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Chorus grows for Caste-based Census

In the rup-up to the long overdue Census 2021, many leaders among the ruling government itself are making such demands now. Will the government give in?

Sabrangindia 24 Aug 2021

Caste base censusImage Courtesy:deccanherald.com

The demand for a caste-based census is growing in political circles, as leaders are making a bee line to meet with, first Home Minister Amit Shah and now the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

On August 23, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar led an all-party delegation from the state to meet the PM. The regional parties, which see an opportunity to mount pressure on the BJP, particularly ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, are reportedly planning to send another delegation to the PM with the same demand later this week, reported Indian Express.

The government, during Parliament has always skirted the issue and about the data collated in the socio-economic survey of 2011, it says that no decision has been made on whether or not to share this data. However, the government made its stand clear that it will not enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in the impending Census.

Even the National Commission for Backward Classes urged the government to collect data on the population of OBCs during the Census 2021.

The political view

In the run up to the UP state assembly election that will be held next year, the demand for caste-based census has gained momentum. More and more regional parties including the YSRCP, BJD, SP, NCP, BSP, PDP, National Conference, DMK, AIADMK, TRS, Left parties and TMC are lending support to this demand.

CPI (ML) MLA Mehboob Alam said, “I told the PM that there should be a census of people of all religions and castes. Muslims too have many castes. There are about one crore Surjapuri Muslims in the Seemanchal belt. Though the Bihar government puts them under OBC, the Centre does not acknowledge them.”

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 22% OBCs voted for the BJP while 42% voted for regional parties. But within a decade, the support base of the BJP among the OBC seems to have changed dramatically. During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 44% OBCs voted for the BJP while only 27% voted for the regional parties, reports IE.

Sanjay Kumar, Co-Director of Lokniti, a Research Programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, speculated that BJP’s reluctance of conducting a caste census stems from the census unravelling different castes amongst OBCs giving reasons for regional parties to mount pressure on the government to rearrange reservation quota and could also give a news lease of life to regional parties and give them a chance to dominate state Assembly elections.

The Centre’s reluctance to enumerate all the castes stems from precisely the apprehension that it will lead to an insistence on another Bill in order to bypass the legal ceiling and grant quotas proportional to the OBC population that might forever marginalise the influence of the savarnas, the core support base of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP, writes Radhika Ramaseshan for The Tribune.

The 2011 caste census raw data was handed over to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which formed an Expert Group under former NITI Aayog Vice-Chairperson Arvind Pangaria for classification and categorisation of data. However, it is unclear whether any report was submitted. Tracing the history of caste-based census takes us back to 1931 when the last enumeration of castes was released, any other caste based census carried out after that has been under wraps as the data has not been released to date. Even the Mandal Commission based its findings on the 1931 data and determined that the OBCs constituted 52% of the Indian population. Certainly, data is bound to have changed 90 years later and it could lead to a political stir-up and demands for change in reservations will rise.

There is rising pressure on the Karnataka government as well, to release the caste census data from 2015. The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka commissioned the “Socio-Economic and Education Survey”, in 2015 at a cost of around Rs. 150 crore.

“If the census is done,” a senior BJP leader who is a state minister told IE, “it could reveal the fact that socially backward communities along with SCs and STs constitute more than 80 per cent of the population. So the concept of quota could have to be rethought.”

The socio-economic view

Even though caste drives the socio-economic arena in the country, right from birth, education, access to welfare, jobs, livelihood opportunities, housing, customs, right up to death, the lack of accounting the data on such communities and categorising them as presentable data is surprising. Census data accounts for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, religions and linguistic profiles but profiling of the castes is non existent since 1931.

Certainly, the basic argument is that such data will enable better policies and implementation of such policies enabling access to those who are in need of welfare programmes. If the ultimate social aim is to do away with caste, it is important to first identify its existence by counting the population belonging to each of these castes. Although, the political aim of a caste census has never been the annihilation of caste but only appeasement and vote bank.

Rest assured that caste can never be eliminated as long as religion exists, but to bring these castes to parity and equity in a democratic and empirical manner is what we can hope to achieve.

The Justice Rohini Committee of 2017 was set up to look into sub-categorisation of the OBC communities but in the absence of data on castes, this further categorisation is a distant dream.

The 50% cap that was imposed by the Supreme Court, on reservations, is quite arbitrary given that no data to account for castes even exists.

Yogendra Yadav, the political scientist and politician, has argued that the “caste order” fears a caste census since it would expose the “social, educational and economic privileges of the upper-caste Hindus”. It is opined that the reluctance stems from the data indicating that the upper caste population is staggeringly low which would bolster a movement for changes in reservation as high posts in governance, judiciary are usually found to be held by upper castes.

The collection of data of castes, which is a prevailing truth of Indian society has caused such a stir up among party lines, that even members of the ruling government are pushing the demand. As discussed above, the Union government’s reluctance is evident and it fears the data will shake up the socio-political scene in the country. However, a stir-up is impending, considering we are still following numbers collected about a century ago and development policy calls for fresh enumeration to encourage parity and equity. But will the ruling government swallow this bitter pill?

Related:

SC/ST scholarship denied to students in Bihar for three years!
Central universities falling short of filling up posts reserved for SC-ST-OBC
Delhi Cantonment rape case: AIDWA demands action against police for alleged ‘silent complicity’
Vilas Sonawane: Tribute to a ‘Satyashodhak’ Marxist

Chorus grows for Caste-based Census

In the rup-up to the long overdue Census 2021, many leaders among the ruling government itself are making such demands now. Will the government give in?

