Why is it in the news?
- Andhra Pradesh recently initiated a caste census, following in the footsteps of Bihar, to comprehensively enumerate all communities in the state.
- The method involves deploying the village secretariat system and volunteers for data collection.
· Caste-wise enumeration was first introduced by the British colonial administration in 1881 and continued until the 1931 census.
· Independent India abandoned caste enumerations, citing concerns about potential social division and strengthening caste hierarchies.
· Subsequently, census data from 1951 to 2011 focused on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes only.
Arguments for a Caste Census
- Effective Governance: A caste census provides a comprehensive picture of India’s caste composition, aiding in effective governance by including marginalized communities and sub-castes.
- Tracking Progress: The absence of official data hinders tracking progress in affirmative action, addressing caste-based discrimination, and allocating resources effectively.
- Certainty in Policy Making: Lack of clarity on the progress of various caste groups impedes effective policy formulations.
- Social Justice: A caste census enables better targeting of affirmative action programs, addressing persistent discrimination and extending welfare schemes to overlooked castes.
- Resource Allocation: It facilitates equitable distribution of resources based on the needs of different caste groups.
- Social Reforms: Data-driven evidence supports social reform initiatives aimed at addressing caste-based disparities.
Arguments Against a Caste Census
- Social Division: Critics argue that a caste census could solidify caste identities, exacerbate tensions, and lead to renewed claims of dominance and hierarchy.
- Unconstitutional: Some argue that states conducting a caste census violate constitutional provisions, as the Union Government has the sole right to conduct a census.
- Data Misuse: Concerns exist about potential misuse of caste census data for political gains or discrimination against certain caste groups.
- New Issues: The survey data may reignite debates over the 50% ceiling on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court.
- Logistical Challenges: Conducting a nationwide caste census is a complex and expensive undertaking, requiring careful planning and implementation.
- Alternative Data Sources: Some argue that existing databases and surveys can provide sufficient data on caste and socioeconomic conditions.
|Related Supreme Court Rulings
· Indra Sawhney v Union of India, 1992: Emphasized the need for a “reasonable and adequate” data-driven approach to identify backward classes.
· Janhit Manch vs. Union of India, 2020: The court ruled that the government is not obligated to conduct a caste census at present, relying on existing data.
· Bihar Caste Census Case 2023: The Supreme Court is currently hearing challenges to the validity of Bihar’s 2023 caste census.
- Caste data is crucial for understanding the labour market, wealth inequality, and policy scheme implementation.
- Rather than politicizing the caste census, every political party should embrace the idea to ensure the welfare of the most marginalized sections of the citizens.