Reality Check India

Caste Census : Social Justice or Communal Quota – select one.

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 14, 2010

It is with great despair that I write this long post. It appears that the debate on social justice has not advanced to a higher plane even after non stop coverage of the caste quota of 2006.  We are back to the same old cliches :

What if OBCs are 70% of the population ?  _ Barkha Dutt on a TV Show

This will give true picture of OBC count and help with quota. _A MP on floor of house

We can understand if common people, gen-Y youngsters, media (both paid and naive), and politicians representing narrow interest groups give us misleading analysis.  Still you would expect the core issue of social justice and equality take centre stage inevitably. In the 2006-07 timeframe, we had our share of internet intellectuals who reduced the debate from social-justice to communal quota.  Even though many of them shut shop after the Apex court victory, I have continued to maintain that quota-without-data is the biggest enemy of both social justice and equality.

The UPA Government (headed by the Congress Party) has recently announced it would include caste in the ongoing census.  Does it mean that now we have quota-with-data ?  Yes, but only if you consider a thumbscrew to be a manicure. Read on.

Hey, you said you want data ?

My persistent opposition to the quota system is :

  1. Complete lack of data regarding beneficiaries.
  2. We cant live with a broken quota system (like we do with a broken PDS). Ad hoc quota purely at pleasure of politicians completely distorts democracy. No big ticket item can take hold as an election issue.

So, it would seem paradoxical that I have not yet welcomed the caste census. Here is why I am cautious.

It is unclear how exactly the Census caste data will work, the closest I have is Yogendra Yadav :

In other words, the enumerators will ask everyone if they belong to an SC or an ST or an OBC (enumerators already do so in the case of the SCs and the STs), and if the respondents do, the enumerators will record the exact caste name. Others will not be asked about their caste name. This appears to be the most reasonable interpretation of the demand for a “caste-based census” in the present context.

Source : Hindu Why caste should be counted – Yogendra Yadav

So, if you are not an SC/ST/OBC, there is no need to reply “I am Indian”.  That is what you get, you can even say “I am Jewish”. It doesn’t matter, nothing is recorded. OBCs will need to specify exact caste ( Gounder, Naicker, Yadav, etc). One can assume the reported caste has to exist in the state lists such as this one.

Why are you opposed to pure caste enumeration ?

First, we need to step back and see why we need to enumerate castes in the first place.  Make no mistake, this exercise will fossilize caste lines besides assigning a new type of state legitimacy to it.  This is at the expense of fraternity. It is akin to assigning +500 points for divisiveness and -500 points for fraternity. So the benefits of this exercise better be worth the uppercut the country is about to take in the chin.

The only argument in support of caste data is that the Indian state already has discriminatory programs based on the unit of caste. So, it is only natural that such programs be backed up by data along these units.  For a moment assume that we had complete equality – citizens would be indistinguishable to the state and law. Stereotypes about the individuals birth, upbringing, community get no points when showing eligibility for a benefit. In this model, collecting caste data is a voyeuristic exercise. It is like finding out how many Indians wear no underwear. It would be a completely useless data point, even if the results could shock and awe.

But, we in India have to live with a “spiked” equality. Remarkably almost all Indians will agree that our society, past, and conditions agreed to during our negotiated independence call for “spiking” equality and giving an impetus to social justice.  The only way to spike equality is caste – simply because that is what necessitated the spiking in the first place.  We can readily recognize the extremes. We instantly see Dalits and some Tribes as rightful targets of positive discrimination and some castes like Kshatriyas, Brahmins as those needing to take a hit. So far so good.

Here is where things get murky. Even though our staging unit is caste, our delivery mechanism is groups of castes. The entry and continuing membership of a caste into a group (SC/ST/OBC/MBC) is the only social engineering the state does. So the data we need is the kind that supports the validity of the groups of castes. If it can be shown by data that the group is “compact” – ie, the engineered benefit reaches all components, then no one can complain against the quota system.  Political formations cannot take hold because the “compactness” of the group is always under scrutiny.  A caste Thalaivar or Neta can offer no workaround for the “compactness” check.