Caste base censusImage Courtesy:deccanherald.com

The demand for a caste-based census is growing in political circles, as leaders are making a bee line to meet with, first Home Minister Amit Shah and now the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

On August 23, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar led an all-party delegation from the state to meet the PM. The regional parties, which see an opportunity to mount pressure on the BJP, particularly ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, are reportedly planning to send another delegation to the PM with the same demand later this week, reported Indian Express.

The government, during Parliament has always skirted the issue and about the data collated in the socio-economic survey of 2011, it says that no decision has been made on whether or not to share this data. However, the government made its stand clear that it will not enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in the impending Census.

Even the National Commission for Backward Classes urged the government to collect data on the population of OBCs during the Census 2021.

The political view

In the run up to the UP state assembly election that will be held next year, the demand for caste-based census has gained momentum. More and more regional parties including the YSRCP, BJD, SP, NCP, BSP, PDP, National Conference, DMK, AIADMK, TRS, Left parties and TMC are lending support to this demand.

CPI (ML) MLA Mehboob Alam said, “I told the PM that there should be a census of people of all religions and castes. Muslims too have many castes. There are about one crore Surjapuri Muslims in the Seemanchal belt. Though the Bihar government puts them under OBC, the Centre does not acknowledge them.”

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 22% OBCs voted for the BJP while 42% voted for regional parties. But within a decade, the support base of the BJP among the OBC seems to have changed dramatically. During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 44% OBCs voted for the BJP while only 27% voted for the regional parties, reports IE.

Sanjay Kumar, Co-Director of Lokniti, a Research Programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, speculated that BJP’s reluctance of conducting a caste census stems from the census unravelling different castes amongst OBCs giving reasons for regional parties to mount pressure on the government to rearrange reservation quota and could also give a news lease of life to regional parties and give them a chance to dominate state Assembly elections.

The Centre’s reluctance to enumerate all the castes stems from precisely the apprehension that it will lead to an insistence on another Bill in order to bypass the legal ceiling and grant quotas proportional to the OBC population that might forever marginalise the influence of the savarnas, the core support base of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP, writes Radhika Ramaseshan for The Tribune.

The 2011 caste census raw data was handed over to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which formed an Expert Group under former NITI Aayog Vice-Chairperson Arvind Pangaria for classification and categorisation of data. However, it is unclear whether any report was submitted. Tracing the history of caste-based census takes us back to 1931 when the last enumeration of castes was released, any other caste based census carried out after that has been under wraps as the data has not been released to date. Even the Mandal Commission based its findings on the 1931 data and determined that the OBCs constituted 52% of the Indian population. Certainly, data is bound to have changed 90 years later and it could lead to a political stir-up and demands for change in reservations will rise.

There is rising pressure on the Karnataka government as well, to release the caste census data from 2015. The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka commissioned the “Socio-Economic and Education Survey”, in 2015 at a cost of around Rs. 150 crore.

“If the census is done,” a senior BJP leader who is a state minister told IE, “it could reveal the fact that socially backward communities along with SCs and STs constitute more than 80 per cent of the population. So the concept of quota could have to be rethought.”

The socio-economic view

Even though caste drives the socio-economic arena in the country, right from birth, education, access to welfare, jobs, livelihood opportunities, housing, customs, right up to death, the lack of accounting the data on such communities and categorising them as presentable data is surprising. Census data accounts for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, religions and linguistic profiles but profiling of the castes is non existent since 1931.

Certainly, the basic argument is that such data will enable better policies and implementation of such policies enabling access to those who are in need of welfare programmes. If the ultimate social aim is to do away with caste, it is important to first identify its existence by counting the population belonging to each of these castes. Although, the political aim of a caste census has never been the annihilation of caste but only appeasement and vote bank.

Rest assured that caste can never be eliminated as long as religion exists, but to bring these castes to parity and equity in a democratic and empirical manner is what we can hope to achieve.

The Justice Rohini Committee of 2017 was set up to look into sub-categorisation of the OBC communities but in the absence of data on castes, this further categorisation is a distant dream.

The 50% cap that was imposed by the Supreme Court, on reservations, is quite arbitrary given that no data to account for castes even exists.

Yogendra Yadav, the political scientist and politician, has argued that the “caste order” fears a caste census since it would expose the “social, educational and economic privileges of the upper-caste Hindus”. It is opined that the reluctance stems from the data indicating that the upper caste population is staggeringly low which would bolster a movement for changes in reservation as high posts in governance, judiciary are usually found to be held by upper castes.

The collection of data of castes, which is a prevailing truth of Indian society has caused such a stir up among party lines, that even members of the ruling government are pushing the demand. As discussed above, the Union government’s reluctance is evident and it fears the data will shake up the socio-political scene in the country. However, a stir-up is impending, considering we are still following numbers collected about a century ago and development policy calls for fresh enumeration to encourage parity and equity. But will the ruling government swallow this bitter pill?

Related:

SC/ST scholarship denied to students in Bihar for three years!
Central universities falling short of filling up posts reserved for SC-ST-OBC
Delhi Cantonment rape case: AIDWA demands action against police for alleged ‘silent complicity’
Vilas Sonawane: Tribute to a ‘Satyashodhak’ Marxist

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