The Need for Credible Data on Caste

admin February 17, 2022
Updated 2022/02/22 at 2:36 PM

Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the 27 percent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the All-India Quota Seats for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, stating that reservations for backward classes were not an exception, but rather an extension of the equality principle under Article 15(1) of the Constitution. The decision showed how open competitive exams provide the appearance of equal opportunity in the face of vast inequities in educational resources, educational freedom, and social biases. The Court noted that such disparities are caused not only by a lack of access to a good education or financial constraints, but also by the psychological and social effects of inherited cultural capital (communication skills, books, accents, academic accomplishments, social networks, and so on), which ensures that upper-caste children are unconsciously trained for high-grade performance. While introducing constitutional provisions that allow the government to make special provisions for the uplift of the “lower castes,” the Constituent Assembly adopted a similar philosophy.

Positive discrimination, despite the good intentions behind it, has been a contentious issue. Many people are against affirmative measures like reservations because they feel they maintain caste disparities and urge a “casteless society.” “Castelessness” is a luxury that only the higher caste can afford, as Justice D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out since their caste privilege has already converted into social, political, and economic wealth. Individuals from lower castes, on the other hand, must maintain their caste identity in order to benefit from policies such as reservation, which recognise historical harm.

Promises without justifiable data

Even for individuals who are aware of these difficulties, it is difficult to trust the state’s motives because of the caste and class politics that now govern our nation. When political parties come to power, they often pledge community reservations without any credible data to back up their claims. Recently, the Supreme Court struck down Maharashtra’s reservation of more than 50% for the Maratha community, exceeding the limit set in the Indra Sawhney case, stating that “when more people aspire for backwardness instead of forwardness, the country itself stagnates, which situation is not in accordance with constitutional objectives.”

 Need for a credible exercise

In light of this, it is reasonable to conclude that our folks’ trust will not be restored unless genuine data-gathering operations on caste are conducted. Despite the fact that data on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are included in the census, there is no comparable data on OBCs. The 2011 Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) has been criticised as “faulty” and “unreliable.” Even the Mandal Commission’s recommendations were criticised for being based only on the members’ “personal expertise” and sample surveys. The Supreme Court found in the Indra Sawhney case that states must only infer the “backwardness” of a particular class of people after a thorough investigation and impartial appraisal. It was decided that such a finding must be reviewed on a regular basis by a permanent panel of specialists. According to Section 11 of the National Commission for Backward Classes Act of 1993, the central government may amend lists every ten years in order to eliminate classes that have ceased to be backward and incorporate new backward classes. This experiment has never been carried out before. Many people called for caste data (including that of the OBCs) to be included in the 2021 Census last year, and the case even went to the Supreme Court. The state, on the other hand, said that the 2011 SECC was “flawed” and that adding caste data to the 2021 Census would be impossible due to “practical obstacles.” Because the census could not be held in 2021 due to the pandemic, it will be held in 2022.

An independent study will be possible using caste data, not only to determine who needs affirmative action and who does not but also to determine the efficacy of this approach. Attempts at affirmative action will always be overshadowed by caste and class issues as long as a reservation is the consequence of violent agitations and political pressures. Unbiased statistics and subsequent studies might help individuals on both sides of the quota debate — for and against reservations — preserve genuine efforts to raise the most disadvantaged sections from the shadow of caste and class politics. The present societal division is caused by the misuse or perceived misuse of reservations, not by the reservation itself.

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