Letter to the Prime Minister to separate Caste Census from biometric data capture

The Honourable Shri Manmohan Singh,

Prime Minister of India,

Why caste enumeration should not be clubbed with biometric data capture, but should be included in the population enumeration phase of Census?

1. Census enumeration ensures total coverage of the entire population of India by house-to-house visits by the enumerator as well as the entire houseless people wherever they are camping. Biometric data capture is to be done in camps to which people are expected to go and hence absentees there cannot be counted. The coverage
in these camps will definitely be incomplete.

2. Being a first-time operation, the biometric data capture process is very likely to be
delayed substantially because of its technical difficulties and logistical challenges. On
the other hand, population enumeration process is a tried and trusted operation, and will definitely be completed by March 2011.

3. Caste data collection at the biometric camps will be an exercise totally extraneous to the biometric data capture operations comprising photographing, fingerprinting and iris scan. It will be difficult to integrate the caste data collected in isolated fashion with the bulk of the census data gathered during headcount. If there is no integration,it will not be possible to correlate this information with other socio-economic,educational and demographic data. Such correlation will happen automatically if
caste is included in the February house-to-house enumeration process. The absence of social, economic and educational data on castes will defeat the very purpose of including caste in the census.

4. The fear expressed by the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI) that
collecting caste data at the time of census enumeration will affect the ‘integrity’ of
the census and the ‘correctness of the headcount’ is wholly unsubstantiated by past experience and is untenable. Census of India has been successfully collecting and publishing caste-wise data in the censuses of 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921 and 1931,and at none of these censuses has such a thing happened. This imaginary fear
should not become the basis for keeping out caste data collection now.

5. Fears of population figures being inflated are entirely misplaced. No such inflation is reported to have occurred in the case of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes whose data have been collected and published by the census since
1951. Moreover, inflating numbers is not easy in a house-to-house census where the details of every member (name, age, education, occupation etc.) have also to be provided.

6. If included as part of the house-to-house census enumeration, caste data can be collected at no additional cost. The argument put forth by some (reported in the press) that this will entail an additional expenditure of Rs.4000 crores is entirely baseless.Similarly, if data analysis is also done in-house at the ORGI & Census of India, it again involves no additional costs.


Shri Azeez Pasha, MP, Dr. M. Vijayanunni, former RGI and Census Commissioner of India, Prof. Satish Deshpande, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics,Delhi University, Shri Ariz Mohammed, Center for Social Justice, Hyderabad, Shri Irfan
Aziz, political and social activist.

(First published on twocircle.net)


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