August 2, 2021
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Good morning. We humans pride ourselves for having developed a lot over the past few centuries. But what if we were way more advanced back in the day?
Archeological researches have time and again proved that our ancestors created well developed systems. In one such recent finding, Dutch archeologists have unearthed a Roman canal and road near military camps. Research shows that the Roman military used them almost 2,000 years ago.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Should India have a Caste Census in 2021?
Our country has a population of 1.38 billion people. With this information in hand, we further divide the population based on age, gender, social and economic parameters. All of these data go under the Indian Census, which is compiled once every ten years.
The Census is like a strong weapon that can make or break the government policies. It is believed that the ground reality is best represented by the Census. So the government relies on it to form policies. Therefore, the Census is very important for all of us, because it indirectly decides our future.
Now, the question we are facing is should the Indian Census 2021 include caste-wise data? Or in particular, should the population of Other Backward Classes (OBC) be calculated? Over the years, we have included Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) details in the Census. But we have not collected the caste information for others.
While different state governments are pushing for a caste-based census, the Union government has decided against it. On one hand, including OBCs in the census can help the government analyse their needs and formulate schemes accordingly. On the other hand, collecting and publishing such politically sensitive information can create turmoil among different castes.
It’s not the first time we are discussing a caste-based census in India. In fact, till 1931, India was collecting caste details of all its citizens. This exercise of counting castes saw a break in 1941 during World War II. Post independence, the census stopped including caste details, except for the SC/ST information.
In 1979, the popular Mandal Commission was set up. The main aim was to identify the socially and economically backward classes and find out what their needs are. Here comes the complexity. The commission found it very difficult to identify who these people were. After analysis, they called this section the Other Backward Classes (OBC). They termed the OBCs as those who do not belong to the upper castes or the Dalits. The commission based its report on the 1931 Census to estimate that OBCs formed 52% of the population. The report was published in 1990 and brought about the reservation debate for OBCs.
After 20 more years, the issue of including OBCs in the census came up again. This time, the government agreed to the idea and went ahead with the process in 2011. But while publishing, the government withheld the caste details from the official report. The Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), which was taken in 2011, does not enumerate caste-wise data.
Caste census is the need of the hour
We are just months before the next census, which is supposed to happen in 2021. So this sets the right time for state governments to bring up the need to include OBC counting in the census.
India is known for its caste based quotas and welfare schemes. So it’s tricky to keep making government policies without having accurate caste data. Take for instance, the 1931 census, which happens to be the last available information on caste details. It showed that there were 52% of OBCs in India. But the census also included details of those who are now living in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Since even the 2011 SECC did not include details of caste, there is no other way for the state governments to prepare schemes for those other than SC/ST.
Another important point that is driving this demand is the need to understand who the ‘creamy layer’ is. The creamy layer is made up of those who are OBCs, but are more fortunate than others. So the Supreme Court directed that the OBC reservations be made available only to those who are very backward and in need of it. But without data on who the OBCs are, how can the government decide who is not eligible for the reservation?
In recent times, many communities are demanding for exclusive quotas. But there is a cap on reservations that says only 50% reservation is allowed legally. Anything beyond that would deny social justice and equality. The Maratha quota was denied in 2018 as the reservation exceeded this 50% rule. However, with no caste data, we cannot find out if the Marathas are actually backward and are in need of reservation. So the 50% rule, without showing accurate caste details, is misleading.
Caste census is not needed
While people are demanding for the caste census to be implemented, the Centre has always been skeptical about it. Even in 2010, when SECC took place, the Union government had first opposed it but then conceded to the demands. So what happened to the SECC report?
The reason why the caste census of 2011 was not published was simple. There were so many castes, sub castes and gotras that emerged during data collection. While categorising the data, the Registrar General of India found that there was a major defect in the caste data. Almost one in four households had an error. That meant 80 million data points were flawed. This caused many problems with categorising castes such that people could understand the data. There were efforts to rectify it, but the caste details were ultimately dropped from the census. Having said that, there’s no assurance such a chaos would not arise again.
Surprisingly in 2018, the Modi-led government took a different stance. They said that they will go ahead with the caste census. This should have sorted out everything. But it didn’t, because on 20th July 2021, the same government declared that it will not calculate the population on the basis of caste. Only the SC/ST category will be counted. What is stopping them from counting the OBCs?
Experts claim that enumerating caste in the census could perpetuate the caste system and cause ill feelings between castes. It could trigger a wider social divide and thus disrupt the harmony. Come to think of it, if caste data was published, there would be more confusion regarding the reservations. There will be clamour for reducing quota for some castes, while others would demand for a higher reservation. The caste census will create massive uncertainty.
Finally, there is no benchmark in identifying who falls under OBC and who doesn’t. There is no reliable data that classifies castes as belonging to OBC. So, if such details were collected, there is no guarantee that the data will be credible.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
How does a democracy die?
For the Left:
What we need is not Opposition ‘unity’ but some idea of what a united Opposition will offer economically and politically that they have not offered us before.
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Sudden COVID-19 guidelines (Karnataka) – Sudden decisions by governments across the country during the pandemic has affected the citizens in myriad ways. Karnataka’s recent COVID-19 guidelines which require travelers from Kerala and Maharashtra to produce RTPCR negative test reports to enter the state is one such decision. The new guidelines were issued on the night of July 30, and enforced starting August 1. The very brief period between the notification and enforcement has left many commuters stranded. The inter-state borders between Karnataka and Maharashtra witnessed long queues due to this.
Satellites to the rescue? (Assam) – Can satellite mapping lead to the eventual resolution of the border dispute between Assam and Mizoram? The government at the Centre thinks so, if reports are to be believed. The recent flare-up between the two neighbouring states has necessitated the border dispute resolution once and for all. So the government is looking at scientific mechanisms like satellite mapping to help arrive at a mutually agreeable border. But will the states eventually agree to such a solution? We’ll have to wait and watch.
Disaffection (West Bengal) – BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Asansol, Babul Supriyo, announced his decision to quit politics in a Facebook post on Saturday. He was earlier dropped as a Union Minister during the cabinet reshuffle of the Modi government recently. He cited his removal as a Union Minister and his clashes with the state BJP leadership as some of the reasons for quitting. But critics noted that this was just an effort by Babul Supriyo to negotiate a better deal with the BJP, as he was yet to resign from his post as a Lok Sabha MP. Is something brewing here?
Alert cop (Gujarat) – In a bizarre incident, two people were rescued from drowning in the same canal on the same day by the same person, but at different times. On Saturday, Ghanshyamsinh Jadeja, a commando posted with the Gujarat Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), first rescued a person who jumped into the canal due to depression after the death of his wife. Later, while returning from home after dropping off his son, Jadeja rescued a senior citizen who had jumped into the canal as he was suffering from breathing issues. The ACB felicitated him for his efforts during his off-duty hours.
Services denied (Jammu and Kashmir) – People involved in stone-pelting or other nefarious activities that result in law and order problems in the state will be denied security clearance required for passport and other government services. The order has been issued recently by the CID wing of Jammu and Kashmir Police. Digital evidence including CCTV footage or photographs can also be used to deny services to perpetrators.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
9,27,606 – Number of severely acute malnourished (SAM) children between 6 months to 6 years of age in the country, as on November 30, 2020. Around 43% of the total SAM children (3,98,359) are from the state of Uttar Pradesh.