Caste Census in Bihar



    • Recently, the Supreme Court of India refused to entertain petitions challenging the Bihar government’s decision to conduct a caste survey in the  state.

    Timeline of Caste Census in India

    • Caste was a key census variable from 1872 to 1931. 
    • The census of 1931 was the last census to provide tables of the distribution of population on the basis of caste. 
    • Although caste returns were collected in 1941 they were not tabulated owing to wartime economic measures. 
    • The constituent legislative assembly framing the Census Act of 1948 decided not to include the component of caste on the grounds that the portrayal of 
    • India as a land of many castes had been used by the British colonial authorities to claim that Indians would never be able to unite and govern themselves.

    Arguments against Inclusion of Caste in the Census

    • Definition of caste: There is no clear consensus on how to define and classify castes, which can lead to confusion and inaccuracies in the census data.
    • Underreporting: Some individuals may choose not to disclose their caste, either out of fear of discrimination or to avoid being identified as belonging to a lower caste.
    • Inaccuracies and manipulation of data: There have been concerns that the data collected in a caste census may be manipulated to serve political or other interests.
    • Ethical concerns: Critics argue that a caste census reinforces the caste system and can perpetuate social inequalities.

    Arguments in favour of Inclusion of Caste in the Census

    • The major demand for a caste census has come from Backward Classes Commissions.
    • They claim that it would be useful in planning. To target concentrations of backward groups, one would need block level or district level data, since this is the level at which decisions about locating schools or primary health centres are made. 
    • A caste census would allow for the identification of socio-economic disparities within castes, which can help target government programs and policies to the most disadvantaged communities.
    • The census data could be used to inform the implementation of affirmative action policies, such as reservation in education and government jobs, to ensure that underprivileged communities have equal access to opportunities.

    Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC)

    • The UPA-II government gave in to the demands and the Ministry of Rural Development conducted a caste census in 2010-11 along with the socio- economic census.
    • SECC-2011 was not done under the 1948 Census of India Act and the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India was not entrusted to do the same.

    Why won’t the government of India make raw data public?

    • In 2015, the raw caste data was handed over to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, however, it was never made public by the BJP government. 
    • In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in September 2021, the Union government said that, due to flaws in the data, it cannot make public the caste data collected under the SECC-2011.
    • The flaws in the data stem primarily from the fact that no registry of castes was prepared before conducting the 2011 caste census. This resulted in mistakes by enumerators, who spelt the same caste in dozens of different ways. 

    Source: IE