Now, back to the census issue.

Does the caste census, as proposed, have any data points that can help validate the “groups of castes” ?

First here are some observations :

  1. Misreporting of caste is highly unlikely among middle class, urban, educated, and politically organized poor.
  2. Misreporting of caste highly likely among really backward.
  3. Not counting open category components may appear to be logical but will affect claimants to benefits from upper castes. Besides, it may not be accepted by racial formations like Dravidians.
  4. No way to count creamy layer as it exists.
  5. Will provide total pop % that are currently classified as OBC.
  6. Will provide total pop % of each OBC component caste.
  7. Will seriously undermine datapoints on education, income, land holdings. Big incentive to under report and no incentive to be truthful.

There are still bigger issues like resolution. For example : Christians in Tamilnadu will report their castes in large grains.

No 142. Converts to Chritianity from any Hindu Backward Classes Community or Most Backward Classes Community or Denotified Communities except the Converts to Christianity from Meenavar, Parvatharajakulam, Pattanavar, Sembadavar, Mukkuvar or Mukayar and Paravar

But there are about 10 different categories of Naickers. (See this list). Like most of you, I too am uncomfortable taking caste names as examples. This sounds like promoting divisiveness, but this government has brought caste to our doorstep. The state has made me and you think and write in terms of caste.

What after the census ?

After the census is over, most Indians will wait with bated breath for the results. How did caste-X fare ?

The question is not whether caste-X is backward, or how caste-X is faring on the primary social justice platforms – but simply how many there are of caste-X. Why ? Because this is the only data the census can provide.

Inevitably the clamour will rise for proportional representation, in other words a communal quota. This is inevitable because by conducting this flawed exercise the Indian state has built up a grand expectation. The right to parlay  numerical strength into an exclusive, preferably proportional benefit. The numerical winners will immediately assert this right.

Tamilnadu is a case study for communal quota. Castes currently in the OBC list routinely take the lions share of the open seats. We may not know the conditions that resulted in their original inclusion but their continuation in the OBC list is not because they are backward but because of some extraneous factors.  The supreme court has never been able to adjudicate satisfactorily on the legitimacy of the Tamilnadu situation.  Political parties from the rest of India watch in amazement at the invincibility of the political forces there. It is natural that the rest of India will trend in this direction.

As for Hindutva, it is game over. This exercise will kill any attempt at Hindu mobilization or at building a secular (not the media pimp version) country.  If a communal quota takes root, groups will large resolution like Christians, and Muslims will be boxed into a much larger pigeon hole than Hindu groups.The chaos, infighting, suspicion, and jostling for space in Hindu groups can be contrasted with the relative peace a large pigeonhole provides.

So what needs to be measured ?

To recap,

A) The only social engineering tool used by the Indian state is the ability to classify staging units (caste) into benefit delivery units (groups of castes – OBC/SC/ST/MBC etc).

B) The only thing that needs to be validated is the fairness of the above classification.

We should never let the following out of sight.

The reason we are here is social justice.

So instead of enumerating the entire population caste wise, it is much simpler to simply monitor the compactness of the benefit delivery units. No census is necessary.

A) Measure utilization : How staging units (castes) fare in the delivery units (groups) ? Also abilities of units (castes) to compete in open category.

B) If it can be shown that the groups result in fair (maybe not proportional) delivery to the social justice units (caste), then there is nothing more to do. All critics of the grouping such as Reality Check India have to shut up.

C) If the groups result in a distorted benefit to certain units, then this is the worst form of social injustice. Why ? Because this distortion is engineered and has the stamp of approval of the state. People understand and can accept jungle rules – but not enforced injustice.

Here is an illustration that highlights the issue.

Assume we create a sanctuary to protect certain animals from the dog eat dog world of the jungle.   For contrast, we have exaggerated the stereotype (fish is always a fish, tortoise is always slow, etc). Not unlike our arrangement.

This is what the census gives you

We know the total population of the sanctuary.

We know the breakup of each component of the sanctuary.

