
there's a catch: all individuals who spend more than rs.2779 a month (as indicated by the household expenditure survey conducted by the nsso, in 2004-05) fall in the high income category, according to the paper. if a family of five, say, spends around rs.14,000 a month on its household needs, should we also assume that its annual gross income is more than rs.2.5 lakhs? (check criteria specified against category VI, which also applies to a lot of other categories of the creamy layer). and if more than one person in the family works, and each of them earns, individually, less than 2.5 lakhs a year, but together bring home more than that, i don't think the creamy layer criteria would apply. so, how many of those families would actually fall in the creamy layer category?
and lastly, the researchers seem to have relied largely on the nsso for population numbers relating to each social category- obcs, muslims, sc/st, and others. how reliable are they?
The methodology followed by the NSSO was something like this: The NSSO volunteer would ask the head of the family whether he belonged to the backward class. If the respondent said yes, then he would record the whole family as the backward class. If he said no, then it would not be recorded. In 1999, many members of backward classes did not know that they belonged to backward classes. Secondly, the NSSO has no knowledge of backward classes. The NSSO has experience in matters like unemployment. But it does not have experience in social dimension, except in the case of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. So it came up with a figure of 36 per cent. Five years later, the same NSSO has found them to be 42 per cent.p.s.krishnan, who had worked with the mandal commission, had remarked elsewhere too, in a few of his articles, that the nsso figure would finally reach 52%. and if you check closely (tables 9 & 11, among others), you'll wonder what are so many poorly educated, 'poor and vulnerable' people doing in the coyly titled 'others' category? especially when the indian state seems to guarantee a middle or high income future for 4 out of every 5 college graduates among the upper castes (the major group in the category)? yes, those are backward classes dragged into neighbourhoods they don't belong to. like at the time of elections, when they're herded into trucks to make up the numbers at rallies addressed by people they'd never meet again. now, in this paper, their presence is necessary for making the 'others' seem like common people too.
arjun sengupta's common people remind me of r.k.laxman's common man: in one cartoon, i remember, he looks greatly disappointed by a hike in air fares.