Impact of Pandemic on Vulnerable Section: SC, ST and OBC

Prelims level : Governance Mains level : GS-II Governance - Health & Education, Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted for the Vulnerable Sections
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Why in News?

  • SC/ST and OBC have been impacted disproportionately by the pandemic as various social indicators shows vulnerabilities of this communities.

Impact of pandemic on education:

  • On the one hand, with policies mandating the promotion of students, promotion rates at the secondary school level rose significantly and repetition rates nosedived during the pandemic years (2020-21 and 2021-22).
  • On the other, the inability to attend physical school and the lack of access to digital education caused a massive drop in learning levels after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Impact on education of SC, ST and OBC:

  • Increasing promotion rate: Notably, the promotion rate among Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students increased sharply after the outbreak. The promotion rate among Other Backward Classes (OBC) students continued to rise unabated.
  • Repetition rate declining: The repetition rates too drastically came down in the pandemic years with some 1% students repeating their class across all communities. Notably, the gap in the repetition rate between SC/ST students and general category students declined greatly after the outbreak.
  • Declining learning outcomes: While the promotion rate surged and the repetition rate declined, the marks scored by school students in National Achievement Survey (NAS) exams dropped significantly across classes and in most subjects.
  • Disproportionate impact: There is a disproportionately greater impact on SC and ST students as their learning outcomes reduced the most while their promotion rates saw the highest degree of rise among all the communities.

Impact on livelihood of vulnerable sections of the society

  • High job loss probability: The researchers found that compared to workers from upper castes, the probability of job loss was three times higher for those who are SC and two times higher for OBC workers.
  • Comparatively higher unemployment: In December 2019, 39% of upper caste workers were employed and by April 2020, the percentage had dropped to 32%. The fall was more pronounced for SC workers, 44% of whom were employed in December 2019, but only 24% were employed in April 2020. For OBCs and STs the fall was from 40% to 26% and 48% to 33%, respectively.
  • Poor education poor Opportunities: According to researchers, the upper castes are endowed with higher human capital, i.e. educational achievement, and are in jobs less vulnerable to pandemic disruption. What is surprising is that the impact on scheduled caste is three times worse. Not only has the pandemic exposed the pre-existing inequities but has amplified them.

How women are affected due to the pandemic?

  • Effect on mental health: Women in low-caste women may be at a greater risk for worse mental health outcomes and higher perceived loneliness relative to high-caste women.
  • Social exclusion and job losses: Prior research has found that low-caste women have been found to experience greater social exclusion greater job loss and greater barriers to healthcare and thus may experience both worse mental health and higher loneliness.
  • Rising loneliness: Women in SC/ST and OBC groups will experience worse mental health, and higher perceived loneliness relative to women in the general caste group. We expect that this difference will be robust even when accounting for sociodemographic factors.
  • Victims of systemic disadvantage: Women in general and women of weaker sections in particular, are victims of multiple systemic disadvantages, which exacerbated during the pandemic. Rural women, especially the female wage workers, endured greater socio-economic difficulties as their livelihood opportunities were abruptly halted by the lockdown.
  • Visible gendered impact of pandemic: There is nothing natural in the gendered impact of pandemic, but the social norms and behaviour put them at greater risks due to unequal gender preference that is inbuilt in the social structure and culture.


  • Pandemic have disproportionately affected the Indian society. Whether it is access to healthcare or vaccination SC, ST and OBC had a disadvantage. Lot of studies and research have assessed the caste specific impact of coronavirus and projected the dismal state of vulnerable groups. Government must look all these data while drafting the future policies for vulnerable communities.
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