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The caste census debate

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  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    27th Jul, 2021


Bihar became the third state to pass a resolution demanding that the 2021 Census exercise be based on caste. Earlier, Odisha and the Maharashtra governments had adopted similar resolutions urging the government to determine the population of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the country. 

About the caste data published in the Census

  • Every Census in India, from 1951 to 2011, has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes.
  • Before this, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.
  • A population census was first conducted by the British colonial state in 1872.

Need of caste based data

  • A variety of ambiguous data are available regarding the caste census due to the absence of such census.
  • The Kalelkar Commissionalso recommended that for the social welfare and social relief of the castes, classes, or groups, full information about these groups should be obtained and tabulated. 
  • The Mandal Commission also gave information about the caste groups and recommended reservations for different categories.

Demands for the caste census

  • The demand usually comes from among those belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBC) and other deprived sections, while sections from the upper castes oppose the idea.
  • After the demands for the caste-based census, the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) was released in 2011.

Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC)

  • The SECC was conducted by-
    • Ministry of Rural Development in rural areas
    • Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation in urban areas.
  • The SECC data excluding caste data was published by the two ministries in 2016.
  • The SECC was conducted independently of the Population Census that is mandated by the Census Act of 1948.
  • Information related to the following parameters will be collected at the level of the individual and household :
    • Occupation, Education, Disability, Religion, Name of Caste/Tribe, SC/ST Status, Income and Employment characteristics, Main source of income, Possession of Assets, Consumer Durables and Non-Durables, Housing/Dwelling Type, Land Ownership
  • The socio-economic data has become the basis for the determination of beneficiaries of government schemes for the disbursement of welfare initiatives.