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Socio-Economic Caste Census to be conducted after Census 2021

Socio-Economic Caste Census to be conducted after Census 2021

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  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Human Development || Concept of Development

Why in the news?

  • The Bihar Chief Minister wants the Central Government to reconsider its refusal to hold a caste-based census, as he feels such data can help his government design more focused policies for the needy among OBC’s.
  • However, the Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in Census.

Details

  • The caste census was last held in 1931and later discontinued. The government attempted a Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), but its data was not published
  • Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 is the first-ever census that generated comprehensive data covering households in both rural and urban areas.
  • Parties, ranging from ruling factions and opposition, have demanded the caste census.
  • 2016 SECC-The SECC dataexcluding caste data was finalized and published by the two ministries in
    • Socio-Economic Caste Census(SECC)was conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development in rural areas and the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation in urban areas.
  • The raw caste datawas handed over to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which formed an Expert Group under former NITI Aayog Vice-Chairperson Arvind Pangaria for the classification and categorization of data. However, the report has not been made public.

Major apprehensions for conducting Socio-Economic Caste Census

  • Solidifying caste identities-For starters, this census has the potential to solidify people’s caste identities. It will not aid in the eradication of discrimination in society.
    • It has been alleged that the mere act of labeling persons as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate the system.
    • Due to these repercussions, nearly a decade after the SECC, a sizable amount of its data remains unreleased or released only in parts.
  • Not much  effective to address the anomalies –SECC has been unable to address the effects of the caste system on the social structure at the local, regional, and national levels.
  • Vulnerability of data-the census data is considered confidential under the Census Act of 1948. Personal data collected by SECC, on the other hand, is available for use by government agencies. It makes the SECC data vulnerable to use and abuse by the government.
  • Lengthy process-is the time duration between each census and the delay in the release of data after it is done.  It makes the data obsolete and unusable to estimate the present status of issues. For example, a sizable amount of data collected under SECC has not been released even a decade later.
  • Reservation claims broaden-As the reservation grows in size, it becomes an exclusionary rather than an inclusive mechanism. Because, as a result of the reservation conundrum, previously advantaged communities are now disadvantaged to a large extent.
    • There is a possibility that it will lead to heartburn among some sections and spawn demands for larger or separate quotas.

Why is such a move a need?

  • Meritocracy vs. Equality: While meritocracy is important, it is meaningless without equality. The caste-based reservation also significantly reduced the disparity between upper and lower castes.
  • Reducing inequalities-It will aid in identifying inequities experienced by the poor.
  • The welfare of the deserved– It will aid in the better targeting of government welfare programs.
  • Policy making-Because quotas for jobs and education are based on caste, this will aid in evidence-based policymaking. The current policies are based on the results of the 1931 caste census.
  • Level playing field-Reservation for OBC’s creates a level playing field because it is difficult for backward sections who have historically been denied education, skills, and economic mobility to suddenly begin competing with those who have had access to those means for centuries.
  • Land fragmentation and decades of agricultural stagnation have turned many upper-caste landowners into marginal farmers. Whereas rising rural wages has benefitted some of the backward classes including Dalits.
  • Caste-based mobilization along political lines has increased over years. This has also led to an increase in demand for reservation in jobs.
  • Benefits of Caste-based Enumeration by States
    • It will present the correct picture of the socio-economic status of various castes in any particular state.
    • Such data will help the state government to ensure how much reservation is necessary for any given caste.
    • Comprehensive caste-based data will help to figure out the economic status of various castes in different states.
    • The state can plan accordingly their welfare schemes for the most backward castes based on their need and socio-economic conditions.
    • It will satisfy the demand of various groups/castes/tribes/communities and will overall reduce agitation over caste-based reservations

Expert Group on SECC, 2011

  • In 2017, the government constituted an Expert Group under the Chairmanship of former Finance Secretary Shri Sumit Bose for
    • Studying the objective criteria for allocation of resources to States and
    • Identification and prioritization of beneficiaries under the various programs using Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data.
    • Expert Group has observed that regular update and verification of SECC data is essential for improved targeted delivery of essential services.
  • Recommendations of Expert Group
    • The SECC has the potential to move from being only a census-like socio-economic database to becoming the core of a functioning Social Registry Information System (SRIS).
    • SRIS would result in several advantages in the implementation of social sector schemes.
  • It has the potential to
    • streamline program administration,
    • reduce duplication of benefit and fraud,
    • saving on time and costs for both program applicants and services providers,
    • monitoring the living standards of beneficiaries over time,
    • better targeting of vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society and
    • enable expansion of the coverage of the programs.
    • Finally, the use of SECC data would lead to better budgetary planning and allocation of resources for various programs.

Way forward

  • The state should not enumerate citizens based on caste until it is badly needed. The state should focus on Governance and implementation for better outcomes of schemes.
  • The real challenge lies in recognizing the need for a caste-based census to find a possible solution for the growing demands of reservation for different castes and communities across India.
  • Concerns regarding methodology, significance, rigidity, spreading, transparency, and privacy needs to be taken seriously.
  • Thus, a caste census in 2021 will reveal the changed circumstances of the rural and urban landscape of India including their economic condition.
    • Thus, a casteless and equal society should be the government’s ultimate goal along with knowing the true socio-economic status of each caste in India.
  • Such detailed data will further help in rationalizing reservation policy as per the need of a specific caste or community.
  • Simultaneous with Census 2021-Even the central government must collect caste-wise data along with the 2021 census as it will help the central government in finding out the true picture of the overall socio-economic development of different castes across India to create a castle and equal society for all.
    • The state of Odisha wants the Socio-Economic Caste Census to be held simultaneously with the General Census in 2021.
  • Engagement between functionaries-While the Census authorities present documents on methodology as part of a policy of transparency, there needs to be a closer and continuous engagement between functionaries of the Census and SECC, along with academics and other stakeholders concerned, since the Census and the SECC are projects of governance as well as of academic interest.

Mains model Question

  • Is a caste-based census required in India? Discuss

References