The Centre has told Parliament that it “has not enumerated” caste-wise populations other than those of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes since Independence, contradicting a statement it made in the Supreme Court three months ago.
In that court affidavit of September 21, the social justice ministry had acknowledged that a Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) had been conducted to “collect the caste of all persons” but said it had thrown up defective data.
Since the population census of 2011 had already counted the SCs and STs, as mandated, one of the stated purposes of the SECC of 2011-12 was to count the populations of the other castes.
But while the SECC data on the economic status of households was released in July 2015, the caste data was not. The speculation is the Narendra Modi government fears that publishing it would lead to demands for increasing the quota for the Other Backward Classes.
A Lok Sabha member from the Telugu Desam Party, Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu, had recently sought the names of the ministries that had received the data from the caste census.
In a written reply on Tuesday, junior home minister Nityanand Rai said: “The Government of India has not enumerated caste-wise population, other than Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Census since independence.”
The September affidavit in the apex court was filed — by R. Subrahmanyan, secretary to the social justice ministry — in a case relating to the Maharashtra government’s decision to implement OBC reservation in civic elections.
The affidavit mentioned the Union cabinet decision of 2011 to conduct the SECC “as a separate exercise after the population enumeration phase of the Census 2011 was over”.
“It was decided to collect the caste of all persons as returned by the households,” the affidavit said.
It added that after the SECC was completed, the caste data was stored with the Office of the Registrar-General of India (ORGI) and later shared with the social justice and empowerment ministry. An expert committee was set up under then Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya to analyse the data, but the committee never met.
When the social justice department itself analysed the data, the affidavit said, it found inaccuracies. For instance, the number of castes the SECC counted in Maharashtra was 428,677 although the state’s official list of castes (for the purpose of reservations) was just 494, it said.
The SECC was conducted by the rural development ministry and the housing and urban affairs ministry in collaboration with the ORGI.