Caste Census: History And Political Significance | Explained

Nitish Kumar has been one of the most vocal supporters for a nationwide census, a demand he has articulated on many occasions.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand a caste census in the country. Kumar led an all-party delegation and urged the Centre to carry out caste-based enumeration in the 2021 decennial census which was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leader of the Opposition leader in the Bihar assembly Tejshwi Yadav along with members of other parties accompanied CM Nitish Kumar.

Nitish Kumar has been one of the most vocal supporters for a nationwide census, a demand he has articulated on many occasions.

“Had sought an appointment with the Prime Minister along with the delegation of Bihar regarding the caste-based census. Many thanks to the respected Prime Minister for giving time to meet on August 23,” Nitish Kumar tweeted on August 19.

Previously, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had shared his views on the caste census.

“We believe that there should be a caste-based census. The Bihar Legislature had unanimously passed a resolution to this effect on 18.02.19 and again on 27.02.20 by the Bihar Legislative Assembly and it was sent to the Central Government. The central government should reconsider this issue,” Kumar had tweeted on July 24.

The clamour for a caste census has grown in recent years as land-owning communities like Marathas, Patels and Kapus have sought benefits of reservations.

The Centre has also extended the quota pie by allocating 10 percent seats for economically weaker sections or EWS. This reservation is over and above the 50 per quota threshold set by the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhnay Case.

The growing congestion in the quota categories has triggered fresh demands for an empirical study that could provide the bulwark to back policy changes to promote diversity.

Even BJP leaders such as Pankaja Munde and NDA allies like Ramdas Athavale have demanded a caste-based census.

“The 2021 census needs to be caste wise. I have no doubt that the voice from village to village will reach the capital,” Pankaja Gopinath Munde said on the issue.

Several parties over the years have demanded a caste-based census, primarily before a census is conducted.

They claim that data on the castes will help the government frame targeted policies for the social and economic upliftment of backwards castes.

History Of Caste Census India:

The British enumerated caste-wise data in every census beginning 1871.

The last caste census was held in 1941 but the data in the decennial census could not be collated as the Second World War raged across the continents.

So data available for the last caste-wise numeration in India is from the 1931 census.

However, after India got Independence, the government stopped collecting caste-based data on the population OBCs.

Only Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe and the population of various minority communities has since been counted.

The Mandal Commission extrapolated the OBC population in India to be approximately 54 percent.

The 27 percent OBC quota is thus pegged at half of the approximate backward population in India.

However, the NSSO 61st Round (July 2004 to June 2005) report on ‘Employment and Unemployment Situation among Social Groups in India’ estimated OBCs constituting 41 per cent of the population.

The Socio-Economic and Caste Census, 2011

In 2011, the Manmohan Singh government had commissioned a Socio-Economic Caste Census in face of demands made by Mandal parties.

However, the report has not been made public yet, with the government stating that there were errors in the data on the status of 1,34,77,030 individuals.

Several political parties and social groups have accused the government of deliberately hiding the data.

A caste-wise numeration can also be helpful in apportioning the quota pie within the OBC category for a more equitable distribution of reservation benefits between the have and have nots.

But political parties tend to tread on the quota quagmire. It remains a sensitive issue that has the potential to alter political faultlines- it happened in 1989 when VP Singh government decided to implement the Mandal Commission Report.