Reality Check India

NSS 61st Round data for Social Groups

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 14, 2006

This post has been in a draft mode for weeks, glad it get it out.  

I think it is a good sign that folks are finally beginning to talk about the importance of data in framing of public policy.  This is essential to evaluate claims of backwardness by different social groups. They should remember that data is not a “nice to have” – it is a “must have”.  It is not an afterthought – it is a pre-requisite to select castes for inclusion in the group called OBCs.  Abi, one of “The other india” bloggers has some useful links here.

I have been reading the latest NSSO called the 61st round conducted between July 2004 and June 2005. This was the seventh such survey and only the second to collect OBC data. The previous available survey was called the NSS 55th round. I have covered the old rounds here and here.  This is boring stuff and hard to wrap your head around it – so check out the cartograms here.

What is the big deal with NSSO data ?

Have you heard about NSSO prior to April of this year ? You are not alone, me neither. The NSSO collects statistics like household expenditure, unemployment profiles, energy usage, educational levels and other data useful for planners and researchers. This stuff while useful to planners, is not very interesting to the lay person. The NSSO however had a hidden gem in its data. It was a simple count of OBCs and Others (Forward Castes). Since, 1931 we did not have any idea about these two critical numbers. 

Survey methodology

It uses a stratified multi stage sampling method. Dont worry, I dont know the math behind that either. From what I gather, they divided up villages, hamlets, urban areas, and wards in a scientific manner.  The final unit (so called ultimate staging units or USUs) were individual households. This means that they did not go around asking people for data, instead the head of the household reported data that applied to the entire household. This is robust and anyone claiming otherwise better do the math and tell us why this is not so. So I am quite satisfied with what is available.

Is Self reporting bad ?

This is receiving some flak from some commentators.  In the NSSO survey, all data including the social group is self-reported. This means that the head of the household claimed that he belonged to one of the four social groups.  It is important to remember that even the census data is self reported. This does not mean it is invalid. Self-reporting is expected to be robust for all but the most threatening questions. If you asked a population a question like, “Have you committed a crime in the past three months ?”  – you can expect a lot of misreporting.   

How is this data relevant to OBC quota policy ?

The NSSO data has for the first time given an glimpse of the OBC population.  This is why it has piqued the interest of so many people.  This survey can give us a pretty good estimate of how many OBCs/FCs there are in each state and in India. We already know the SC and ST count based on the 2001 census.

So anything interesting in this round ?

The nationwide OBC percentage has increased 5% from the last round.  TN OBC count has increased 8%. The SC/ST count nationwide has remained pretty much the same.  It turns out OBC purchasing power is almost equal to that of the “Others”. OBCs are also better employed than the FCs at 42% vs 38.9%.

Probably a lot of interesting stuff for folks like Surjit Bhalla (read his take of OBC quota and the legitimate muslim claim for a subquota).

Any new cartograms ?

Yes – the startling thing to look out for is Tamilnadu/WB/J&K. Someone better come up with an explanation for why is 95.4% of a state in need of social justice in the form of hard quotas. They must show that the remaining 4.6% have such a stranglehold on forces of production, education, and economy. If not all states are soon going to ask for more – they pay taxes too.

Data source : NSS 61st Round Report 516 titled “Employment and Unemployment Situation among Social Groups in India” Page 54.

Thanks to Abi we can just look at that one page without having to register and download the document. Check it out here.



For every 100 people (figures rounded off) –

  • only 6 Bengalis can compete for the OBC quota seats
  • only 13 J&K can compete
  • only 14 Delhiites
  • but 74 Tamils are eligible, 61 Keralites too (but only 8 Keralites compete as SCs)

Even the Moily Report warned 

(page 95):

The analysis of NSS data clearly brings out the inclusion of creamy layer will result in reserved seats getting pre-empted by OBCs from the top two income deciles of the OBCs at the cost of the poorer income deciles. Thus almost all rural OBCs as well as OBCs from the Northern, Central and Eastern regions will be deprived of the intended benefit of reservation.

