Caste and the Census

“State your caste?” is the question census officials are likely to ask you when you go to a centre set up to gather biometric information later this year. You may choose to ignore the query or state your precise caste. Apart from mentioning — for example — that you are an OBC, you would be required to state whether you are more specifically a Yadav, Kurmi, Koeri or any other backward caste. Same is the case if you are dalit and need to state if your are a Jatav or Valmiki or any other scheduled caste.
The decision on whether to enumerate caste in the ongoing census has been settled with the group of ministers set up to examine the contentious issue giving the proposal its green signal. The “unanimous” opinion of the GoM will be soon put before the Union Cabinet. The decision is sure to pro
vide a boost for OBC leaders. OBC parliamentary forum convenor V Hanumantha Rao convened a meeting of the body on Wednesday to build pressure and another backward leader Sameer Bhujbal from Maharashtra has initiated a move for another meeting of backward leaders which will include SP and RJD chiefs Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad.
With the mood of the Congress leadership set in favour of the caste census and government having received responses from most political
parties, the GoM met on Wednesday evening and cleared the proposal quickly. The GoM, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, considered the responses from parties including BJP which has supported the move.
The concern raised by BJP over the caste census not impacting the integrity of the headcount is shared by the government as well and this meant the caste information be gathered during the biometric stage when iris and fingerprint identification will be carried out. While the biometric information will be gathered in what is the “third stage” the process will begin in September this year itself when centres will be set up where people can go and get their information recorded. It is here that the census officials will ask for the caste identities. It will be up to the Cabinet to accept this unless it decides that caste must be enumerated at the headcount stage itself.

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