Union Government refuses to conduct Caste based Census

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment submitted its affidavit in the Supreme Court that stated a caste census of Backward classes as “administratively difficult and cumbersome”. A writ petition was filed by State of Maharashtra, seeking for the collection of Backward Classes’ caste data while conducting Census (State of Maharashtra v Union of India, 2021). 

Union Government claimed that Socio-economic Caste data (2011) has not been disclosed & kept with Office of Registrar General, India (ORGI) due to technical flaws present in raw caste/tribe SECC Data. 

Inaccuracies have been attributed to reasons such as every enumerator who visited each household spelt each caste separately, certain households refused to divulge their caste or phonetical similarity in name of castes may lead to misclassification. The enumerator is not a verifier & his/her subjective decision may adversely affect caste census. The Union referred to Indra Sawhney v Union of India,1993 in which the Supreme Court itself recognized practical difficulties in ascertaining an identification criterion for Backward classes. Reliable data is not available that can be the basis for Reservation-like policies. Further, the union also said that Caste based census was given up in 1951 for “Official discouragement of Caste” 

Socio-economic caste data was conducted for the first time in 1931. It was last conducted in 2011. Socio-economic data allows the government to identify poor households’ deprivations & implement anti-poverty measures while Caste census allows to identify which specific castes are economically worse off and implement schemes accordingly.

Regarding the collection of data of information on backward classes of citizens through Census 2020-21, Union has submitted that it is impracticable since population census is not an ideal medium for collection of caste details as that may compromise & distort the coherence of Population census. Knowledge on sub-caste is highly scant to meaningfully tabulate & specify an SEBCs/ OBCs

Image Credits: Jagran Josh

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