Govt clears caste census

Enumeration will begin in June 2011

Govt clears caste census

The Cabinet, after a lengthy discussion, decided to hold the enumeration of castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from June to September of 2011. This will be done after the completion of the population enumeration phase (to be conducted in February-March 2011) of the census 2011 was over, as reported by Deccan Herald on September 4.

Briefing reporters on the Cabinet decision, Home Minister P Chidambaram said: “After considering various options, the option that we have approved is, based on the responses of various political parties, that caste must be canvassed and the integrity of the headcount must not be affected.”

Chidambaram said the caste enumeration will differ from state to state depending on conditions like monsoon. “After considering various options, based on the responses of various political parties, a separate house to house enumeration of caste will be done from June 2011 to September 2011,” he said.

The minister did not give out the cost of the caste census which is likely to be around Rs 2,000 crore. This will be in addition to the Rs 2,200 crore to be spent on the decadal, and more comprehensive, headcount.

An official release issued after the Cabinet meeting said caste of all persons as returned by them would be canvassed, after the census, a suitable legal regime for collection of data on castes would be formulated in consultation with the law ministry.

It stated that the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India would conduct the field operations of the caste enumeration.

“The Government of India would constitute an expert group to classify the caste/tribe returns after the enumeration is completed. The office of the commissioner would hand over the details of the castes/tribes returned in the enumeration to the proposed expert group,” the release added.

However, in the caste-based census, people would be free not to report their caste. Caste-wise enumeration had been given up as a matter of policy after independence. The last census when caste-wise data was collected, tabulated and published in detail was the 1931 census.

The demand for caste enumeration came to the fore during the budget session of Parliament when three backward class leaders – Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Lalu Prasad (RJD) and Sharad Yadav (JD-U) demanded it.  There was, however, no unanimity in the main ruling party in the coalition, the Congress and the main Opposition, the BJP.

However, as the three OBC-dominated parties did not allow any business to be transacted in Parliament while demanding caste census, the government discussed the issue in the cabinet, which remained divided over the issue.

This led to setting up of a group of ministers to go into the issue. The GoM met several times and sought the opinion of all political parties.

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