(page 94)

.. In fact Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi also vehemently propounded the theory of excluding the creamy layer as he was apprehensive of the disadvantaged classes losing the benefits and upper layer of OBCs who are well off and have enjoyed the benefits of two or three generations continuing to be protected at the cost of the deprived classes for whom the process of empowerment is really meant.

This may not appear to be a problem now, but sooner or later these imbalances have a way of turning violent. Bengalis and Kashmiris pay taxes too that go into the 25000 cr kitty. They have an IIT at Kharagpur and an IIM at Kolkata – can you imagine the local feeling when only 6 out of 100 Bengalis can compete for the newly created OBC seats there ? At the very least this merits a 5 min discussion in parliament – no ?

Why are you always picking on TN because it has only 4.3% forward castes ? Even Lakshadweep (1%) , Chattisgarh (10%), Manipur (3%) have low forward castes.  Why not ask the same questions to those states (or UTs) ?

Good question. There is no oppression in those states but still they have very few forward castes. That is because most of the rest are classified as Scheduled Tribes. STs are not selected on the basis of caste discrimination or untouchability. They have just been cut off due to their remoteness. In fact, most ST societies are very egalitarian and there is hardly any discrimination. This is why Tamilnadu has a special requirement to prove that 95.7% of people are oppressed – because only 1.04% of TN is classified as ST.

What about officials like PS Krishnan who want a census before deciding on quotas (article here)?

Brilliant, we welcomed this long back. However, there is a fly in the ointment. The census should count individual castes – not the omnibus OBC group. This is at the very heart of the quota system. If “caste” is the main criteria to get into the group known as the OBCs – it must be the measurement unit (or Ultimate Staging Unit). His claims that extrapolation from 1931 are better than a stratified sampling done in 2005 – is not sound. He has a lot of ground to cover if he wants to prove that mathematically. 

What difference does it make ? Even if the OBC population is 27.001% we would still have the 27% quota, right ? Is this all worth it then ?

Good question again hitting at the heart of the issue. The nature of the OBC quota is different from the ST quota as seen above.   OBC units are castes that are selected for membership into a group – which is then allocated a cut of the seats. The catch is that each OBC caste that is so selected, must be Socially and Educationally backward. This is why this group is called SEBCs in the constitution and various court judgements. SCs (Dalits) do not have that requirement – they are given quotas because they suffered most humiliating oppression such as untouchability, access restrictions. This means that SC castes do not need to demonstrate “Social and Educational Backwardness” parameters – they are “in” just based on their caste.

So are you saying you support 27% quota for OBCs ?

The 27% figure has nothing to do with the OBC count. It has to do with the ceiling of 50% imposed by the SC. Why do we have this ceiling ? It is there because quotas are the supposed to be exception to equality, under no circumstances can the exception be allowed to swallow the rule. This was said by none other than Dr Ambedkar.

Is there a group called OBCs – or is this bogus ?

I do not dispute the existance of a group called the OBCs. In a highly heirarchical society like India, there may be several castes that are close to the SCs – but have not been classified so. In my view, only castes that are close to the SCs in social status are OBCs. These castes have the added burden of measurement for social and educational backwardness. I am not a social scientist, but I am sure some combination of parameters can be used to set a benchmark for cut off.

Ok cut it short,  how can you measure this monster ?

1. The central data, which is unfortunately treated as a national secret is university admissions records and applications.  For employment, it is employment applications and selected profiles. This is a direct external validation for census and sample survey results. In fact, the government must work up from this data which is remarkably easy to obtain.

2. All data must be normalized respective to the eligible applications received.  If only 10 students apply for an MBBS program from Caste X (whose pop is in the millions) – then there is an access problem at the school level. Quotas are not going to help here. 

3. If a caste is well represented (not necessarily proportionally) in the open competition, then it cannot remain in the OBC group any longer. Policies can be framed so that a caste is placed in a “monitor” state for a couple of years before being moved out. By remaining in the OBC group, this caste is destroying the social justice needs of those OBC castes that are not able to make it in the open (again normalized based on eligible candidates)

4. Creamy layer removal is an absolute requirement for OBCs. This is because they are the creme-de-la-creme of Indian society. There is no case to be made for social justice for them at the expense of the poor OBC.  Remember the largest OBCs did not suffer oppression like the Dalits did.

