The Modi government has decided to collect
data on other backward classes (OBCs) as part of the
2021 Census in a decision which marks a concession to the demand of the assertive “backwards”.
This marks the end of policymakers’ squeamishness over restoring caste as an index in population enumeration.
Singh asked that improvements in design and technological interventions be made to ensure finalisation of Census data within three years of conducting the headcount. At present, this process can take as long as seven-eight years.
Data on caste was last collected in 1931 Census
The last time data on caste was collected as part of the decennial Census was in 1931.
Although a socio-economic caste census (SECC) was conducted between 2011 and 2013 in deference to the demand of the powerful OBC lobby, it was part of the rural development ministry’s survey of socio-economic status ofhouseholds.
The decision marks a victory for OBCs, who stridently campaigned for bringing caste back in the Census exercise.
They maintain that they constitute more than 50% of the population and it was time this “reality” was acknowledged through the Census.
There has, in fact, been much heartburn among the backward classes that the government has given a virtual go-by to the OBC enumeration done through the SECC. The OBC outfits have been complaining that the government did not form the committee to process the data that has been in its possession for the last three years.
Sources, however, said the SECC, which was purely a response-based exercise with respondents being asked to mention their castes, threw up a mountain of data which was full of anomalies.
While a reliable and accurate headcount of OBCs marks a victory for the “backwards” who have cornered the lion’s share of reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, what might take away their happiness is that this will happen in tandem with a simultaneous exercise to sub-categorise OBCs so as to identify the most backward classes among them that lag far behind the “creamy” layer in terms of ability and achievement. Full report