The caste census is a breakdown of the Indian population in terms of numbers and percentages that includes all castes in addition to the scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST).
British officials conducted the final i.e. the last census in 1931. There are no statistics available for the other castes in India, despite the fact that we do know how many people are SC or ST. This practice was discontinued by the British in 1941, and the Indian Government didn’t followed suit.
Need For Caste Census:
There is a demand for a Caste Census from the current Government allies, 90 years after the first census in 1931. Our Prime Minister has been asked by an 11-member delegation to make the 2022 census mandatory. A caste-based census is not favored by the Indian government.
When Mr. Manmohan Singh served as prime minister in 2010, there was demand for such a census. 25% of the data were inaccurate, and the final data only included the total number of castes, not the population-wise breakdown that was necessary.
Those in favor of this plan feel that it will enable the government to concentrate more effectively on pro-poor programs, while a certain percentage of the population thinks that a Caste Census will widen the gap between the general population and the backward castes.
With the census, creating a reservation policy will be simpler. Currently you can only obtain information about the SC/ST population. A 52% estimate of the population is from the OBC.
Caste Census – Background:
After receiving the government of Manmohan Singh's consent, the Caste Census was carried out in 2011. This was the first paperless census that was completed with handheld technology. This census covered all states and the territories of the union. The Ministry of Rural Development opted to use this information for all government programs, including the National Food Security Act, MNREGA, and others.
The West Tripura District's Sankhola Village (Hazemara block) served as the site for the 29th June 2011 Caste Census launch.
The Constituent of The Socioeconomic And Caste Census:
The Caste Census had three parts, and each of these parts was administered by a different agency:
Rural Area Census:
The Department of Rural Development served as the conducting authority.
Urban area census:
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is responsible for conducting the.
The Ministry of Home Affairs conducts a census of castes with Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India as in charge and The Department of Rural Development was in charge of general coordination.
The Results of The Caste Census:
The Caste Census 2011 findings were released in July 2014. There were found to be 46, 73,034 castes and sub-castes altogether. There are still 1, 45, 77,195 errors that need to be fixed.
The following are some of the highlights of this census:
• Rural areas are home to a total of 17.97 crore households out of a total of 24.49 crore.
• In rural areas, 21.53% of families fall under the SC/ST categories.
• People who work in the military and paramilitary are not counted in this census.
To determine a detailed breakdown of the OBC categories in India, the Caste Census was carried out in 2011. Unfortunately, the findings weren't reliable.
Why Is The Government Opposed To A Caste Census?
Up until this point: The Union government denied conducting a Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on September 23. The affidavit claimed that a caste census, with the exception of those traditionally conducted for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, was impossible and "administratively difficult and cumbersome." The affidavit was submitted in response to a writ case filed by the Maharashtra government asking the Union government to give instructions on how to gather information during the 2021 census on the Backward Class of Citizens (BCC) of rural India.
Additionally, the appeal demanded that the Center government should disclose the raw caste information on OBCs that was gathered during SECC-2011. Numerous political groups have pushed the Centre to change its mind, including the Bharatiya Janata Party's ally in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United), led by Nitish Kumar.
What Does The Centre's Affidavit Actually Say?
According to the writ petition, the government's affidavit addresses three distinct parts of the caste census problem. It first clarifies the reasons it is unable to make the caste information gathered by the SECC-2011 public. Then it claims that because it is a "policy decision" not to conduct a caste census, the judiciary cannot order the government to do so and that the judiciary cannot affect government policy. Finally, it explains why conducting a caste census is not realistic nor administratively possible.
What Is The Current State of The Information Gathered By The Secc-2011?
The government admits in its affidavit that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has had the 130 crore Indians' SECC-2011 caste data for five years. The decision to assemble an expert committee led by Arvind Panagariya, who was the NITI Aayog's vice chairman at the time, was made as a result of faults in the data. The committee, however, never met because the other committee members were not identified, and as a result, nothing was done with the raw data to compile it into publishable findings.
Why Won't The Government Release Unfiltered Data?
