Supreme Court denies PILs against Caste-based Census in Bihar

The Supreme Court of India has dismissed all the PILs that challenged the move of the Bihar Government to conduct a caste-based census. The court rejected the plea and even termed it as “publicity interest litigation”, proving them baseless. The Supreme Court even asked the petitioners to take it up with the Patna High court as it is happening in Bihar. 

The petitioners filed a Public Interest Litigation case concerning the ongoing caste-based census in Bihar. The petitions state that as per the Census Act of 1948, only the Union government has the power to conduct census in both Centre and the State. It also states that the Act never recommended caste-based census and it is against the ‘basic structure of the constitution’. 

Caste-based census refers to caste-wise data of India’s population to get accurate information about the representation of each caste. In 2011, the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) was conducted for the whole of India but the data was never released. A decade later, the data is unusable and it has become a pressing demand by the Bihar government to make it happen.

Caste-based Census: One step forward, two steps back 

Caste-based census in Bihar has already begun its phase one and will conclude by January 21st. The caste-based census will be conducted in two phases and it is an eight-level survey starting from the panchayat to the district level. T

he first phase starts with data on each family digitally through a mobile app which will have all their basic details. The second phase will begin in March, the data will be collected based on caste and religion in all 38 districts. 

Last year, the Bihar cabinet approved the caste-based census after it was rejected by the Union government. The decadal census in which religious groups and the Scheduled castes (SC) and Schedule Tribes (ST) are done separately by the Central Government. 

The Caste-based census has its pros and cons which will affect the country as a whole. The good and the bad attached to taking such a step will only be determined with time. 

The need for a caste-based census has been increasing with time. It is believed that for applying more scientific methods in improving socio-economic policies, accurate data is necessary.  The Caste-based census will also help in widening the scope of development and include greater participation. The data of such surveys will help in identifying the unrepresented caste groups. 

The main objection to such an initiative is that it will affect the unity and integrity of the country in the long run. Our system is drenched in caste even after the Independence and has always upheld the caste system even before 1931. Caste-based census is only going to aggravate the situation by increasing the practice of caste-based identity politics. 

The regional parties will use it for their benefit and make it about the vote bank instead of welfare policies. The data from the caste-based census will be used for political campaigning to get the maximum vote share from a particular caste. It is like the mere act of labeling people based on their caste, it will divide the country. Caste feelings among people will be increased and there will be more agitations. 

Our society should aim to provide welfare policies to the people based on their socio-economic status. Its main concern should be providing basic needs to all the people and eradicating poverty at the earliest. The data about the people below the poverty line in our country is alarming.

Still, the state governments want to make it all about politics instead of sustainable development of the country. After 75 years of Independence, if our aim is still not about creating a casteless society, we need to look into the deep-rooted values in ourselves. 

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