This is what the census wont give you

How is life in the sanctuary for the members ?

The census is a black box as far as social justice is concerned

What we need is this.

This is what the census gives you

We know the total population of the sanctuary.

We know the breakup of each component of the sanctuary.

This is what we need

How are the members in the sanctuary faring ?

Oops, we see no fish or penguins among sweepstake winners.

Any silver lining ?

All said, it could be far worse in the following way.

Only delivery groups are counted and social justice staging units are not. You just fill up OBC instead of exact caste. This would not have happened because there are already political forces representing components (eg, PMK).

Once the numbers are out, there may be increasing pressure to collect utilization data of benefit delivery units .  However, I think that is a far fetched hope because the numerical winners of this enumeration will immediately push for communal quota – rendering the further measurement of social justice useless.

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22 Responses

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  1. Shivam Vij said, on May 15, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    You are a hypocrite, a liar, an intellectually dishonest person. No wonder you write this blog anonymously

    • rc said, on May 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      Can we assume you have nothing to say about the contents of the post, as usual ?

      • Jai_C said, on May 16, 2010 at 10:12 am

        Hi RC,

        Will re-read… cant take the long post at one go. But,

        when census workers collect data, dont they get status-of-living info directly (no queries abt income/ profession?) or indirectly (locality lived in, housing). arent these data compiled at all?

        This data would provide info about what % of caste X is at what level (how is life, not just in the sanctuary but everywhere). Indeed it would show up the creamy layers and distribution of “thickness of cream” by caste.

        Have to say that I think any engineered distortions can be challenged by data from this census?

        thanks,
        Jai

    • Piyush Sharma said, on May 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

      The caste based census is a POSSIBILITY rather than a CERTAINITY. Manmohan singh has not committed himself to such in clear words. I have reason to believe that there is no caste column in the distributed printed forms.

      Even then why to object and use complicated psychobable (calling media and politicians NARROW INTEREST GROUPS).. If anything better, you should suggest a better system then DEMOCRACY. How about despotis and autocratic governments.

      I belong to a forward caste and will not oppose the caste based system. I have no objections if clear position emerges out of the census to help the real needy. As far a ACTIVISM goes, let the Supreme Court of India work for it as they have often done in the past. But let us settle the controversy and get more accurate data then the now available 1931 census data.

      • rc said, on May 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm

        I dont oppose caste based quota at all. To the contrary, I dont support any other type of quota. Focus on the components rather than the group is key.

        Would appreciate if you could answer this.

        Caste census would tell you the following :

        “Bangaroos constitute 1.2% of AP”
        “Bangaroos are currently classified as OBC in AP”

        What would you do with this information ?

    • manjit said, on July 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      4 सितं 2009 … ऐसे ही लोगों ने विवेकानंद को कायस्थ(शूद्र) होने के कारण अपमानित किया जिसपर स्वामी जी ….. कायस्थ तो शूद्र हैं ही तो टेलेंट उनमें कहां से होगा। हर लल्लू-पंजू यहां …
      mohallalive.com › असहमति – संचित प्रति

      शूद्र करार दिए जाने की पीड़ा, विवेकानंद की जुबानी

      “समाज सुधारकों की पत्रिका में मैंने देखा कि मूझे शूद्र बताया गया है और चुनौती दी गई है कि शूद्र संन्यासी कैसे हो सकता है।
      दरअसल इस भाषण में विवेकानंद की ये पीड़ा आप देख सकते हैं जो उन्हें कुछ समाज सुधारकों ने दी है। इससे आप आंबेडकर की पीड़ा को बेहतर समझ सकते हैं। फुले और शाहूजी महाराज को बेहतर जान सकते हैं। दलित लेखन में जो कड़वाहट किसी को असांस्कृतिक और असभ्य लगती है, उसके समझने का सूत्र विवेकानंद देते हैं। इसके अलावा विवेकानंद रचना समग्र में कदाचित सिर्फ एक और जगह स्वामीजी अपने जाति मूल की बात करते हैँ। समुद्र यात्रा पर निकलने से पहले वो इस बात का जिक्र करते हैं कि “अंग्रेजों ने सभी जाति के लोगों को एक साथ नेटिव करार दिया है।” यहां वो इस बात का जिक्र करते हैं कि “कायस्थ कुल में जन्म होने के कारण उन्हें कई तबकों के हमले झेलने पड़े। और कि सभी जातियां खुद को कायस्थों (शूद्र)से श्रेष्ठ मानती हैं।”
      मूल उद्धरण नीचे देखें :

