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

The Caste Census Debate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Census of India

Mains level : Need for and issues with Caste Census

The Ministry of Home Affairs has informed that it was decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in Census.

What kind of caste data is published in the Census?

  • Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes.
  • Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.
  • However, in 1941, caste-based data was collected but not published.

Why is there a demand for caste census?

  • In the absence of such a census, there is no proper estimate for the population of OBCs, various groups within the OBCs, and others.
  • The Mandal Commission estimated the OBC population at 52%, some other estimates have been based on National Sample Survey data.
  • Some political parties make their own estimates in states and Lok Sabha and Assembly seats during elections.

How often has the demand for a caste census been made?

  • It comes up before almost every Census, as records of debates and questions raised in Parliament show.
  • The demand usually come from among those belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBC) and other deprived sections, while sections from the upper castes oppose the idea.
  • On April 1, the constitutional body National Commission for Backward Classes urged the government to collect data on the population of OBCs “as part of Census of India 2021 exercise”.

Need for caste census

  • There is a central list of OBCs and a State-specific list of OBCs.
  • Some states do not have a list of OBCs; some States have a list of OBCs and a sub-set called Most Backward Classes.
  • There are certain open-ended categories in the lists such as orphans and destitute children.
  • Names of some castes are found in both the list of Scheduled Castes and the list of OBCs.
  • Scheduled Castes converted to Christianity or Islam are also treated differently in different States.
  • The status of a migrant from one State to another and the status of children of inter-caste marriage, in terms of caste classification, are also vexed questions.”

Back2Basics: Census of India

  • The decennial Census of India has been conducted 15 times, as of 2011.
  • While it has been undertaken every 10 years, beginning in 1872 under British Viceroy Lord Mayo, the first complete census was taken in 1881.
  • Post-1949, it has been conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  • All the censuses since 1951 were conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act.
  • The last census was held in 2011, whilst the next was scheduled to be held in 2021.
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