Advocating for a Caste Census in India

Advocating for a Caste Census in India
Posted on 14-10-2023

Advocating for a Caste Census in India

The recent release of caste survey results by the Bihar government has ignited a national debate about the need for a nationwide caste-based survey in India. To make an informed decision on this matter, it's essential to analyze the socio-economic data and consider arguments both in favor of and against such a survey.

Socio-Economic Data Analysis:

  1. Caste-Based Deprivation:

    • In 2011-12, the average monthly per capita consumption expenditures (MPCE) of Scheduled Tribes (ST), Scheduled Castes (SC), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) households in rural areas were 65%, 73%, and 84% of the general category, respectively.

    • In urban areas, the MPCE for ST, SC, and OBC households were 68%, 63%, and 70% of the general category.

    • Research reveals that STs, SCs, and OBCs, constituting around 73% of India's population, account for 84% of the country's poor, with over 50% of multidimensionally poor belonging to the OBC category.

    • Discrimination based on caste and religion (particularly against Muslims) correlates with poverty and deprivation.

  2. Education and Employment Disparities:

    • The general category exhibits higher literacy rates and more graduates and post-graduates compared to OBCs, SCs, and STs.

    • In terms of employment, the general category has a higher proportion of formal, regular jobs, while STs, SCs, and OBCs are overrepresented in the informal sector.

  3. Mandal Commission Report:

    • The Mandal Commission's 1980 report estimated that Hindu and non-Hindu OBCs together constituted 52% of India's population and recognized caste as a social and educationally backward class.

    • Article 15(4) of the Constitution enables the state to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.

  4. Reservation in Public Services:

    • The V.P. Singh government implemented 27% OBC reservation for public services in 1990, upheld by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney judgment in 1992.

    • The court allowed identification of groups based on criteria other than caste for reservation purposes.

Arguments Against a Nationwide Caste-Based Survey:

Opponents argue that revealing the exact population shares of OBCs greater than 52% may lead to demands for an increase in the 27% OBC reservation quota, which is already under scrutiny due to the Constitutional (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019.

The Way Forward:

  1. Full Caste Enumeration:

    • Given the disparities in OBC population estimates from various sample surveys, only a nationwide caste census can provide accurate numbers and proportions of individual castes within the OBC category.

  2. Build on Justice Rohini Commission Findings:

    • The Justice Rohini Commission's report on sub-categorization of OBCs can be used as a foundation for further research.

    • A nationwide socio-economic caste census is necessary to establish scientific criteria for sub-categorization, especially for states with their own OBC lists due to diverse caste compositions.


The issue of caste inequalities in Indian society is widely acknowledged, and a nation-wide caste survey could be the first step towards addressing this problem. From across the political spectrum, there is consensus on the need to eradicate caste disparities, making a comprehensive caste census a crucial tool for informed decision-making and policy formulation.

Thank You