Caste Census and Politics

August 6, 2009, our Union Minister for Law and Justice Veerappa Moily suggested to the Prime Minister to collect Caste details as a part of this decade’s Census to facilitate formulating policies related to the living standards of the deprived classes. With parties like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtria Janata Dal (RJD) pressurizing the Government for caste inclusion in the ongoing Census, the Cabinet was unable to reach any consensus on this inclusion. So, as of now the caste subject in the census has been put on hold.

Now the question arises why was it difficult to either give the green signal to an issue which is the fact of life in India or why did the Government have pangs of what? before it went on to halting this idea.

Perhaps at a time when the world is being deflected towards the concept of equality, India is taking a step forward into the politics of Caste System. The last caste census was done pre independence in the 1930s but on the grounds of it being discriminatory, the British Govt. disposed off this concept. This continued till last census with only Scheduled Caste and Tribes being included in the Census. Now, after 80 years, with modernization, globalization, suddenly some parties have started talking about caste. We have read in our textbooks that there should be no bias against anyone’s caste, creed or community. Then why Caste Census?

Though political parties may be concerned with this issue mainly due to their vote bank, for the general public caste census may be a step towards the increase in Quotas and Reservations. Decreasing Quotas and Reservation cannot be a good idea for any aspiring govt., the inclusion of caste would only shoot up the reservation badly hitting the Aam Aadmi. If caste is favored, we will surely have a generation of incompetent workers due to ignorance of talent.

Congress is a vociferous Champion of a casteless society and if it hails Caste Census for the development of the deprived, it would avert from the very concept on which it won the last Central Elections.

The best way to ensure tangible and equitable benefits to the disadvantaged sections should come through effective delivery system. Rahul Gandhi had correctly pointed in one of his interviews that the major challenge for any Government is to see whether the resources it is sending to the less privileged are reaching them or evaporating in the chain through which they pass. Perhaps, UPA should concentrate upon growth by trying to oust the mentioned impediment rather than creating another zone where chances of failure are immense.

Further, UPA should aim at Result Oriented Poverty Alleviation Schemes for the masses and not for the caste specifics. Also the Affirmative Action Policy of USA and Germany’s remedial measure to enable the disadvantaged to avail themselves to the benefits of reserved seats without depending upon the caste should be the major focus of the Government.

P. Chidambaram, the Home Minister has listed the “practical difficulties in counting caste while conducting the Census.” Still, parties with strong OBC constituencies are harping upon the importance of Caste Census, since they have not been enumerated for 80 years but SCs and STs have.

Caste and religion are discriminating categories and the people should only be known as the citizens of India and not citizens’ of a particular caste. Further, in independent India, the constitution had abolished caste so the question of including it in the census should be regarded as redundant. If we try to support caste census by saying that India is a multilayered, multicultural and multireligious society and so different castes are at different levels of development, we should not forget that with globalization and widespread immigration – emigration many countries have started becoming multicultural and multireligious.

So, let caste not form the identity of any citizen of India. This shall seriously disrupt the Country’s communal harmony. There is a binding need on the Government to do away with the Caste System to create Egalitarian Society and flagging the idea of Caste Census would be a death blow to the achievement of this goal.

Juhi Gupta