October 27, 2021 - 10:10 am

A Complex Game of Numbers

The demand for caste enumeration has been recurring by political parties across the country. It's not the first time it is happening as it is arisen before every census. The office of the registrar general holds that the caste census can jeopardize the whole exercise of census itself. There are a host of technical, logistical and operational difficulties associated with enumerating caste along with the main census, rendering it infeasible.

Every census until 1931 collects caste data, but starting but starting from 1951 to 2011, in every census, but for SCs/STs, no cost data were collected. There is no constitutional provision as well for other backward castes or classes. The immediate bleeding issue was "misclassifications". People use their clan(gotra), caste, sub caste interchangeability; there are phonetic similarities in caste names and different spelling variants, thus bloating the enumeration and returning a tally of castes far exceeding the actual number. While the central list has 2,479 OBCs, the state and UTs lists have 3,150 OBCs- including sub castes. No approvals from either the centre or any Court are necessary for state to have their own caste census. There are five states follow different interpretations of who can be counted among OBCs, some include poor and destitute children as OBCs, some count SCs who have converted to Christianity in this category.

There is a wide variation in caste hierarchies across India. The Social Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data for Maharashtra alone reflects the magnitude of an inaccuracies. Overall, in the SECC 2011 data there were over 1.18 crore errors. Due to such irregularities and inconsistencies, the caste data from the SECC 2011 was not made public. The caste data if it is conducted may bring more issues for which it will be difficult for ruling government to solve. Therefore, it remains always a matter of complex topic that none wants to touch it.