Indian Census and Caste Statistics

I find it weird that no Census in independent India has ever collected any statistics about castes (scheduled castes and tribes aside). Given that so many of our policies and so much of our national resource allocation depends on caste, why does our Government shy away from collecting that data?

The original decision to not collect such data was, I think, to de-emphasize caste distinctions. While the intent might have been good, in reality much of our politics and national discourse is caste based and there are many benefits of accurate data regarding castes.

In fact the Mandal commission estimated the percentage of OBCs to be 52%. A much later survey conducted by the NSS (National Sample Survey) estimated the number to be 36%. Who is right? The cynic in me says the politicians want the public to remain in the dark since caste is one of the main tools they use to rule our country!

When this question about collecting caste data was put to C. Chandramoulli, the Census Commissioner, his reply was:

In Independent India, there has never been a Census where details related to castes were given. We don’t have that mandate from the government. There is no change in policy. We will only come out with total scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population in various areas. Details about caste will not be spelt out.

So we shall continue to live in ignorance!