From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Socio-economic Caste Census, 2021
Mains level : Subcategorization within OBCs in states
The government has made it clear in the Supreme Court that a caste census of the Backward Classes is “administratively difficult and cumbersome”.
About 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.
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.
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.
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.
Reason: Official discouragement of Caste
- The center 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”.
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.
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”.