February 27, 2024

Caste-Census: Impact on Society

Central Government, in the larger interest of the nation should take up the matter seriously.
Keywords: Caste, Census, OBCs, Society, British, Politics, BJP, Congress, Leaders, Population, Mandal Commission
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The Indian Constitution after independence was written with a vision and aspiration to have a casteless society. In support of the goal, many post-independence leaders and thinkers used to shun to have caste-identities attached to their names. That being the case, after seventy-five years of freedom caste identity has become more and more pronounced now. Though social identities are malleable i.e., subject to change in this day and time, some political leaders want their perpetuation. Regional political leaders, especially from Bihar (C.M Nitish Kumar and RJD’’s Tejaswi Yadav) are seeking the caste-wise census in the case of OBCs, in the coming General Population Census (of 2021). India’s Census happens every 10-years. In the 2011 census, when this proposal came forward from political leaders, the then Congress Party in power had not paid heed to it.

In fact, it was the British colonial masters that exercised this cumbersome operation of population census for India from 1872 to 1931, especially to elicit details caste-wise. They came out with a piece of amorphous information. To them, all those caste identities were bewildering. In any case, while implementing the Mandal Commission recommendation of 27% reservations to Backward Classes, the 1931 census of the British was followed. Independent India did not go for determining caste-identities overtly in Census (other than the SC & ST) considering it to be a divisive one and goes against the national interest. So, since 1951, India’s census only counted Dalits referred to as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes following the British labelling.

In any case, the British were the past masters of categorisation. According to a section of Hindu intellectuals, this ‘Caste-System’ in India was planted by the British colonial rulers to divide people. To them, in the pre-British era, all lived harmoniously. There is some merit to their argument. WR Cornish, who supervised census operations in 1871 stated that regarding the origin of caste, they could place no reliance upon the statements in the Hindu sacred writings. Hence, the argument is – that the colonisers invented social identities. As a result, the Scheduled Castes/Tribes categories arose. The Indian Constitution ratified them as disadvantaged sections and gave SCs (15%) and STs (7%) reservations in education and employment. However, it is nobody’s case to argue now against their privileges by being cynical of British policy.

Historical wrongs are always corrected, as time progresses all over the world. Look back, how slavery thrived in America, for over a hundred-odd years, until the sixteenth U.S President Abraham Lincoln abolished it with great difficulty. Similarly, apartheid in South Africa was legally sanctioned, but the struggle was made to remove it from the statute. Backward Classes in India are socially and economically disadvantaged. Of course, they need affirmative action. But parity with their population ratio, as is done in SC & ST case, is going overboard.

The proponents of Caste-Census cite economic reasons: to better inform and take forward Govt. Programmes and efforts to OBCs. They also pep up their argument by giving an international dimension: the US counts people by race and the U.K enumerates country of origin for their immigrant- population. It is anyone’s guess that any divisive enumeration is a politically expedient tool. In the US Presidential election 2020, realising the Indian diaspora to be the second largest after the Mexican, both Democrats and Republicans tried their best to garner votes by promising policies. The U.K is no less in its appeal to the Indian diaspora while on Brexit-vote and other general elections. Everything boils down to politics! If economic benefits are to be given to OBCs, the state governments are empowered by the recently passed 127th Constitution Amendment Bill for states to decide by their own means of OBC identification.

In a true sense, B.C means Backward Classes (BCs) not Backward Castes, as per the Constitution. There are sections of Muslims and Christians too among BCs, who are also beneficiaries of the “reservation” policy in education and employment. This is more in southern states. So, the Left-oriented-intellectuals seeking OBC-caste-wise census would also want minorities to be dissected by sects, as sought by them in the case of Hindu-OBC caste division, is the question. It’s myopic to think that this division is good for OBC-development. It will only perpetuate aggressive caste identities, which our founding fathers of the Constitution did not ask for.

Though “reservations” started as a temporary measure to uplift the SC, ST and later OBCs, their continuation was justified by all, as these sections needed support to reach the level. However, the advocates of the OBC break-up Caste-wise Census are asking for parity i.e., in commensurate with the percentage of OBC population. If OBCs happen to be 52%, they should be given the same per cent of reservation, is a non sequitur. For, reservation to a section of population meant denying equal opportunity to another section (be it upper caste). 27% is reserved already for OBCs. In the other 50% that is ‘open’ to all, the forwards among the Backward Classes, SC, STs could compete and get. After all, “merit” is not the preserve of ‘one’ community. Here, one needs to remind the advocates of Caste-Census that “equality and equal opportunity to all”, is enshrined in the Constitution of India.

On the whole, the Caste-Census of OBCs seems to be a strategy of regional political leaders, to appeal to voters, whose hearts they could not otherwise win with their work. Hence, the Central Government, in the larger interest of the nation should take up the matter seriously before taking a decision, as regional parties have no larger national goal.   

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  • కులాల వారీగా రిజర్వేషన్ ఇచ్చి వెనుక బడిన కులాలకు మేలు చేసి వారిని అభివృద్ధి పరచమని అంబేద్కర్ రాసిన రాజ్యాంగం లో ఉంది అది కేవలం 10 సంవత్సరాల వరకు స్వతంత్రం వచ్చాక…కానీ బ్రిటిష్ వారి విభజించి పాలించు సూత్రాన్ని ఇప్పటికి రాజకీయ నాయకులు పాటిస్తున్నారు దేశాన్ని కులాల రిజర్వేషన్ పేరుతో వెనక్కి నడిపిస్తూ…ప్రజాలమధ్య చిచ్చు పెడుతూనే ఉన్నారు ఆ సంస్కృతిని మన మీద రుద్దుతూనే ఉన్నారు..కుల వ్యవస్థ రద్దు అయితే నే దేశం ప్రగతిని ముద్దాడే పరిస్థితి వస్తుంది జై హింద్…

  • Presented in a lucid way bringing out the relevant facts.kudos to the author .congratulations and may her tribe increase.

