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Caste Census

Various types of Census Conducted in India

  • Population Census: Conducted once in every 10 years and provides detailed information on the population, including demographic, social, and economic characteristics.
  • Housing Census: Provides information on housing conditions and amenities.
  • Agriculture Census: Provides information on the agricultural sector, including land use, irrigation, and crop production.
  • Livestock Census: Provides information on the livestock population, including cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry.
  • Economic Census: This census is conducted to collect information on the non-agricultural sector, including businesses, industries, and employment.

What is the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)?

  • It is a comprehensive study of the socio-economic status of rural and urban households. Additionally, SECC includes a caste census, which provides information on the caste composition of the population.
  • Historical background:
    • Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes.
    • Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.
    • However, in 1941, caste-based data was collected but not published.
    • SECC 2011 was the first caste-based census since 1931 Census of India.
  • Difference between Population Census and SECC:
    • The Census provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
    • Since the Population Census is carried out under Census Act, 1948, all the population data under it is considered confidential. Whereas, personal information given in the SECC is open for use by Government departments to grant and/ or restrict benefits to households.
  • About SECC-2011:
    • Ministry of Rural Development commenced the SECC 2011 on 29th June, 2011 through a comprehensive door to door enumeration across the country.
    • Components: SECC 2011 has three census components, but under the overall coordination of Department of Rural Development.
      • Census in Rural Area has been conducted by the Department of Rural Development.
      • Census in Urban areas is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA).
      • Caste Census is under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs: Registrar General of India (RGI) and Census Commissioner of India.
    • SECC 2011 is also the first paperless census in India conducted on hand-held electronic devices.

Arguments for and against Caste based Census

Arguments For Arguments Against
  • Better picture: Caste based census would provide valuable information on the socio-economic status of different caste groups in India.
  • Reservations: Caste based census would help tailor the reservation policy to ensure equitable representation of all of them.
  • Discrimination: The collection of data on caste can create further divisions within society and may lead to increased caste-based discrimination.
  • Political exploitation: The caste data may be used to politically exploit certain groups and create further divisions within society.
  • Expensive: The data collection process may be costly and may divert resources away from other important programs or initiatives.

Issues Surrounding the SECC-2011

  • Caste data not published: The SECC data excluding caste data was finalized and published in 2016.
  • Discrepancies: The government has said this entire data set was flawed and the census unreliable, rendering it unusable for the purposes of reservations and policy. For these reasons, it has refused to make public even the raw caste data of the SECC-2011.
    • For example: The total number of castes as per the last caste census of 1931 was 4,147, whereas the SECC-2011 showed the presence of 46 lakh different castes.

Why will castes not be counted along with the regular 2021 census?

  • The government has cited numerous administrative, operational and logistical reasons to argue that collecting caste data during the 2021 census — postponed to 2024 due to COVID-19 — is unfeasible and attempting it could endanger the census exercise itself.
  • Secondly, the preparatory work for a census starts three to four years earlier. As for the census, the questionnaires have already been finalized and field-tested. It is, therefore, not possible to add additional questions about caste now.
  • Third, unlike in the case of the SCs and the STs, there is no constitutional mandate for the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, India, to provide the census figures of the OBCs and the BCCs.

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What is the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)?

It is a comprehensive study of the socio-economic status of rural and urban households. Additionally, SECC includes a caste census, which provides information on the caste composition of the population.

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