• The Union government told the Supreme Court recently that the caste-based data from the 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) was “unusable,” but the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India told the Standing Committee on Rural Development in 2016 that 98.87 percent of the data on individual caste and religion was “error free.”

Why is the government claiming that the data is “unusable”:

  • According to the government, there were 4,147 castes assessed in 1931, however the SECC numbers reveal that there are more than 46 lakh castes. Even if some castes split into sub-castes, the overall number of sub-castes cannot be exponentially large.
  • Because the enumerators used different spellings for the same castes, the entire exercise was tainted. According to the administration, many respondents declined to reveal their castes.

So far, how have caste details been gathered:

  • While the census collects information on SC/STs, the enumerators do not collect information on other castes. Self-declaration to the enumerator is the most common way.
  • Until now, backward classes commissions in several states have conducted their own population counts to determine the number of backward castes.

What kind of caste data does the Census publish:

  • Between 1951 and 2011, every census in independent India published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes. Prior to that, caste data was collected in every census till 1931.

What is SECC 2011 all about:

  • The 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census was a large-scale effort to collect information on the socio-economic status of various populations.
  • It consisted of two parts: a survey of rural and urban families and their ranking based on pre-determined factors, as well as a caste census.
  • However, only the specifics of people’s economic situations in rural and urban homes were made public. The caste information has not yet been made public.

Census vs. SECC: What’s the difference:

  • The Census depicts the Indian population, whereas the SECC is a tool for identifying state assistance recipients.
  • Because the Census is governed by the Census Act of 1948, all data are considered private, whereas the SECC collects personal information that can be used by government departments to grant or deny benefits to households.

Caste census advantages:

  • The exact population of each caste would aid in tailoring the reservation strategy to guarantee that all of them are fairly represented.
  • Associated Concerns:
  • It’s possible that it’ll give some people the shivers, leading to demands for greater or separate quotas.
  • It has been said that simply labeling people as belonging to a caste helps to maintain the system.

Source The Hindu