- GS-1: Indian Society & its challenges
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The caste system is India’s nemesis and has severely restricted the country’s ability to realise its immense potential.
- An Indian women’s hockey team player, who happened to be Dalit, had to face caste slurs, and her family had to confront upper-caste harassment after the team’s loss in the Tokyo Olympics.
Issues associated with Caste
- Regulates all aspects of Life: caste has been at the forefront of Indian’s social existence and regulates lives — from birth to death, customs, rituals, housing, professions, development planning, and even voting preferences
- Continues to influence Occupational Structure: Studies suggest that 90% of menial jobs are performed by the deprived castes, whereas this figure is reversed in white-collar jobs.
- Inequity in Gold Collar Jobs: The abysmal lack of caste diversity, especially at the decision-making levels in various sectors — the media, the judiciary, higher education, bureaucracy or the corporate sector — weakens these institutions and their performance.
Arguments for Caste Census
- A caste census, which will generate exhaustive data will allow policymakers to develop better policies, implementation strategies, and will also enable a more rational debate on sensitive issues.
- India needs to be bold and decisive in tackling caste questions through data and statistics in the way US does to tackle race issues, by collecting data around race, class, language, inter-race marriages, among other metrics.
- Our Constitution too favours conducting a caste census. Article 340 mandates the appointment of a commission to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes and make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by governments.
- The Justice Rohini committee was appointed in 2017 to look into the sub-categorisation of the OBC communities; however, in the absence of data, there can be no data-bank or any proper sub-categorisation.
- All commissions have had to rely on data from the last caste census (1931). There has been substantive demographic changes since then and therefore, the data has to be updated.
- While census data has been captured for SC, ST, religions and linguistic profiles, there has been no profiling of all castes in India since 1931
If India has to emerge as a confident and strong nation, it must shed its hesitancy and ostrich-like escapism in conducting a caste-linked socio-economic census. This will kick-start a process that will eventually take the caste system away from an Indian.
Connecting the dots:
- Census 2021
- Delimitation Exercise