Boro, Rupan (2017). 'A Study of Horizontal Education Inequality in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts(BTAD) of Assam' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Inequality in access to education and gainful employment through job opportunities adversely impact expansion of valuable capabilities. In a stratified society, if the privileged groups control political processes that run the school system and funding structure, favouring promotion of only members of the in-group, it gives rise to a deeply unequal society. Such inequality between groups is defined as horizontal inequality (HI) as opposed to vertical inequality (VI), which is inequality between individuals irrespective of their social identity (Stewart, 2000). Empirical studies have shown that horizontal education inequalities (HEIs) can play significant role in furthering ethnic stratification and unrest in society. The argument is that unequal provision of education opportunities leave children of subordinate groups feeling undermined and humiliated, or convinced that the majority groups consider them inferior. They are forced to leave schooling with a deep sense of distrust of state funded institutions. Further low levels and poor quality of education received by the children of subordinate groups make them more vulnerable in violent situations (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000).


This paper seeks to inquire if there are significant HEIs in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) in the state of Assam, India. BTAD and the districts surrounding BTAD in western Assam are some of the most conflict prone regions of Assam. There have been intense “group-based conflicts” since the 1990s, besides the secessionist Bodoland movement launched by the indigenous Bodo population (predominant group of ST population) since the 1960s. The group based conflicts since the 1990s, and its recurrence over the past few years, present a case of intense “ethno-linguistic fractionalization” (Motiram and Sarma, 2014). For example, the conflict between the Bodo and Muslim groups has been very intense in the recent decades, as well as a more recurrent one. In order to measure HEIs the framework developed by Mancini, Stewart and Brown (2010) has been used. The NSSO 61st (2004-05) and 66th (2009-10) Employment Unemployment round unit level data and household level cross section data collected from conflict affected and not conflict affected villages of BTAD have been used to calculate the population weighted group Gini coefficient (GGini) based on select indicators of educational attainments. They are literacy rate, average year of schooling and status of current attendance. The NSSO socio-religious classification has been followed to group the population: Muslims, STs, SCs, OBC and General. My estimates show evidence of significant HEIs in all the district categories, and their levels were the highest in BTAD. HEIs in the conflict affected village were found to be not only relatively higher than those of the not conflict affected village but also they were statistically significant in the former while insignificant in the latter. Among all socio-religious groups, the educational attainments of the Muslim and STs were found to be significantly lower than the rest. This paper in no way attempts to conclusively prove a causal relationship between HEIs and violent conflicts. It is only reflective of any policy relevance that such measurements can have, given the recurrence of violent conflicts in this region.


Keywords: Horizontal education inequality, BTAD, capabilities, measurement, group Gini 

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