      “हे ब्राह्मणों, अगर ब्राह्मणों में अछूतों की तुलना में सीखने की प्रवृत्ति ज्यादा है तो ब्राह्मणों की शिक्षा पर और खर्च न किया जाए। बल्कि ऐसा सारा खर्च अछूतों की शिक्षा पर किया जाए। कमजोर को ही मदद की जरूरत है। अगर ब्राह्मण जन्मना समझदार है तो वो किसी सहायता के बिना शिक्षा प्राप्त कर लेगा। अगर बाकी लोग जन्म से समझदार नहीं हैं तो उनके लिए शिक्षा और शिक्षकों का बंदोबस्त किया जाए। मुझे तो लगता है कि यही न्याय है और यही सही है।” इसी भाषण में स्वामीजी ने कठोपनिषद को उद्धृत करते हुए कहा था – उतिष्ठत, जाग्रत, प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत।
      So kick out the caste that insulted great ambedkar ,vivkanand,subash chandra bose ,Lohia,noble prize winner amritya sen ,caste census is insult of country bec all great personalites were aginst the caste system in india
      Simple calculation is there Brahmin is higher caste 3-5 percent rest all backward,some area and state brahmin also sc/obc,and khastirya also SC/OBC /ST MANY STATE ,First time shudra got protection during mughal period and became kayasthas many kayasthas like das,mitra,basu,bose,gosh ,valmiki,nigam,are also in obc in ,up/bihaR,NORTH SOUTH INDIA

  2. Barbarindian said, on May 15, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Great post as usual, hope you will keep the momentum going.

    I see that you are being attacked by paid two bit hoodlums of the feudal order. We saw these creatures before, not worth wasting time on them.

  3. Check Reality said, on May 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    For any one who opposed quota as there was no data, Caste based census will be a welcome news

    For any one who opposed quota for racist and fanatics reasons, but did not have the honesty to admit it, but tell other reasons like “merit” “data”, caste based census is a lighting on the head

    Ha Ha Ha

    Was expecting this sort of post from you 🙂 🙂 🙂

    This now exposes your true nature


    Shivam Vij
    Well said.

    BarbarIndian
    My Deepest condolences. sob sob sob

  4. Barbarindian said, on May 17, 2010 at 1:10 am

    when census workers collect data, dont they get status-of-living info directly (no queries abt income/ profession?) or indirectly (locality lived in, housing). arent these data compiled at all?

    Ignoring the potent absurdity of this suggestion, why not just read up if this data is being collected?

  5. Incognito said, on May 17, 2010 at 2:42 am

    That people like RC and Barbarindians still entertain expectations of decent behaviour from the “govt off the people, buy the people and fraud people” is more surprising.

    Hasn’t ‘reality’ taught you guys anything yet ?

  6. Chandra said, on May 17, 2010 at 5:11 am

    “As for Hindutva, it is game over. This exercise will kill any attempt at Hindu mobilization or at building a secular (not the media pimp version) country. If a communal quota takes root, groups will large resolution like Christians, and Muslims will be boxed into a much larger pigeon hole than Hindu groups.The chaos, infighting, suspicion, and jostling for space in Hindu groups can be contrasted with the relative peace a large pigeonhole provides.”

    Great observation, although this is increasingly already the case.

    Any idea if caste census itself, not caste as “social justice” delivery mechanism, is unconstitutional. Of course, that historically never stop Congress I and lefties pushing their agenda.

  7. Karnati Veeranna said, on May 17, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for your illustration. Left nothing to reason with you.
    Maybe time to hang up your boots!

