'Caste data collection is not unmanageable'

'Caste data collection is not unmanageable'

'Caste data collection is not unmanageable'

Vijayanunni is opposed to collection of caste data at the bio-metric stage and says this should be done by the census organisation. He spoke to B S Arun of Deccan Herald. Excerpts:

Caste-based census has not been done in India since 1931. Is it feasible to have it
now?

Census of India had been collecting, compiling, tabulating and disseminating caste
data right from the first census in 1871 till 1931. In 1941 too it was collected but tabulation was dropped as a money-saving measure because of the world war II.

Caste census is a legal necessity as the Constitution mandates it. Now, the supreme court too is seeking to quantify the castes. An argument recently advanced is that creating a new column to include caste is not possible since the census exercise is already underway and the first phase of houselisting has been done in most states.

The completion of the first phase has no impact on making changes in the enumeration procedure which is the second and separate stage. The schedule and instructions for the census enumeration in February 2011 can easily be reformatted to include caste. Caste data collection, collation, compilation and tabulation of possibly thousands of castes is certainly very daunting but not unmanageable.

The Union home ministry is understood to be in favour of caste census at the bio-metric stage...

The proper stage for collection of caste data is the house-to-house population enumeration phase of the Census 2011 to be conducted from February 9 to 28, 2011, and not the biometric data capture camps for the National Population Register.

The census organisation’s close supervision and involvement will not be available at the biometric capture camps where the focus is on photo-taking and the fingerprint and the iris print taking by an outside agency. The extent of coverage and success of the biometric phase and that of the NPR is itself not predictable now as there is no past experience of undertaking such an extraneous operation along with the census.

There is a view that the caste data should be examined by the social justice and tribal affairs ministries...

These two ministries, though dealing with castes and tribes, do not have the required infrastructure, experience or organisational base to undertake this task and that is why collection, tabulation and dissemination of SC-ST data is being undertaken by census even after all-caste enumeration was discontinued post-independence.

An argument cited against caste data collection by census organisation is that it will ‘compromise the integrity of the census or distort the population count itself...’
At none of the previous censuses had the caste data collection been found to be distorted. This apprehension is unsupported by past experience and is untenable.

The enumerator is not expected to do any verification or classification of caste returns but just record the caste as furnished to him by the respondent and hence there would be no subjective decision by the enumerator.

There is a demand to collect only data of other backward classes. This point of contention has no meaning. It is a constitutional mandate to have caste enumeration. The same applies to SC and ST, their tabulation will have to be reviewed every 10 years as the benefits of reservation is based on this.

There is a possibility of an OBC in one state belonging to the forward caste in another...

This has to be settled by the states. It is the duty of the state BC commission and national BC commission to clarify on this.

What if one does not reveal his caste?

There was always this option. In the 1931 census, a total of 1.88 million people said they did not want to reveal their caste. However, it came to just half a per cent of the total population.

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