Almost everyone seems to own a house in India. 98 per cent of
respondents in the Consumer Pyramids survey stated that they owned a
house. This is not about a title but about having a roof on your head
that you call your own, or, often of the extended family you belong
to. It includes ancestral property that has not been bequeathed legally
to anyone in the family in particular. It also includes a house in the
hometown or village of migrant workers living in a rented accommodation
in a different town.
Evidently, this is a liberal definition of ownership of
house. But, it reflects a reality in India. A migrant living in a chummary
in Bangalore calls the ancestral home in Tumkur as his. He may not have a
title to the Tumkur home but, he does believe that he has a claim on the
house. Ditto for the Bihari migrant in Kolkata or the Malayali in Delhi,
and so on.
In reality, everyone does not own a house - it is families
and not individuals who own a house. This is what the Consumer Pyramids
survey tells us - that 98 percent of the families believe that they do
have a claim on a house in the sense of ownership.
One limitation of this finding is that Consumer Pyramids does
not include the homeless in its survey. According to Census 2011, 0.2
percent of total households in India were homeless. These were nomads,
very poor households who do not live in a walled structure that can be
called a house. The survey also does not include people living in hostels,
religious structures or army cantonments.
Roti, Kapda aur Makan the 1974 Manoj Kumar biopic made
famous the three essentials of basic living. One generation since then,
the definition has been extended to television. A house with a TV seems
to be the new essential. 81 per cent of households own a TV. Ownership
of television, in contrast to ownership of house(which is debatable and
not unambiguous), is not a conflicted right claimed by the households.
Television today has become more of a necessity than a luxury. It is
the most effective mode of entertainment and communication.
The house gives a sense of security and the television provides
a sense of connectivity to the outside world. A house with a TV is the
new Room with a View, a much larger view.
It is not surprising then, that ownership of a television is
much more prevalent than any other asset (except house). Penetration of
two-wheeler ownership is a distant third at 39 per cent.