Caste Census and Survey
- October 4, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Caste Census and Survey
The Bihar government has released the results of its recently concluded survey of castes in the state, which reveals that Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) constitute more than 63% of the population of Bihar.
Census vs Survey
- Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, analysing and disseminating demographic, economic and social data of all persons in a country at a specific period of time. Census in India is conducted at regular intervals of 10 years.
- Caste Survey- Since only the Union govt has the power to conduct census, several state governments like Bihar and Odisha have been conducting socio economic caste surveys to ascertain the social and economic status of different castes for better policy making.
History of Caste 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.
- Socio Economic caste census for OBCs was conducted for the first time in Independent India in 2011. However the findings were never made public. The last published data for all castes was done in the 1931 census.
Significance of Caste Census
- A caste census, which will generate exhaustive data will allow policymakers to develop better policies, implementation strategies, and will also enable a more rational debate on sensitive issues.
- Unequal distribution of wealth, resources and education has meant an acute shortage of purchasing power among the majority of Indians.Hence, the caste census helps to address these issues in a democratic, scientific and objective manner.
- Our Constitution too favours conducting a caste census. Article 340 mandates the appointment of a commission to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes.
- To burst the myths which actually deprive a large number of people, particularly on the margins. For instance, In Karnataka, there were claims that among the castes, the Lingayats are the most numerous.
- In reducing inclusion and exclusion errors with accurate data of castes, most backward castes can be identified.
Challenges with Caste Census
- The data can be used by the political parties for their narrow political gains. This will encourage caste based mobilisations in the country.
- There have been concerns that counting caste may help solidify or harden identities. Due to these repercussions, nearly a decade after the SECC, a sizable amount of its data remains unreleased or released only in parts.
- Caste census may increase demand for larger or separate quotas. For instance, Patels, Gujjars, Jats and other castes are demanding reservations. The caste census might induce more such demands in future.
- Enumerating the caste numbers in India is a complex task as the same caste is spelt in different ways in different states.
- Disclosure of caste identities could lead to individuals being stigmatized or discriminated against based on preconceived notions associated with certain castes.
- Need for sub categorisation of Backward classes-This will provide the benefit to intended beneficiaries.Since the government has already appointed Justice G Rohini Panel on Sub-categorisation of OBCs. The Panel has to fast pace the sub-classification process.
- Use technologies to assess the caste date on SECC– The government can use technologies like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to assess the SECC data and condense them into meaningful categories.
Thus, a caste census may not sit well with the goal of a casteless society, but it may serve as a means of addressing inequities in society. However the census must aim at gradual elimination of castes by uplifiting the socio-economically marginalised sections of the society.