The primary cause of the data's shortcomings is the absence of a caste registry prior to the 2011 caste census. Enumerators made blunders as a result, spelling the same caste dozens of various ways. The number of caste classifications exploded since there was no reliable way to group or separate castes that were the same or similar but had different spellings. According to government data, there are just 494 SC, ST, and OBC categories currently in Maharashtra, for example.
But 4, 28,677 castes were identified in the 2011 caste census. While there were 10.3 crore people living in the state, 1.17 crore (more than 11%) were identified as being "no caste." Additionally, less than 100 people made up 99% of the population of the castes counted. At the national level, the SECC-2011 revealed the presence of 46 lakh distinct castes, compared to the total number of castes according to the most recent caste census in 1931 of 4,147.
The government claims that the census is faulty and the entire data set is flawed, making it useless for making reservations or setting policy because the overall number cannot be "exponentially high to this level." For these reasons, it has refused to provide even the SECC-2011's raw caste data.
Why Won't Castes Be Included In The General 2021 Census?
The government claims that gathering caste information during the 2021 census, which was delayed to the following year due to COVID-19, is impossible and that doing so could jeopardize the census exercise itself. The government has provided numerous administrative, operational, and logistical justifications for this claim. It starts out by highlighting how distinct caste classifications exist according to various lists. While there were 2,479 OBC castes on the Central list, there were 3,150 OBC castes on the combined lists of all the States and Union Territories. A question about caste would "return thousands of castes as the people use their clan/gotra, sub-caste, and caste names interchangeably," if one were to be included.
The affidavit claims that because enumerators are unpaid part-timers with only 6-7 days of training and are "not an investigator or verifier," it would be challenging to properly tabulate and categorize caste returns. Secondly, three to four years before the census, planning begins. The census's questionnaires have already been developed and put to the test in the field. Therefore, it is not possible to include any more caste-related questions at this time. Third, unlike in the case of the SCs and STs, the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, India, is not required by the Constitution to release the census data for the OBCs and BCCs.
Finally, it has referenced a 2014 Supreme Court decision that invalidated two Madras High Court decisions mandating the conduct of a caste census by the Center. According to this [Supreme Court] ruling, the government decides what data to collect in a census based on policy, and while the court may find a particular policy unacceptable, it was "legally unlawful" for the court to tell the government what policy it should follow.
What Justifications Are Put Out By Those Calling For A Caste Census?
The requirement for caste-specific statistics is cited by political parties arguing in favor of the caste census as justification for the expansion of reservations to distinct communities. On the other side, a significant body of academic research by sociologists, political scientists, and historians rejects the welfare defense and claims that India made the crucial error of omitting a caste census in its fight against caste.
These academics contend that official caste blindness in a casteist society leads to a denial of the network of benefits based on caste that continue to favor those at the top of the caste system. The upper castes, the SCs or the OBCs, are said to appear "casteless," despite the fact that the word "caste" itself has come to be linked with the "lower castes," the OBCs or SCs. They contend that in order to completely eradicate caste, caste-derived privileges must also be eliminated. A caste census aims to do this by mapping castes and the perks and disadvantages associated with each one's socioeconomic standing.
Are All Castes Counted In A Caste Census, Or Just The OBCS?
All castes, not simply those belonging to the OBC, were counted in the 2011 caste census. They want the caste census to incorporate the upper castes as well, even though the demands of the OBC-dominated political parties normally center on broadening the socioeconomic mapping of the census from the SCs and STs to include the OBC castes.
Three Chief Ministers, including those of Bihar's Nitish Kumar, Jharkhand's Hemant Soren, and Odisha's Naveen Patnaik, reiterated their support for the caste census in response to criticism of the government's attitude from opposition parties. Therefore, it is predicted that the opposition, particularly the regional caste-based parties, will continue to reiterate their calls for a caste census, which in the circumstances of the election has become inextricably entwined with the issue of OBC entitlements.
The government argues in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that gathering caste data during the 2021 census is impractical and that doing so could jeopardize the census procedure itself by citing a number of administrative, operational, and logistical concerns.