21 Responses

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  1. Reason said, on December 15, 2006 at 7:13 am

    Nadars are not backward. Chettiars are not. Gounders are not. Naidu/Naickers are not. Mudaliars are not. Thevars are not (they were Zamindars, for heaven’s sake).
    They are all just shameless people who dont have a morsel of shame about taking a free ride.

    Barbarindians suggested a private initiative to collect data about OBC beneficiaries in elite institutions. anna university Guindy college of engineering in TN will be a prime candidate. Can RTI be used to get info on BC/MBC quota beneficiaries at that college and their school/parents occupation, and let the world see if these shameless idiots were deprived in any sense and deserved reservation? That will expose this shameful affair.
    This is not a scheme for the deprived. It is a scheme for the depraved.

  2. rc said, on December 15, 2006 at 7:25 am

    >> they were Zamindars, for heaven’s sake). >>

    In this perspective – view the Sachar report.

    Do you still oppose quota for Muslims ? If these groups can have a “little 25000 crore ” party – why not the Muslims ? At the very least, the Sachar report has collected data – the OBC castes have no data at all to establish backwardness.

    Read this excellent article about the real powers in India – “Quotas are for equality, but not equal”

  3. Reason said, on December 15, 2006 at 7:59 am

    ‘Muslims’ as a monolithic backward group is a myth. That is a myth your dear honest economist prime minister (I just call him shameless) will want you to believe so he can go all the way to the UP assembly with their votes.

    Read this link – – to get that demolished. And read this link – – for a take from an erstwhile Indian Muslim (now pakistani).

    But recognizing any caste divisions in minorities is bad for vote bank politics. You want to pitch for that vote en bloc.

    And before you talk about that, you have also to realize there is another problem – an average Indian, if he gets to become an insurance agent, will go to his family with a box of sweets. But there was a case of a Muslim going to get a fatwa on this – that ruled that he can not do that.

    And also, spare a thought for a ‘forward caste’ person, who fails to get a good education and becomes an auto driver – think of his children. Should caste be the only deciding factor for backwardness?

  4. rc said, on December 15, 2006 at 8:10 am


    You are familiar with my blog, I am against any quota for OBCs without comprehensive caste-wise data. Now this law is passed – papering over any requirement for each OBC caste to establish backwardness.

    I am just driving at consistency. How can you have two sets of rules ? Are the OBCs homogeneous ? Are they monolithic ? Do they have data to back up their claims to backwardness ? Dont the OBCs own the most lavish mansions, beach houses and estate bungalows ? There are enough powerful OBC castes to fill up all the reserved seats several times over.

    If that is the case, then on what basis can Muslims be denied a sub-quota ? Sachar has given some data about muslims – maybe it isnt perfect, but nevertheless even that data does not exist for OBCs. Some consistency is required, otherwise the fabric of this country will tear.

    The issue about Muslim sensibility and Fatwas have limited appeal. There are unspoken Fatwas everywhere. An OBC caste leader appeals to his constituency to vote for XYZ candidate. In my view, that is a fatwa too.

  5. Reason said, on December 15, 2006 at 8:39 am

    Well, you are saying “OBCs as a monolithic backward group is a myth”. I agreed with that, and I also said the same thing about Muslims, with links that provide evidence.

    Your point about OBC’s getting away with it, and if the point would be to use that and say why not the muslims – There is a thing about two wrongs not making a right.

    Excluding dalits, if caste should be the basis for reservation (including for castes among muslims), there needs to be proof that
    – the traditional occupation for that caste led to deprivation and led to that caste being socially ostracized. (The current OBC list needs a lot of pruning in Tamil Nadu, and this is something you say yourself).
    – individual beneficiaries actually belong to such house holds in their traditional occupations or other menial occupations (proof of backwardess).

    In parallel, it should be recognized that occupations become more and more disconnected from castes, and a ‘forward caste’ auto driver is no longer forward than a IT-sector employed Nadar who declares himself to be a BC.

