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Caste-Based Survey

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May 09, 2023

Why in news?

The Patna high court has halted the ongoing caste-based survey in Bihar.

Why is Bihar conducting a caste census?

  • To channel welfare policies and implement schemes effectively.
  • Since Bihar’s coalition government comprises mainly Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and they have been undermined in the current reservation system.
  • Potential political benefits that would help identify the true population of the Bihar’s OBCs.
  • Even though UPA government in 2011 conducted a caste census it was not released due to various reasons.
  • Survey would facilitate in preparing state budget tailored for welfare of oppressed classes.

What exactly Patna high court said?

  • The court said that the state government had no power to conduct a census as it would infringe on the legislative powers of the parliament.
  • Difference between survey and census - Census is a collection of accurate facts and verifiable details.
  • Whereas a survey is intended at collection and analysis of opinions and perceptions of the general public, which may be aimed at a specific community.
  • So the present exercise by Bihar is a census done in the name of survey.
  • Right to privacy - Certain entries in the survey such as conditions of the labor work affects the right to privacy.
  • Data security - Certain entries in the survey contains birth and death which may lead to data security.
  •  Principle of voluntary disclosure - Data should be entered only after each and every individual, who is a native of Bihar and not resident within the state, at the time of survey and not from the head of the family.

According to UDISE+ data OBC children comprise 45 per cent students in primary schools, SCs 19 % and STs 11 %.

What is the data are the enumerators collecting?

  • The total number of households in the state are being counted in the first phase.
  • In the second phase the following data will be collected
    • Castes, religions and economic backgrounds and
    • The number of family members living in and outside the state.
  • The exercise covers an estimated population of 12.7 crore across 38 districts and will only enumerate caste and not sub-caste.

What is meant by caste census?

  • Caste census means inclusion of caste-wise tabulation of India’s population belonging to all castes, primarily the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and not just SCs and STs.
  •  In 1952 census the first separate data on Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) was published.
  • The first caste census data was released in 1931.
  • The 2011 census even though had caste census the data was not released.

What is the importance of caste census?

  • India runs the world’s largest affirmative welfare programme based on caste identity.
  • Reservation in educational institutes and government jobs are provided on the basis of caste identities.
  • The absence of fresh caste census data means that the caste estimates of 1931 are being projected for formulating welfare policies in 2021.
  • The highest reservation mandate for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at 27 % is caste based as the BP Mandal Commission ascertained the backwardness of the class on the basis of caste.

What is the socio economic and caste census (SECC) 2011?

  • A study of socio economic status of rural and urban households.
  • Allows ranking of households based on predefined parameters.
  • SECC 2011 was conducted by ministry of rural development.
  • This is the first time such a comprehensive exercise has been carried out for both rural and urban India.

Socio economic census

Caste census

  • Conducted across all the household without any special focus.
  • Conducted at a particular community.


  • SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
  • Caste census provides a portrait of certain caste population.
  • The data collected is not confidential and available the website.
  • The data collected is confidential
  • Conducted for the first time since 1931.
  • Conducted for the first time since 1931.

Quick facts

  • Article 162 provides that the executive power of a State shall extend to the matters with respect to which the Legislature of a State has power to make laws.
  • In the 1931 census, the population of OBCs was estimated to be 52 %.
  • According to SECC 2011
    • Total Households in the Country (Rural plus Urban) is 24.49 Crore.
    • Households considered for deprivation is 10.74 Crore.


  1. The Indian Express│ The Patna High Court Order
  2. India Today│ Importance Of Caste Census
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