Caste-based Census

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September 25, 2021

What is the issue?

There have been mounting demands on caste based census coming from different quarters of the country.

What is caste census?

  • Caste census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording the caste-wise tabulation of India’s population

What is the need for such a demand?

  • To justify the preservation of caste-based affirmative action programmes for better planning and targeting of welfare schemes
  • To provide quantifiable data to support the existing levels of reservation as required by Supreme court for groups like OBC
  • To favour the political parties if particular groups are established as dominant in specific geographies
  • To debate on issues like disproportionate benefits from reservation by particular groups within each category
  • To address the inequities in the society

What is the government’s stand?

  • The Union of India after Independence decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste wise population other than SCs and STs.
  • The government cites that a census of the backward castes is administratively difficult and cumbersome
  • Having caste as a part of census is so complex that it may jeopardise the decennial census itself.
  • Very high number of castes and sub-castes with phonetic variations and similarities adds to the burden
  • Even the Census of 1931 that included caste was not complete and accurate
  • The caste census might evoke varying responses from different groups
  • Government argues that caste-based census is against the idea of a casteless society

What are the gaps in the existing caste data?

  • There is a Central list of OBCs and State-specific list of OBCs.
  • Some States do not have a list of OBCs.
  • Some States have a list of OBCs and a sub-set called Most Backward Classes.
  • There are certain open-ended categories in the lists such as orphans and destitute children.
  • Names of some castes are found in both the list of Scheduled Castes and list of OBCs.
  • Scheduled Castes converted to Christianity or Islam are also treated differently in different States.
  • The status of a migrant from one State to another and the status of children of inter-caste marriages, in terms of caste classification, are also contentious.

How can the differences be accommodated?

  • A preliminary socio-anthropological study can be done at the State and district levels to establish all sects and sub-castes present in the population
  • These can be tabulated under caste names that have wider recognition based on synonymity and equivalence
  • Thereafter, it may be possible to do a field enumeration that can mark any group under castes found in the available OBC/BC lists.


Source: The Hindu

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