Caste Based Census


The Bihar government released the report of Bihar Jati Adharit Ganana 2022 (caste survey) conducted in the state, saying “it is only compiled date and no analysis of it has been done yet.

Caste count


Share in Population

Population (in crore)

Other Backward Class

27-1. %


Extremely Backward Class

36.01 %


Scheduled Class

19.65 %


Scheduled tribe

1.68 %



15.52 %





Caste has been a significant social factor in India, and the government has historically collected data on caste through the decennial census. However, the last time the caste-based data was collected comprehensively was in 1931.

Since then, there has been a shift in policy to not collect caste-based data to avoid deepening social divisions and discrimination.

Proponents of a caste-based census argue that having up-to-date data is crucial for effective implementation of social welfare programs and affirmative action policies.

Opponents, on the other hand, express concerns about the potential misuse of such data and the reinforcement of caste-based identities.

History of Caste-Based Census

The history of caste-based census in India is complex and has evolved over time. Here are some key points in the historical context:

  1. British Period (Colonial Era):
    • The British colonial administration in India conducted the first comprehensive caste-based census in 1871 during the tenure of Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India.
    • Subsequent censuses in 1881 and 1891 also included detailed caste enumeration.
  2. Early 20th Century:
    • The 1901 census continued to collect caste data but with some modifications.
    • The 1931 census was particularly significant as it provided extensive details on caste demographics.
  3. Post-Independence Period:
    • After India gained independence in 1947, the government conducted censuses in 1951, 1961, 1971, and 1981 but did not include detailed caste-based enumeration.
    • The Census of India Act, 1948, allowed for the collection of caste data but not in a way that could lead to the identification of individuals.
  4. Mandal Commission (1980s):
    • The Mandal Commission, formed in 1979 to assess the social and economic conditions of various communities in India, recommended the reservation of jobs in the public sector for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
    • This led to the Mandal Commission Report, and there were subsequent discussions on the need for updated caste data.
  5. Post-Mandal Period:
    • In the 1990s, there were debates about the desirability of a caste-based census, especially after the Mandal Commission recommendations.
    • The government, however, decided not to include caste-based enumeration in the 2001 census.
  6. Recent Developments:
    • Discussions about the inclusion of caste in the census gained momentum again in the early 21st century.

It's important to note that the stance on caste-based census has varied among different political and social groups in India. Proponents argue that it can provide accurate data for effective implementation of affirmative action policies, while opponents express concerns about potential misuse and the reinforcement of caste identities.

Pros and Cons:

The idea of conducting a caste-based census in India has both proponents and opponents, each presenting their own set of arguments. Here are some of the key pros and cons associated with a caste-based census:


  1. Data for Social Welfare Policies:
    • Proponents argue that accurate and updated caste data would provide a better understanding of the socio-economic conditions of different caste groups, enabling more effective planning and implementation of social welfare policies.
  2. Targeted Affirmative Action:
    • Caste-based census data could help in identifying communities that still face social and economic disadvantages, allowing for more targeted affirmative action programs, reservations, and other policy interventions.
  3. Addressing Inequality:
    • The collection of caste-based data may help in identifying and addressing persisting inequalities based on caste, contributing to the overall goal of achieving social justice.
  4. Policy Formulation:
    • Policymakers argue that having up-to-date caste data is essential for evidence-based policy formulation and evaluation, ensuring that government initiatives are directed toward the groups that need them the most.


  1. Caste Reinforcement:
    • Critics argue that conducting a caste-based census may reinforce and perpetuate caste identities, potentially exacerbating social divisions and tensions.
  2. Privacy Concerns:
    • There are concerns about the privacy of individuals, as collecting detailed caste data may involve intrusive questions and could lead to the identification and potential targeting of specific individuals or communities.
  3. Misuse of Data:
    • There is a fear that caste-based data could be misused for political purposes or to further discriminate against certain groups, especially if the information is not handled responsibly.
  4. Complexity and Sensitivity:
    • Caste is a highly sensitive and complex issue in India. Critics argue that collecting caste-based data could be challenging and may not accurately capture the fluid nature of caste dynamics in contemporary society.
  5. Administrative Challenges:
    • The logistics of conducting a caste-based census, ensuring accuracy, and preventing manipulation of data pose significant administrative challenges.
  6. Alternative Approaches:
    • Some argue that focusing on economic and social indicators rather than caste could be a more inclusive and effective way to address disparities. This approach is based on the idea of socioeconomic backwardness rather than caste identity.
Way Ahead

The decision regarding a caste-based census in India is complex and involves considerations of social, political, and administrative nature. Here are some possible scenarios and considerations:

  1. Political Will and Consensus:
    • The decision to conduct a caste-based census depends heavily on the political will of the government in power. There needs to be consensus among political parties and stakeholders regarding the benefits and potential drawbacks of collecting such data.
  2. Public Opinion and Social Acceptance:
    • Public opinion plays a crucial role. The government may consider conducting surveys or gauging public sentiment to understand how the general population feels about a caste-based census.
  3. Data Security and Privacy Measures:
    • Addressing concerns about data security and privacy is essential. The government would need to implement robust measures to ensure that the collected information is secure and that individuals' privacy is protected.
  4. Technology and Methodology:
    • Advancements in technology could play a role in improving the methodology for collecting and processing census data. Leveraging technology may help in addressing some of the administrative challenges associated with a caste-based census.
  5. International Examples:
    • Studying the experiences of other countries that have conducted caste or ethnicity-based censuses could provide insights into the potential benefits and challenges. Learning from international best practices may inform decision-making in India.
  6. Consultation with Experts and Sociologists:
    • Engaging with experts in sociology, anthropology, and related fields can help in developing a methodology that is comprehensive, sensitive to social dynamics, and scientifically sound.
  7. Pilot Projects:
    • The government may consider conducting pilot projects in specific regions to test the feasibility and effectiveness of collecting caste-based data. This could provide insights into the challenges and potential solutions.
  8. Legal Framework:
    • Establishing a clear legal framework for the collection and use of caste-based data is crucial. Legislation would need to address issues related to data protection, privacy, and prevent the misuse of the information.
  9. Educational and Awareness Programs:
    • Before undertaking a caste-based census, there might be a need for extensive educational and awareness programs to inform the public about the purpose, benefits, and safeguards associated with such an exercise.
  10. Alternative Approaches:
Policymakers may explore alternative approaches to address social and economic disparities, such as focusing on economic indicators rather than caste. This could be part of a broader strategy to promote inclusivity and address inequalities
Practice Question:

Caste-based census has its own pros and cons. What is your opinion, justify with relevant points

Posted by on 3rd Oct 2023