Monday, 30th October 2017

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Census no-caste option raises doubt

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  • Published 23.05.11

New Delhi, May 22: Those unwilling to reveal their religion and caste can choose the “no caste” and “no religion” options in the caste census starting next month.

But such provisions in the caste census that is being conducted after a gap of 80 years have raised questions over whether its findings will be accurate.

“The enumerators will move from house to house and ask every citizen their caste and religion apart from collecting information on their economic condition. There will be options of ‘no caste’ and ‘no religion’ in the forms and anybody unwilling to reveal their caste and religion can choose them. Nobody will be forced to reveal his religion and caste identity,” said a senior official of the rural development ministry, which is helping conduct the census.

Those who give out such information will not be asked for caste certificates and their answers will be taken as factual information. The data will not be subjected to scrutiny and be handed over to the office of the Registrar General of India, which is in charge of the census, to compile the report.

The caste census will cover minority communities too, the move assuming significance in view of several reports that have highlighted the poor socio-economic conditions of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians even though such groups are yet to be recognised legally.

“The law does not recognise anybody as Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christian. The census will get information on castes among minorities. If the government decides to recognise certain groups as Dalits, this data will help identify them and plan measures for them,” the official said.

The last caste census was conducted in 1931 and it had pegged the population of OBCs at 52 per cent, SCs at 15.5 per cent and STs at 7 per cent.

But some believe making caste disclosures voluntary is not a good idea. Academic Kancha Ilaiah apprehends that many among the upper castes, who occupy 70 per cent of government jobs, could misuse the “no caste” option. “People from upper-caste communities like Brahmins, may not like to reveal their caste. They are likely to choose the no caste option. That means the caste census may not give an accurate picture,” said Ilaiah, the director of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Hyderabad’s Maulana Azad National Urdu University.

“Upper-caste people believe in the caste system very much. When it comes to marriage, they prefer to marry in the same caste. They may not reveal their caste in the census fearing that their interests would be affected. This is intellectual hypocrisy,” Ilaiah added.

The government, he insisted, should have made caste and religion information mandatory. “There is no person without caste. What is the problem in revealing the caste?” he asked.

Data collected from the census, expected to be over by March next year, is expected to help draw up welfare schemes for backward castes.

The Union cabinet had last week given the green signal to conduct the caste census along with a parallel count to gauge the number of people living below the poverty line (BPL). Such a BPL census was last undertaken over nine years ago.

A group of ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee had earlier recommended that the caste census be carried out separately, after the biometric and headcount phases of Census 2011 got over.