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Andhra Pradesh Launches Caste Census  |

Andhra Pradesh Launches Caste Census 

Context:

∙ Andhra Pradesh recently became the 2nd State after Bihar, to take up caste census to enumerate all communities in the state.

About

∙ The Andhra Pradesh government will extensively deploy the village secretariat system for the caste census along with the volunteer system.

∙ Officials in the village secretariat system across the state will verify the accuracy of information collected by the volunteers and correct it, if necessary, before making the final record.

Caste census: A historical context

∙ Caste-wise enumeration of the population was introduced under the British colonial administration in 1881 and continued till the 1931 census.

∙ However, independent India abandoned caste enumerations, citing potential for social division and strengthening caste hierarchies.

∙ Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes.

Arguments for a Caste Census

∙ Enables effective governance: Provides a comprehensive picture of India’s caste composition, including marginalized communities and sub-castes.

∙ Tracks progress: The absence of official data on caste distribution makes it difficult to track progress in affirmative action, address caste-based discrimination, and allocate resources effectively.

∙ Certainty in policy making: The available data does show that SC, ST and OBCs are lagging behind but there is no clarity over which caste groups are most progressive and which are the most marginalized, thereby hindering effective policy formulations.

∙ Social Justice: Enables better targeting of affirmative action programs and policies towards groups facing persistent discrimination.

∙ There are many castes which are yet to receive welfare schemes from the government and the census will help them address this.

∙ Resource Allocation: Helps in equitable distribution of resources based on the needs of different caste groups.

∙ Social Reforms: Provides data-driven evidence for social reform initiatives addressing caste-based disparities.

Arguments against a Caste Census

∙ Social Division: Critics argue it could solidify caste identities, exacerbate tensions, and lead to renewed claims of dominance and hierarchy.

∙ Unconstitutional: The Union Government has the sole right to conduct a census and not the states, thus violating Schedule VII of the Constitution, the Census Act, 1948 and the Census Rules, 1990.

∙ Census was enumerated at Entry 69 in the Union List in the Seventh VII of the Constitution.

∙ Data Misuse: Concerns exist about potential misuse of data for political gains or discrimination against certain caste groups.

∙ It can help the unscrupulous caste leaders to serve their narrow political interest at the cost of their caste brethren.

∙ New issues: The survey data can reopen the longstanding debate over the 50% ceiling on reservation imposed by the Supreme Court in its landmark ruling in Indra Sawhney v Union of India (1992).

∙ Logistical Challenges: Conducting a nationwide caste census is a complex and expensive undertaking, requiring careful planning and implementation.

∙ Alternative Data Sources: Some argue existing databases and surveys can provide sufficient data on caste and socioeconomic conditions.

Way Ahead

∙ Caste data is key to understanding three important factors – the functioning of the labour market, wealth inequality and implementation of policy schemes, which may help to understand the country’s development pattern.

∙ Such data will reveal inequalities in social structures, enable better policy formulation and identify obstacles in policy implementation to usher in an era of genuine equal participation and redistribution of power and resources.

∙ Hence, rather than politicising caste census, every political party should embrace the idea so that the state will fulfill its responsibility to ensure welfare of the most marginalized sections of the citizens.

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