The incomplete enumeration of castes is baffling

The incomplete enumeration of castes is baffling
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The incomplete enumeration of castes is baffling

Highlights

Counting OBCs in the census has been a long standing demand. The demand is that the OBCs must be counted and recorded on the lines of SC or ST population in the country. It sounds simple.

Counting OBCs in the census has been a long standing demand. The demand is that the OBCs must be counted and recorded on the lines of SC or ST population in the country. It sounds simple. Is not it so? All that one needs to do is insertion of a separate column in the decennial census form for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC - this is the official nomenclature for OBC).

We do have a list of OBCs in the country under the central government (for reservations). The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has told Supreme Court that plea by Maharashtra government seeking census data on Other Backward Classes (OBC) should not be entertained as census of backward classes is "administratively difficult" and "will suffer both on account of completeness and accuracy."

The Central government filed an affidavit stating that it issued a notification on January 7, 2020 prescribing information to be collected in the upcoming 2021 census which includes information relating to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes but does not refer to any other category of caste. The exclusion of information regarding any other caste from the upcoming census is a "conscious policy decision" taken by the government, the affidavit said.

The central government, therefore, urged the top court to not issue any directions to census department to include enumeration of socio-economic data to the extent relating to BCCs of rural India in the upcoming 2021 census as prayed for "since it would tantamount to interfering with a policy decision as framed under Section 8 of the SC-ST Act."

The Centre does not want the Supreme Court to issue any directions to census department to include the enumeration of socio-economic data to the extent relating to the population in the upcoming 2021 census since it would "tantamount to interfering with a policy decision as framed under Section 9 of the SC-ST Act".

This affidavit came in response to the directive of the Supreme Court in the State of Maharashtra vs the Union of India. The State Government has sought information from the Centre of the OBCs in Maharashtra. No doubt it is a valid point that there are operational difficulties in collecting the data as specified.

There is no uniformity to the spelling of these castes. It is said that Mappilas of Kerala are shown in 40 different ways. Then 'Pawars' and 'Powars' have also been intermingled in Maharashtra while only the latter are OBCs.

This might occur due to the errors committed by the enumerators. Yet, not to enumerate makes no sense in the backdrop of reservations provided so far to these. We don't know what the population size of the largest social category of our citizens is.

The Mandal Commission itself was not sure of the 52 per cent being the OBCs when it could vary up to 65 per cent. Why don't the governments' prefer a comprehensive census? Is it because the truth about the Indian society comes out? Is it because we come to know who is cornering the privileges despite being a small part of the population?

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