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Do we need a caste-based census for India?

GS Paper 1:

Topics Covered: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

 

Context:

The Bihar chief minister wants the central government to reconsider its refusal to hold a caste-based census, as he feels such data can help his government design more focused policies for the really needy among OBCs.

However, the Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in Census.

 

How have caste details been collected so far?

  1. While SC/ST details are collected as part of the census, details of other castes are not collected by the enumerators. The main method is by self-declaration to the enumerator.
  2. So far, backward classes commissions in various States have been conducting their own counts to ascertain the population of backward castes.

 

What kind of caste data is published in the Census?

Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes. Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.

 

What is SECC 2011?

The Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 was a major exercise to obtain data about the socio-economic status of various communities.

  • It had two components: a survey of the rural and urban households and ranking of these households based on pre-set parameters, and a caste census.
  • However, only the details of the economic conditions of the people in rural and urban households were released. The caste data has not been released till now.
  • SECC 2011 was conducted by three separate authorities but under the overall coordination of Department of Rural Development in the Government of India.
    • Census in Rural Area has been conducted by the Department of Rural Development (DoRD).
    • Census in Urban areas is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA).
    • Caste Census is under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs: Registrar General of India (RGI) and Census Commissioner of India.

 

Difference between Census & SECC:

  • The Census provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
  • Since the Census falls under the Census Act of 1948, all data are considered confidential, whereas all the personal information given in the SECC is open for use by Government departments to grant and/or restrict benefits to households.

 

Pros of caste census:

The precise number of the population of each caste would help tailor the reservation policy to ensure equitable representation of all of them.

 

Concerns associated:

  • There is a possibility that it will lead to heartburn among some sections and spawn demands for larger or separate quotas.
  • It has been alleged that the mere act of labelling persons as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate the system.

 

Insta Curious:

Did you know that ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ included comprehensive data pertaining to population, industry, wealth and many other characteristics? What were the other contents of this? Reference

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a census?
  2. Statutory provisions in this regard.
  3. How is the census carried out?
  4. Highlights of the Census 2011.
  5. About the National Commission for Backward.

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for and significance of caste based census.

Sources: the Hindu.