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Is A Caste-Based Census Necessary In India?

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The Ministry of Home Affairs is preparing to roll out the 16th census. Amidst this, there is already much debate going on in the political sphere on the caste-based census catching the headline in the political corridor. There is clear-cut division in the political sphere in support of and against the caste-based census.

Most of the opposition leaders and even the allies of the NDA government spoken for the caste-base census in the parliament and even a few chief ministers like Nitish Kumar met the Prime Minister to conduct the caste-base census. But In the Lok Sabha, in response to a question, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs has said that the government of India has decided not to enumerate caste-based populations other than SCs and STs in the census.

Representational image.

Caste Atrocities In India

A few days back, Bheel(45) was dragged and tied to the rear part of a vehicle because of a minor road accident in Madhya Pradesh, the victim died. This is not a single incident happening in India. Every day you can read caste-based oppression in the newspaper. Caste-based oppression is very prevalent in Indian society. In the recent event where the women’s hockey team of India lost the semifinal in the Tokyo Olympics, a team member belonging to the Dalit caste faced harassment back at home by upper-caste members. This kind of caste-based oppression proves Farahat Zama’s line “ you can take Indians out of the caste system but not the caste system from India”.

The caste system paid a huge price in terms of the development of the nation. India is a diverse country and has immense potential to subject advancement in technology, arts, literature, music, sports, and Knowledge but the caste system has restricted the country from realizing its full potential. Nowadays people, especially intellectuals claim to get rid of the caste but caste is very prevalent in our social structure from birth to death. During the election, you encounter how voting behavior is influenced by a certain caste.

The study suggests that the participation of lower caste people in college, university, judiciary, media, corporate sector, and policymaking is very less. In India, the majority of the population consists of backward castes, and their participation is very less, how can we expect better policymaking and better implementation.

The Need For Caste Based Census

It is very strange that caste plays a very vital role in life people and we do not have caste-based data. Even if you see the USA, they track race issues. The Sacher committee also recommended setting up a national data bank. The Rohini committee appointed subcategories of OBC communities but due to lack of data, it did not happen. Also, the Court has asked multiple times to provide data on caste but this did not happen due to lack of data.

Unfortunately, the stand of the governments so far is not in favor of caste-based census, be it Congress or the BJP. The apprehension of the government is that a caste-based census would create division in the society which would not be in the interest of the nation. The census was also opposed because the availability of data in the public domain would instigate the debate in the political domain for the fair share of reservation based on the size of the population.

In my opinion, there is no strong argument for not enumerating the caste-based census. Here is my point of view for caste-based census:

  1. Caste-based oppression is deeply rooted in Indian society and inequality – in health, education, and even justice – becomes pertinent to monitor how it creates inequality to devise ways to tackle the caste-based problem.
  2. It will help the government to add and delete OBCs and revision of creamy layer quotas.
  3.  When in a country like India where the majority of the population consists of backward castes and their participation is very less, how can we expect better policymaking and better implementation? It will definitely dent the country’s ability to perform better.
  4. To attain the full potential in the 21st century, we need to annihilate the caste system otherwise we have to pay the price politically, economically, and socially, otherwise we will leave behind the development index.
  5. For the betterment of the deprived section of the society, a caste-based census would be serving the purpose. It will help us understand better the effect of the reservation and can come up with better policies for deprived people and data will bring more rationality in debate.

Many countries such as the USA collect ethnic and race data to monitor the impact on its people. The caste-based census will give the picture of the educationally and socially backward castes that will further help in better understanding of the active condition and for the better policy for the people who represent half of the population.

Feature image is for representational purposes only.

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