    • realitycheck said, on May 17, 2010 at 5:56 pm

      Sir, have you tried reasoning with me ? What good will come of that ? I am a nobody.

      This blog is just my attempt to build a mass of material that can be an alternate conventional wisdom at best or just a time capsule at worst.

      But I wont hang up my boots. Not until fake social justice intellectuals exist on the internet.

  8. xyz said, on May 17, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Superb post.The whole exercise is nonsense to start off with.The indvidual classifies himself as OBC etc.It is sort of circular and then he will identify himself as belonging to xyz caste which is a part of the OBC list.And the whole problem is xyz caste is as dominant as it gets in a particular region.Yet they claim OBC status and have been enjoying it for decades.A sick joke.

    • realitycheck said, on May 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      This is the big question :

      Why does a caste not leave the list ?

      It is not because the brothers /sisters of that caste want to scam the street kid of his benefit. It is because the politicians / community leaders dont want that to happen.

      Why ? Because the minute a swathe of people leave the benefit regime – they turn into free agents – who will then not accept sewage on roads, etc. They cant be appealed to via a proxy.

  9. Jai_C said, on May 21, 2010 at 6:27 am

    hi RC,

    “…“Bangaroos constitute 1.2% of AP”
    “Bangaroos are currently classified as OBC in AP”…”

    Are the following data not collected, or not compiled, or ignored even if available:

    % of bangaroos holding (say) std X pass
    % of bangaroos owning land
    % of bangaroos living in pucca houses vs huts
    % of bangaroos facing seasonal unemployment

    vs. corresponding % for a nominal “forward” caste in the same area covered under the survey (kangaroos?)

    vs. corresponding % for a sweeps winner reserved caste in the same area under the survey (jangaroos?)

    Continuing further, if we have 2 groups
    bangaroos and zangaroos
    at about the same metrics lets say we implement reservation for one and not the other – modifying the “delivery mechanism”

    The next census 10yrs down will actually reveal (to a rough degree of approximation) the effect and efficiency of reservations in uplifting (or not) bangaroos?

    thanks,
    Jai

    • realitycheck said, on May 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm

      Jai –

      Appreciate & value your opinion, which is clearly well developed, on this vexing issue.

      You raise an interesting point.

      The exact census form for Phase II (Population Enumeration) is here (PDF)

      http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-Schedule/Shedules/NPR%20English.pdf

      A FAQ of what is collected http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-FAQ/FAQ-Public.html#F

      From your list – they do ask for educational qualification & employment details. So I agree your scheme would work too with a 10year turnaround – BUT

      1. Biggest flaw is it does not capture the above for “forward castes”. That can happen only in a full population count. So it is impossible to measure against a “nominal forward caste” in the area.

      2. Misreporting will occur because ppl know benefits are attached to their answer (census taker has to simply take down what the respondent says)

      3. Misreporting need not be lying. For instance (BA/ MBBS/ MD) are all graduates. But I agree that a community with a high number of MDs will reflect in a high number of grads. So this can be picked up.

      4. Does not capture “life in the sanctuary”, a community with a low number of grads could be disproportionately represented in the group quota (due to creamy layer – not the wealthy kind).

      5. It does not tell you about the “Open quota” (almost same point as 1). Communities topping open quota are not showing evidence of disability.

      So I still think it is better to just directly measure the quota regime, rather than this round about way.

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  11. Revathi said, on June 8, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Just think of the impact on history! the four thousand year old caste system in india is being dismantled by mm singh et al to give to rise to a new system of just four castes (GC, SC, ST, OBC; all lovely abbreviations compared to words like dwija and shudra) irrespective of relegion or language( i heard that you dont have to mention if you are a hindu or not). This will change the advts in the matrmonial columns for sure.

  12. shaleena said, on June 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Equality may be a fiction, why not accept it as a governing principle?

  13. Bhagwad Jal Park said, on July 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    We have a choice here. We can just put ‘Indian’ in our caste field when the census person comes.

    This way we make our own statement that we don’t want caste to be a factor in our lives and that this is the first step we’re willing to take.

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