Caste-wise census importance and a detailed overview.
In India, the last census was taken in 2011 and the last caste census was in 1931, almost 92 years ago. While the much-anticipated 16th census of both was scheduled to be held in 2021, it has been postponed due to the Corona pandemic. In this case, the caste-wise census released by the Bihar government on October 02 has become the most important discussion topic in India.
Bihar as a role model for India:
The Bihar state government has officially launched a caste-based census called ‘Bihar Jati Adharit janganana’ on Gandhi Jayanti in order to effectively target its policies and programs to the 13 crore people in its state’s 38 districts, based on social status.
The Hindu report only reveals the caste composition in the State such as the Other Backward Class (OBC) population is 27.1286% while the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) comprises 36.0148%. The Scheduled population in Bihar is 19.6518%, while the Scheduled Tribe population is 1.6824% even as the General Caste population stands at 15.5224%. The report also revealed that Hindus comprise 81.9986% of the population while the Muslim share is at 17.7088%. Each of the 214 castes mentioned in the census has been assigned different separate codes. But it does not count any sub-caste subdivisions
Bihar has so far given 12% reservation to the Backward Class (BC) population of 27% and 18% reservation to the Most Backward Class (EBC) population of 36%. It is noteworthy that 10% of reservation is being given to the general category (EWS) which is only 15%. It is significant that this has resulted in more opportunities for reconsideration.
Population Census Vs Caste wise Census:
Various parties are currently insisting on conducting the caste-wise census along with the population census. Here’s how the two surveys have fared in India so far.
The first census in India (non-synchronous) was conducted from 1865 to 1872 for 8 years. Hence the year 1872 is named as the census year of India. Similarly in India, the first synchronized census was conducted in 1881. It was in that 1881 census that caste-wise enumeration was taken completely. Caste-wise censuses were not conducted thoroughly in India till then.
The last time an Indian census included caste data was in 1931. However, due to World War II and money-saving measures the census in 1941 was dropped. It is therefore noteworthy that the information on caste was not collected in the census from that year onwards.
After the Republic of India, the first census of India was conducted in 1951. Caste-wise census was also abandoned in this. But according to Article 341, 342 of the Constitution, only Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes census is ongoing in this census. Among these other castes are not counted.
Later, as there were various demands to take a caste-wise census, the Union government conducted this survey in the name of Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) in all households in 2011.
But the census is conducted under the Census Act, 1948. So according to this law, the government must keep the private information of the individual confidential. But this SECC survey was met with various criticisms and ended in failure as all the data was made public.
Importance of caste wise census:
• In India, provision of reservation in education and employment is seen as necessary for socially backward people to progress. These reservation rates are based on the caste-wise population as calculated in 1931 and have been given till date. From 1931 to the present, there have been major changes in the population of the country. Hence, caste-wise data is imperative for proper provision of reservation.
• And according to the caste-wise census in Bihar, 10% reservation is given to EWS, which is only 15%, but 30% reservation to OBCs, which is 63% till date. Hence these reservation rates are more likely to change with the current caste wise census in Bihar.
• The caste-wise census can effectively implement welfare programs for people.
• There is also a fear among people that if the secrets of the caste-wise census are leaked, it could be used for vote politics. Therefore, as per the Census Act, of 1948, the data of the public should be protected in this census as well.
• And since the caste-wise census is conducted separately, there is a possibility of higher economic costs to the government. Therefore, there have been various demands that these should be conducted along with the census as done in 1931.
• The need for a caste-wise census is also well known for the economic disparity prevailing among the people in the country. According to a 2020 Oxfam report, 10% of India’s population owns 74.3% of India’s total wealth. This is a very shocking piece of information. Similarly, 40% of people from the middle class have 22.9% of wealth; The bottom 50% own only 2.8% of stock wealth. The main reason for such unequal economic distribution is none other than caste division which has prevailed in Indian society for thousands of years.
• And according to an SECC report published in 2011, out of 24.49 crore households in India, 17.97 crore households live in villages. Of these, 10.74 crore families are considered to belong to Scheduled Castes. In rural areas with 17.97 crore households, about 30% households are landless. They mainly earn their income only from their manual labour. This shows that most people belonging to SC and ST are landless.
To strengthen social justice across India, strong voices are starting to rise across the country to conduct a caste-wise census and provide reservation accordingly.