CASTE BASED CENSUS

  • Recently, Bihar government has announced that it will undertake a socio-economic survey of all castes and communities (SECC).
  • The origin of the Census in India goes back to the colonial exercise of 1881.
  • Census has evolved and been used by the government, policymakers, academics, and others to capture the Indian population, access resources, map social change, delimitation exercise, etc.
  • However, as early as the 1940s, W.W.M. Yeatts, Census Commissioner for India for the 1941 Census, had pointed out that “the census is a large, immensely powerful, but blunt instrument unsuited for specialized inquiry.”

SECC:

  • The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) was conducted in 2011 for the first time since 1931.
  • SECC is meant to canvass every Indian family, both in rural and urban India, and ask about their:
  • Economic status, so as to allow Central and State authorities to come up with a range of indicators of deprivation, permutations, and combinations of which could be used by each authority to define a poor or deprived person.
  • It is also meant to ask every person their specific caste name to allow the government to re-evaluate which caste groups were economically worse off and which were better off.
  • SECC has the potential to allow for a mapping of inequalities at a broader level.

Difference Between Census & SECC:

  • The Census provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
  • Since the Census falls under the Census Act of 1948, all data are considered confidential, whereas according to the SECC website, “all the personal information given in the SECC is open for use by Government departments to grant and/or restrict benefits to households.”

Way Forward

  • A caste census may not sit well with the goal of a casteless society, but it may serve as a means of addressing inequities in society.
  • Caste data will enable independent research not only into the question of who does and does not need affirmative action but also into the effectiveness of this measure.
  • Impartial data and subsequent research might save the bona fide attempts of the uplift of the most backward classes from the shadow of caste and class politics and be informative to people on both sides of the spectrum – for and against reservation.

SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT

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