An index for inclusion

  • Multidimensional Social Inclusion Index provides an illuminating picture of inclusion’s non-linear nature
- Deepak Thapa
An index for inclusion

Dec 3, 2014-

In my last column, I referred to a report brought out by a Kathmandu-based organisation on the problems of citizenship in Nepal. Only later did I realise that I happened upon the report perchance, and not because it had been publicised widely for the important findings it contained.

That is often the case with the whole lot of research-based publications that come out with unending regularity from the government, donor organisations, research institutions, educational establishments, NGOs and INGOs, and an assortment of private institutions, foreign and local. An event is sometimes held and a few individuals alerted about the new book, policy paper, or report, and there the matter generally rests, until picked up here and there for citation, usually through a Google search provided the document has been ‘pdf-ed’ for universal access.

Granted, that is how the scholarly world functions and it is only the rare paper or book that has any impact beyond the tiny circle of similarly-interested. Granted also that there is a lot of garbage-in, garbage-out happening, particularly in what is referred to derisively as the ‘NGO report’. But there is a lot of good stuff out there, both by NGOs and others, and we as a nation are sometimes the poorer for not engaging with all that research.

The Inclusion Index

I would like to take the example of the Nepal Multidimensional Social Inclusion Index, published by Tribhuvan University’s Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology as part of a larger research project supported by the now-defunct Social Inclusion Research Fund. The study, which was published some months ago, was not by any fly-by-night I/NGO whose findings could be easily dismissed. It was the result of a unique collaboration among a host of academic luminaries under the aegis of a respectable university department. There is no doubt that the book will be heavily cited in the years to come, but it beats the mind that apart from two or three newspaper articles that referred to it (although there may have been more), it has not made much of a mark on the public mind. It is all the more striking that despite the national fixation on the exclusion-inclusion dualism since the early 2000s, there has hardly been any follow-up discussion around the significance of the Inclusion Index.

It is no easy task giving numerical values to a concept such as inclusion. Following previous attempts at measuring deprivation in various forms, such as Human Development Index or Gender Empowerment Index used by UNDP and the Multi-dimensional Exclusion Index developed by Lynn Bennett and Dilip Parajuli, the Multidimensional Social Inclusion Index attempts to encompass all aspects of life in its social, economic, and political manifestations. Hence, the Index itself is a composite derived from six other indices: social, economic, political, cultural, gender, and social cohesion.

Calculating inclusion

The social dimension index was calculated using health and education indicators such as health service affordability, rate of child survival, use of modern toilets, adult literacy, and completion of basic schooling. The top five groups in this index were Thakali, Newar, Marwari, Bahun, and Kayastha (along with Gurung at Number 6), with the bottom five being Dom, Musahar, Bing/Binda, Chidimar, and Nuniya, all Madhesi Dalit or caste groups.

The economic dimension index used size of landholding, scale of non-agricultural employment, food expenditure, food sufficiency, condition of house, access to electricity, among others, to calculate the level of inclusion. The five group in the top tier were Thakali, Marwari, Kayastha, Tarai Brahman, and Rajput (with Newar at the sixth position) while the bottom five consisted of Musahar, Dusadh/Paswan, Pattharkatta/Kuswadiya, Chamar/Harijan/Ram, and Raji (the first four being Madhesi Dalits and one Tarai Janajati, and Raji being a hill Janajati group).

The political dimension index looked at representation in the central committees of political parties, in councils of ministers, and in the bureaucracy, and also knowledge of current political affairs. Kayastha, Rajput, Tarai Brahman, Thakali, and Bahun took the top five spots with the rear brought up by Raute, Pattharkatta/Kuswadiya, Chepang, Bantar, and Nurang (respectively, hill Janajati, Tarai Janajati, hill Janajati, Madhesi Dalit, and Madhesi caste).

Access to education in the mother tongue and language, religious freedom, and traditional governance were considered in the cultural dimension index, leading to the interesting finding of the top five comprising of Thakali, Damai/Dholi, Sanyasi, Chhetri, and Badi (with Sarki in sixth place) and the bottom five of five hill Janajati groups—Chepang, Jirel, Lepcha, Raute, and Dura.

The gender dimension index made use of indicators such as violence against women, freedom in decision to marry, equality in schooling opportunities, land ownership, economic autonomy, women in professional capacities, and representation in government service. The top five were the hill groups—Walung, Badi, Lepcha, Yakkha, and Dura while the bottom five were the Madhesi caste and Dalit groups—Khatwe, Tatma, Kamar, Kewat, and Bing/Binda.

The social cohesion index looked at obstacles to entry into private homes and places of religion, permission to participate in community life, and social respect accorded to individual identities. Hyolmo, Kayastha, Chepang, Bahun, and Hayu were at the top while the bottom five were, unsurprisingly, all Dalits, from the hills as well as the Tarai—Sarki, Dom, Musahar, Kami, and Halkhor.

Class or identity

It is clear from the above discussion that inclusion considered in its various dimensions does not follow a linear path, except for the very unfortunate repeated occurrence of Dalit groups at the bottom of the pile. The gender dimension index is interesting in that not a single caste group, either from the hills or the Tarai, made it to the top 10 although Sikhs did. What is perhaps most noteworthy of the Inclusion Index results is the fact that the Chhetri do not figure among the top 10 in any of the above indices, apart from the cultural, and similar is the case with the Thakuri, although they feature among the top five in the political dimension as well.

Tackling these discrepancies in the different spheres that prevent people from realising their full potential does indeed appear to be a complex task. But, it should also make it easier to move away from the debate about whether exclusion is a function of class or identity, for the answer seems to go both ways. And, having an index such as this, which would best be updated periodically perhaps after every census, opens the way for targeted programmes for different groups since marginalisation can manifest itself in multiple ways.

No surprises here

There are, however, few surprises in the overall Multidimensional Social Inclusion Index. Of the 97 population groups considered for analysis (with lack of adequate data being the reason that all the 125 groups enumerated in the 2011 census were not considered), the following are the results (with the share of population of the group given within parentheses for a sense of scale of either inclusion or exclusion). The top 10 in descending order—Kayastha (0.17); Bahun (12.91); Thakali (0.05); Thakuri (1.61); Newar (4.99); Rajput 0.16; Tarai Brahman (0.51); Chhetri (16.61); Sanyasi (0.86); and Marwari (0.19).

And, the bottom 10 happens to consist mostly of Madhesi Dalits, unless otherwise specified, in ascending order starting at the very bottom—Musahar (0.89); Dom (0.05); Khatwe (0.38); Pattharkatta/Kuswadiya (0.01) (Tarai Janajati); Tatma (0.40); Dusadh/Paswan/Pasi (0.79); Halkhor (0.02); Chamar/Harijan/Ram (1.27); Bing/Binda (0.28) (Madhesi caste); and Kami (4.75) (hill Dalit).

Published: 04-12-2014 09:02

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