  6. rc said, on December 15, 2006 at 9:00 am

    >> Your point about OBC’s getting away with it, and if the point would be to use that and say why not the muslims – There is a thing about two wrongs not making a right. >>

    Agreed – unfortunately we are *way* past the point where these kinds of postulates hold.

    As things stand now we cannot selectively decides who gets to do “wrong” and who must be held to be “right”. These things have a way of getting out of control.

    I do not disagree with you per se, just wanted to give a reality check on where we stand now due to our short sighted politicians.

  7. Reason said, on December 15, 2006 at 9:20 am

    I think the right of private educational institutions that operate without any State aid – for them to not follow a state sponsored quota regime – this becomes very important now.
    That will minimise the impact of politicians making education their playing area. And eventually, make this stuff redundant. But this UPA bunch of politicians actually want to expand their game to private sector employment..

    It was nice reading this post, with a lot of data and explanation for the data (as always). Thanks. But when I read thru, I also got a feeling of the old tamil saying ‘Kai punnukku Kannadi thevaiya?’

    Now, back to some work… 🙂

  8. Revathi said, on December 18, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Rajiv Gandhi was one of the few indian politicians who was ready to take the reservation bull by its horns. He did that because his vote bank transcended the caste and relegion divide. Sonia or Rahul Gandhi can do this do but they hesitate- I wonder why.

  9. Reason said, on December 18, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    It is fascinating to see the kind of ‘faith’ that some folk have in the Nehru family. Got to remember that thing about ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’.
    Indians dont know or care for their history. Independence was not won by Nehru and Gandhi alone,single-handedly or double-handedly – there were so many other leaders who made great sacrifices and showed great leadership. It is worth remembering Netaji whose election as congress president was scuttled by Gandhi, in true congress high command style. Their families are not laying automatic claim to country’s leadership and all the perks that come with it.

    If you want to remember Rajiv, remember Shah Bano as well. Ofcourse he opposed V.P.Singh’s Mandal moves because he was opposed to *V.P.Singh*. He would have opposed anything V.P.singh did.

    If you want to remember Sonia’s great sacrifice circus, also remember her ‘I have the numbers’ claim in 1999 at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

    And what leadership quality, by the way, has Rahul demonstrated to gain your confidence?

  10. Revathi said, on December 19, 2006 at 8:23 am

    I didnt say that I have faith in Rahul’s leadership qualities but I merely said that his vote bank transcends the caste and relegion divide. I think that even his worst enemies will agree to this.

  11. Revathi said, on December 19, 2006 at 8:25 am

    Also, does anyone think that the BJP doesnt want to “oppose” Sonia? They dont dare because they are also dependent on the same vote bank.So tell me now, who has more courage- Rajiv or the BJP.

  12. Barbarindian said, on December 20, 2006 at 4:38 am

    Do not forget that Rahul has a Spanish (Columbian?) girlfriend. In India, acquiring a foreign girlfriend inspires a certain amount of awe, especially among the anglicized class, it always has and always will.

    I must admit here that I do believe Rajiv was the most courageous, perhaps foolhardy is more like it. Whether he meant it or not, he did proclaim things that belied his political inexperience. Well, we never got to know anyway.

  13. Revathi said, on December 20, 2006 at 8:24 am

    It was his political inexperience that made him speak from his heart! (that you call foolhardy).

  14. kashyap said, on March 30, 2007 at 7:30 am

    great job!

  15. kashyap said, on March 30, 2007 at 7:30 am

    great job!!

  16. rajesh said, on March 30, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Great job . Pl visit
    and post your thoughts there too.

  17. kishore said, on May 1, 2007 at 2:23 am

    why we need quotas?. try to imporve the living standards of the people and provide education to everybody with out compramising the quality .

  18. kishore said, on May 1, 2007 at 2:25 am

    why do we need quotas?. Try to imporve the living standards of the people and provide education to everybody with out compramising the quality .

    Leave a Reply

  19. Rumblings in Bengal « Reality Check India said, on November 21, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    […] is first on the list. As mentioned in this blog, Bengal is a spectacular anomaly when it comes to the quota system – especially its Muslim […]

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