Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Do we need to count caste in census?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need for and issues with Caste Census

  • A continuous and unabated push towards including caste in the forthcoming census enumeration has finally ended with the Union government position into the Supreme Court.
  • The Centre had decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise population other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Must read:

Complex count: On caste census

Existing issue: Delay in the Census itself

  • That a decadal exercise has faced discontinuation with the pandemic is damaging enough, which will require reconstruction for the year 2021.
  • We are also not sure how the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, who could not conduct the census on time, will be able to add any other additional questions including enumeration of caste.
  • The Election Commission did its job in conducting elections during Covid-19 but not the Census Commissioner.

Why caste cannot be included at this hour?

  • In the midst of an uncertain environment, conducting a census is unavoidable since it is not an overnight exercise.
  • Imposing the collection of caste information may dilute the exercise at the very least and send wrong signals regarding its purpose.

Why we should let the Census go its way?

There need to be sincere efforts towards putting systems in place in context to the Census.

(a) Population Enumeration

  • There is a need conduct the population enumeration at the earliest and providing an update of India’s population dynamics in comparable terms to be read against the past.
  • The absence of population enumeration and its discontinuation can have implications for gauging the evolving changes as well as its prospects.

(b) Age-sex composition

  • Census offer some tentative clues towards the age-sex composition of the population under varying sets of assumptions.
  • Besides, it offers more detailed information — on households, assets, marital status, education, migration etc since the last census of 2011.
  • Moreover it would provide accurate data about India’s large chunk of population which is ageing.

(c) Impact of the Pandemic

  • A decade of rapid fertility declines and rising mobility needs serious assessment in terms of its impact on the population dynamics.
  • In the absence of any clue regarding population, together with a pandemic with its devastating course of fatalities, the need for a population enumeration is all the more urgent.
  • Estimated and projected numbers can serve as approximations to the extent of the assumptions being realistic and accurate.

(d) Planning for the next FYP

  • A 14th five-year plan being in the offing makes it a crucial year to have the real numbers towards making the planning exercise effective.
  • Preparing our human capital of quality and adaptability to the emerging labour market is the need of the hour, and at the same time.

Impediments created by including Caste

An attribute like caste being obtained in a census exercise makes matters complex on multiple grounds such as:

  • Caste within Caste: Given the differences in caste hierarchies across various regions of the country, a comparative reading along with generating a common hierarchy may be a challenge.
  • Caste over occupation linked predicaments: Further, caste linked deprivation or adversity may not be as common as occupation linked predicaments, which become easier to compare across states/regions.
  • Anonymity and bias: An intimate and personalised attribute like caste may have its differential exposition between urban and rural residents. Urban residents’ need for anonymity can always bias the reporting on caste.
  • Identity crisis: Above all, recognition and adherence to caste identity is to a large extent shaped by progressive ideals, cosmopolitanism and education, which has its own regional divide in the country between the north and the south.

Other concerns

  • Accuracy of reporting: With such complexities associated with divulging caste identity, one cannot be sure of its accuracy in reporting on the one hand and the possible bias linked to other attributes on the other.
  • Existing status-quo: The attributes obtained in the census like age, sex, residence, occupation and religion in themselves have not received adequate exploration to add to the understanding of differential population dynamics.
  • Non-intervention: Considering caste with its wide-ranging count as another fresh attribute may not be of worth as neither will it offer sensible outcome differences nor facilitate identification for intervention.

Way forward

  • The census enumeration should be a priority and the proposed digital enumeration should become more effective in generating required data of quality and accuracy.
  • The upcoming census is certain to reveal interesting realities of population dynamics that go beyond the narrow and regressive outlook of the caste count to help gauge the transformation in human capital.


  • In fact, attributes like caste and religion that are not modifiable should be less important compared to modifiable attributes like education, occupation and other endowment linked attributes.
  • Hence, the moral lies in rising above ascribed attributes in defining outcomes to that of achieved ones.
  • Such an approach has a dual advantage of gauging distribution across attributes as well as their response to outcomes.


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