The Case for Caste Census in India

The Case for Caste Census in India 

WHY IN NEWS ? 

Recently, the demand was made for a nationwide caste census after publication of a caste survey in Bihar.

What Do the Socio-Economic Data Indicate?

Evident Caste-Based Deprivation in Indian Society

  • The average monthly per capita consumption expenditures (MPCE) of Scheduled Tribes (ST), Scheduled Castes (SC) and OBC households in rural areas were, respectively 65%, 73% and 84% of the MPCE of the general category in 2011-12.
  • In urban areas the average MPCE of ST, SC and OBC households were 68%, 63% and 70% of the general category.

The Case for Caste Census in India - Inequality Across Caste Categories in Multidimensional Poverty Estimates

Inequality Across Caste Categories in Multidimensional Poverty Estimates

  • The persistence of inequality across caste categories in India can also be seen in the multidimensional poverty estimates based on the NFHS-4/2015-16.
  • As per research, while STs, SCs and OBCs taken together comprised around 73% of the Indian population, they accounted for 84% of the country’s poor.
  • Over 50% of India’s multidimensionally poor belonged to the OBC category.
  • As per Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) estimate, while STs, SCs and OBCs taken together comprised around 77.6% of the country’s poor in 2005-06, this share increased to almost 84% in 2015-16.

Situation Regarding Education and Employment Across Caste-Categories

Caste-Based Deprivation in Education

  • The general category has a much higher proportion of literates, secondary and high school pass outs, graduates, and post-graduates than OBCs, SCs and STs.
  • As per NSS 75th round (2017-18), while only 3% of STs, 4% of SCs and 6% of OBCs are graduates, the proportion of graduates in the general category is over 12%.
  • The proportion of post-graduates within the general category is over 3%, among OBCs around 1% and among SCs and STs, below 1%.

Poverty & inequality: NFHS data: The persistence of inequality across caste categories in India can also be seen in the multidimensional poverty estimates based on the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4/2015-16).

Sachar Committee report: The report (2006) had estimated that 31% of Muslims were ‘Below Poverty Line’, while the poverty headcount ratio among SCs & STs together was 35%, Hindu OBCs 21% and other Hindus (general category) 8.7%.

Other reports on Socio-economic conditions in India

  • Poverty & inequality: NFHS data: The persistence of inequality across caste categories in India can also be seen in the multidimensional poverty estimates based on the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4/2015-16).
  • Sachar Committee report: The report (2006) had estimated that 31% of Muslims were ‘Below Poverty Line’, while the poverty headcount ratio among SCs & STs together was 35%, Hindu OBCs 21% and other Hindus (general category) 8.7%.

Education: The pattern of caste-based deprivation can be clearly seen in official data on education and employment indicators.

Employment: In terms of employment status (PLFS 2021-22), over 30% of the workforce in the general category had a regular job, while the proportion of regular or salaried workers among OBCs and SCs was around 20% and among STs just over 12%.

Data suggestions

  • Continuity in disproportionate poverty & deprivation: The disproportionate concentration of poverty among the STs, SCs, OBCs and Muslims in India have remained stable over time.
  • This clearly indicates that discrimination and exclusion based on caste via-a-vis STs, SCs and OBCs as well as religion, particularly with regard to Muslims, have a causal relationship with poverty and deprivation.

Reservation in Public Services and Indra Sawhney Judgment

  • The V.P. Singh government implemented 27% OBC reservation for public services in 1990.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision in the Indra Sawhney & others versus Union of India judgment in 1992.

Arguments in Opposition of the Nation-Wide Caste Based Survey

  • Opposition to a nationwide caste census has been based on the ground that the revelation of the exact population shares of OBCs greater than or equal to 52%, would trigger demands for enhancing the 27% reservation quota for OBCs.
  • Such demands were already set into motion with the Constitutional (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, which provided 10% reservation to EWS within the general category in admission to public and private educational institutions as well as civil posts and services.

SOURCE – THE HINDU

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