The Bihar government’s caste-count

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The Bihar government’s caste-count

  • The Bihar Cabinet, along with the State BJP approved a proposal to carry out a caste-based ‘count’ in the State.

Stand of Union Government

  • The Union Government has categorically ruled out conducting a caste census as it would be “administratively difficult and cumbersome.”
  • Caste census would be a “divisive exercise”.

The case of Bihar

  • The demand for a caste census in the State is an attempt to revive Mandal politics.
  • Almost all political parties in Bihar identify themselves with a particular caste, sub-caste or community for representation.
    • Leaders cannot afford to take their political identity out of that caste or group.
  • The objective behind this demand is to bring out the recent changes in caste groups and how resources may be best shared.
  • The data will help the State government understand the exact population of various caste groups and assess the socio-economic development in every group, and the welfare schemes needed for their benefit.

What are the benefits of a caste count?

  • Social equality programmes and welfare measures cannot be successfully implemented without comprehensive data and for this a caste count is necessary in a State known to be fragmented into several castes, sub-castes, groups and communities.
  • In a modern state, a count of every category of citizens is necessary so that they can get the benefit of all welfare measures.
  • In the absence of such data, there is no proper estimate for the population of other backward classes (OBC)s, extremely backward classes (EBCs) and several other groups within them.
  • A caste-based count goes a long way in bringing a measure of objectivity to the debate on reservations.
  • If the objective of conducting a caste-based count is to get the caste distribution of the population, it does not require a costly exercise like a census.
    • A proper statistical processing or analysis of the information with the government is sufficient for the purpose of public policy design.
    • The usual Census data already provides information useful for formulating public policy.

Have such exercises happened in other States?

  • The Tamil Nadu government has appointed a commission to formulate a methodology to collect caste-wise particulars of its population and use that to come up with a report.
  • States like Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana have carried out caste counts, calling it a "socio-economic survey".

Prelims Takeaway

  • Socio-economic caste census (SECC)
  • Census and related data