There are certain dates which acquire greater significance by a stroke of history, and October 2, 2023 is one such date — a day when the Bihar government released the data for a caste-based survey, known as the Bihar Jaati Adharit Ganana. Let us remember not to forget.
A caste-based census would provide accurate and up-to-date data on the distribution and socio-economic status of the various castes and communities in India. This data is essential for evidence-based policy formulation and implementation. It can help policymakers identify marginalised and disadvantaged groups and design targeted interventions to uplift them. India has a long history of caste-based discrimination and oppression. A caste-based census can help in recognising and quantifying the extent of historical injustices and disparities that exist in society. Acknowledging these disparities is a critical step towards addressing them.
Accuracy for efficacy
With accurate caste-based data, the government can develop more effective and targeted welfare programmes. These programmes can be tailored to the specific needs of different caste groups, ensuring that the benefits of government schemes reach the most vulnerable sections of society. Regular caste-based census data can help track the progress of different caste groups over time. This allows for the evaluation of the effectiveness of policies and programmes aimed at social justice and affirmative action. It will also enable the government to make necessary adjustments to policies when needed. Caste-based data can help ensure fair representation of marginalised communities in government, education, and employment. Reservations and affirmative action policies are often based on caste, and accurate data is crucial to determine the appropriate level of representation required. A caste-based census promotes transparency and accountability in government efforts to promote social justice. It allows citizens to hold the government accountable for the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.
Without accurate data, there is a risk of caste certificates being misused for personal gain or political purposes. A caste-based census can help verify and authenticate the caste status of individuals, reducing the likelihood of fraud and ensuring that benefits are directed to those who genuinely need them.
A subject of debate
However, it is important to note that the idea of conducting a caste-based census in India has been a subject of debate and controversy. Some argue that it could perpetuate and deepen caste divisions, while others believe that it is necessary to address historical injustices and promote social justice. The decision to conduct such a census involves careful consideration of these arguments and a balanced approach to address the complex issue of caste-based disparities in India.
Caste discrimination in India is a deeply entrenched social issue that has persisted for centuries. Several factors highlight the need for committed government intervention to address this problem. First, historical injustice. Caste discrimination has its roots in centuries of historical oppression and marginalisation. It has resulted in the social, economic, and educational backwardness of certain caste groups. Government intervention is necessary to rectify these historical injustices.
Second, constitutional mandate. The Indian Constitution recognises the existence of caste-based discrimination and inequality and provides for affirmative action measures (such as reservations in education, employment, and politics) to uplift historically disadvantaged groups. The government has a constitutional obligation to implement and enforce these provisions.
Third, human rights. Discrimination based on caste is a violation of human rights. The government has a responsibility to protect the human rights of all its citizens, which includes the right to equality, dignity, and non-discrimination. Committed government intervention is necessary to ensure that these rights are upheld.
Fourth, social cohesion. Caste discrimination perpetuates social divisions and hinders social cohesion. It creates a sense of inequality and injustice among marginalised groups and can lead to social unrest. Government intervention is essential to promote social harmony and unity.
Fifth, economic development. Caste discrimination often leads to economic disparities, with certain caste groups facing limited access to education and employment opportunities. Government intervention through affirmative action policies can help bridge these gaps and promote economic development for all.
Sixth, education. Discrimination can hinder access to quality education for marginalised caste groups. Government intervention is necessary to ensure that educational opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of caste, and that discrimination within educational institutions is eliminated.
Subject of employment
Seventh, employment. Discrimination in employment can limit job opportunities for certain caste groups. Government intervention is required to enforce anti-discrimination laws and promote fair employment practices, including affirmative action in the public sector.
Eighth, political representation. Dalits and other marginalised caste groups have historically been under-represented in political positions. Government intervention is needed to promote their political participation and representation, which is crucial for addressing their concerns.
Ninth, awareness and sensitisation. The government can play a significant role in creating awareness about the harms of caste discrimination and promoting social sensitivity and inclusivity through educational programmes and campaigns.
Tenth, legal framework. Government intervention is crucial to strengthening and enforcing anti-discrimination laws and policies aimed at eradicating caste discrimination. Without a committed government effort, these laws may remain ineffective.
In conclusion, caste discrimination is a deeply ingrained problem in India that requires sustained and committed government intervention to address. Such intervention is not only essential to rectify historical injustices but also to uphold the principles of equality, justice, and human rights for all citizens, regardless of their caste or social background.
Manoj Kumar Jha is Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Rashtriya Janata Dal