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Caste census of Backward Classes

  Oct 12, 2021

Caste census of Backward Classes

Q What is context ?

A The government has made it clear in the Supreme Court that a caste census of the Backward Classes is “administratively difficult and cumbersome”.

Q What is Socio-Economic and Caste Census ?

  • The SECC 2011 was conducted for the 2011 Census of India.
  • Then government approved the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 to be carried out after discussion in both houses of Parliament in 2010.
  • The SECC 2011 was conducted in all states and union territories of India and the first findings were revealed in July 2015.
  • SECC 2011 is also the first paperless census in India conducted on hand-held electronic devices by the government in 640 districts.
  • SECC 2011 was the first caste-based census since 1931 Census of India and it was launched on 29 June 2011 from the Sankhola village of Hazemara block in West Tripura district.

Q What are issues with SECC ?

Ans. Data NOT available

  • The SECC data is stored in the Office of the Registrar General and had not been made official.
  • It cannot be used as a source of information for population data in any official document.

Q What did the Centre say?

  • The Centre reasoned that even when the census of castes were taken in the pre-Independence period, the data suffered in respect of “completeness and accuracy”.
  • It said the caste data enumerated in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 is “unusable” for official purposes as they are “replete with technical flaws”.
  • The infirmities of the SECC 2011 data makes it unusable for any official purposes and cannot be mentioned as a source of information for population data in any official document.
  • Besides, the Centre said, it was too late now to enumerate caste into the Census 2021.

Q Why not OBCs?

  • Unlike the constitutional mandate for collection of census data on SCs and STs, there is no obligation to provide the census figures of OBCs.
  • The census data on SCs and STs are used for delimitation of electoral constituencies as well as for reservation of seats, as mandated under the Constitution.
  • The centre was replying to a writ petition filed by the State of Maharashtra to gather Backward Classes’ caste data in the State while conducting Census 2021.
  • The Centre clarified that exclusion of information regarding any other caste  other than SCs and STs  from the purview of the census is a “conscious policy decision”.
  • The government said caste-wise enumeration in the Census was given up as a matter of policy from 1951.
  • It said there was a policy of “official discouragement of caste”.

Q What is the plea about?

  • To Maharashtra’s plea to reveal the SECC 2011 “raw caste data” of Other Backward Classes (OBC), the Centre said the 2011 Census was not an “OBC survey”.
  • It was, on the other hand, a comprehensive exercise to enumerate the caste status of all households in the country in order to use their socio-economic data to identify poor households.

Q Why is the Centre reluctant?

  • The Centre explained that a population census was not the “ideal instrument” for the collection of details on caste.
  • There is a “grave danger” that the “basic integrity” of census data would be compromised.
  • Even the fundamental population count may get “distorted”.