Saturday, May 8, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Caste could torpedo count

Caste could torpedo count
Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, May 08, 2010
First Published: 00:41 IST(8/5/2010)
Last Updated: 00:45 IST(8/5/2010)

If the 2011 census includes a question on caste, prominent OBC leaders
in Parliament can pat their backs for succeeding where even the
National Advisory Council headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi
failed five years ago.

The NAC had raised the issue of a caste-based census in April 2005.
But it did not persist after India's census commissioner emphasised
that the caste census was not only very difficult due to the
complexities involved but could also jeopardise the integrity of the
population count.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram told the Lok Sabha on Friday that the
ministry of social justice had pushed for incorporating a question on
caste for the 2001 census. The NDA government, however, also decided
against it on the advice of the then census commissioner.

"The operational difficulties involved are far too many and we
apprehend that if it is insisted upon, they may jeopardise the
integrity of the population count per se," an internal note sent by
the census commissioner's office to the home ministry said.

There are fears that inclusion of caste would prompt people to project
higher numbers and put the neutrality of enumerators under severe

Besides, there are practical difficulties. For one, census enumerators
in 2001 — tasked to put a number to the 1,885 Scheduled Caste and
Scheduled Tribes — ended up with more than 18,000 entries. Many of
these were surnames, clan names and even names of non-SC/ST
communities. "Classifying and grouping them under the appropriate
SC/ST category was a huge task," a source said.

"Now imagine what will happen if we have to deal with nearly 6,000
castes, sub-castes, sub-groups and synonyms," a senior government

"We will end up with names of nearly 1 lakh castes and sub-castes as
people use their clan, other caste names and surnames
interchangeably," he said.


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