Monday, May 23, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Census no-caste option raises doubt

Census no-caste option raises doubt

New Delhi, May 22: Those unwilling to reveal their religion and caste
can choose the "no caste" and "no religion" options in the caste
census starting next month.

But such provisions in the caste census that is being conducted after
a gap of 80 years have raised questions over whether its findings will
be accurate.

"The enumerators will move from house to house and ask every citizen
their caste and religion apart from collecting information on their
economic condition. There will be options of 'no caste' and 'no
religion' in the forms and anybody unwilling to reveal their caste and
religion can choose them. Nobody will be forced to reveal his religion
and caste identity," said a senior official of the rural development
ministry, which is helping conduct the census.

Those who give out such information will not be asked for caste
certificates and their answers will be taken as factual information.
The data will not be subjected to scrutiny and be handed over to the
office of the Registrar General of India, which is in charge of the
census, to compile the report.

The caste census will cover minority communities too, the move
assuming significance in view of several reports that have highlighted
the poor socio-economic conditions of Dalit Muslims and Dalit
Christians even though such groups are yet to be recognised legally.

"The law does not recognise anybody as Dalit Muslim and Dalit
Christian. The census will get information on castes among minorities.
If the government decides to recognise certain groups as Dalits, this
data will help identify them and plan measures for them," the official

The last caste census was conducted in 1931 and it had pegged the
population of OBCs at 52 per cent, SCs at 15.5 per cent and STs at 7
per cent.

But some believe making caste disclosures voluntary is not a good
idea. Academic Kancha Ilaiah apprehends that many among the upper
castes, who occupy 70 per cent of government jobs, could misuse the
"no caste" option. "People from upper-caste communities like Brahmins,
may not like to reveal their caste. They are likely to choose the no
caste option. That means the caste census may not give an accurate
picture," said Ilaiah, the director of the Centre for Study of Social
Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Hyderabad's Maulana Azad National
Urdu University.

"Upper-caste people believe in the caste system very much. When it
comes to marriage, they prefer to marry in the same caste. They may
not reveal their caste in the census fearing that their interests
would be affected. This is intellectual hypocrisy," Ilaiah added.

The government, he insisted, should have made caste and religion
information mandatory. "There is no person without caste. What is the
problem in revealing the caste?" he asked.

Data collected from the census, expected to be over by March next
year, is expected to help draw up welfare schemes for backward castes.

The Union cabinet had last week given the green signal to conduct the
caste census along with a parallel count to gauge the number of people
living below the poverty line (BPL). Such a BPL census was last
undertaken over nine years ago.

A group of ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee had earlier
recommended that the caste census be carried out separately, after the
biometric and headcount phases of Census 2011 got over.


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