  • Congratulations, Madam Indira garu for a very thought provoking article on a very sensitive issue .
    You have candidly brought out the historical developments on the subject and nicely summed up the issue in the last para!

  • Excellent article with deeper insights, the government should rise up to the larger national goals before making decisions. A No-reservation measure for India would help tap the talent aptly, the Modi government has not shied away from taking tough decisions and I believe they would take a wise call in the next term.

  • Political theorists and constitution framers rely upon basic goals and objectives yet they are too difficult to be implemented for a large nation like India.Mandal Commission and its implementation shows glaring deficiencies in certain areas of employment.The English and its governance created room for two nation theory on the basis of religion.western nations for political sovereignty appease immigrants.
    Ambedkarites, Leftists and regional satraps canvass for caste-wise census but this may in the long run sow seeds for further divisions and religious minorities may play a villainous role.
    The writer has carefully examined the scope of the article and provided a room for dialogue and debate at each stage and opted for a wiser counsel to govern the nation for betterment of the people in the present scenario of global politics.

  • The article on Caste based census by Smt G Indira is very analytical and informative.
    Taking up caste based census at this juncture when nation is facing Covid pandemic and Afgan situation is not a good decision though there is push for it by many regional politicians and some intellectuals
    Though Dr Ambedkar reluctantly accepted for implementation of reservations for 10 years even after 75 years the clamour for reservations , inclusion of various castes into OBCs , also Muslims and Christians brought into reservation bracket is going on for obvious reasons.
    In view of the vast number of castes and subsects , population growth , the procedural difficulties, corrupt practices getting the correct data is doubtful
    The economic status of OBCs has changed so much so many groups in the above category are more affluent and influenced than the so called forward or general category and 50percent limit has already exceeded since they are claiming for open category’s seats also and also the peculiar situation in states like a Tamil Nadu where it is now 69 percent.
    Ultimately merit is compromised
    Also the creamy layer status is also not decided till now
    Lastly the push for caste based by the politicians is mainly for their political benefits rather than the actual upliftment of deprived people

  • The caste system in India some may say is mainly based on the division of labour while others believe the caste system originated 1,575 years ago, during the Gupta dynasty in India.

    The reign of the Hindu Gupta rulers, was marked by strictures laid down in Dharmasastra… enforced through the powerful state machinery. These strictures and enforcements resulted in the caste system or the Varnas.
    The system of Varnas though was never believed to be so rigid as mobility between Varnas was permitted, it was the advent of the British that changed it.
    To understand the Indian society better British censuses hardened caste and sectarian lines by forcing people to slot themselves into particular religious and caste groups. Though the Britons classified themselves according to territory, occupation, gender and age. Here, they used religion and caste as useful criteria for census.
    Gone are the British and the dynastic rulers. As a free country we need to give equal opportunity to all sections of society so the reservation to certain sections of society is justified to an extent but unequal or archaic reservation to a section of population means denying equal opportunity to another section of society

    “the Caste-Census of OBCs seems to be a strategy of regional political leaders, to appeal to voters, whose hearts they could not otherwise win with their work. Hence, the Central Government, in the larger interest of the nation should take up the matter seriously before taking a decision, as regional parties have no larger national goal.”
    The above paragraph by the author sums up the reservation dilemma or rather the imbalances in our country..
    After all social inequality in relational processes in society have the effect of limiting or harming a group’s social status, social class, and a country as a whole.

  • Its high time the reservation is completely removed with only the merit getting the benefit.There should be free education with support for the merit in the so called reserved category of students so as to enable them to perform better.It is just a vote bank politics world we are living with political parties want to be in power.

  • In many forums the dalit people are asking how to erase the caste. They blame the brahmins or Manu at their convenience for the existing caste system. Caste sytem is required for politicians as the parties are started exclusively for some specific castes. For example Dr. Ramadas has started a party for Vanniar community people. Thirumavalavan has started a party for Dalit people. There are many other such parties.
    The caste based political parties instigate the people in their caste to achieve some of their goals. The bigger (big-brother) political parties need the support of these caste based parties and gladly accept the demands of these parties to win the election and this can be considered as equal to offering freebies to the innocent people.
    The support system of the government should be designed in such a way to help the economically weak, irrespective of the caste. Government should recognise only the economically weaker people and the remedies should go only to them and not to the rich, even in SC/ST category.
    The census should reflect the economic conditions of the people rather than their castes, if at all we dream of a casteless society.

  • Rightly captured. Equality and Equal opportunities to all must be guiding light. Today the backwards caste in some cases are far ahead than OCs and many who continue to take advantage of.reservation and special privileges. Instead of backwards caste, we should consider how the backwards classes be giving due opportunities… vote bank and freebies politics must STOP and make way for development politics… can this only remain as distant possibility or dream or could be reality!!!

  • A very informative and balanced perspective given by the author. Writer correctly concluded that regional parties have no larger national goal and hence central govt should take up the matter seriously. If 75 years of freedom and constitutional reservations to backward castes could not resolve the problem ( as most people view it), no one is sure how many more years of continued reservations would be required to uplift socially the so called backward castes. And more pertinent question to be asked is – is this reservation model any solution to a problem or a problem in itself.

Indira G.

Indira G is associated with the organisation Pragna Bharati, Hyderabad and is Incharge-Publications. She also contributes to Opindia and other news platforms.

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