R.D. Bharadwaj “Noorpuri”
Head count for the biggest exercise of the decade i.e. Census 2011, is going on these days. While many new parameters (like having telephone, mobile, bike, refrigerator, laptop, computer – with or without Internet facility, car, house / plot, level of education of each member of the family, etc.) have been added to the new format of questions, one of the major parameter i.e. caste based counting is being down-played for some obvious reasons. Surprisingly, most of the big leaders of all major parties are maintaining a studied silence over the matter and if some junior or local leader expresses his opinion publicly on this matter, he is being snubbed by the party high command and is advised not to do so in future. It is really ridiculous to note that such a vital / major issue is being hushed up, as if it is a sin to count the people in various castes in India.
Why? Caste is one of the most important factors of our society, right from our birth till death and nobody can deny this fact. More than 90% people marry within their own caste, for the obvious reason of enjoying maximum level of compatibility, not only between the new couples, but also between both the families. It is equally relevant to mention here that last time it was in 1931 that caste based census was done, much before India attained independence. Secondly, when the Britishers had decided to leave India and transfer the reins of the governance / power to the Indian leaders, Mohammad Ali Jinnah (who later became first PM of Pakistan), broke away from the Congress Party in 1942 and tabled his demand before the Britishers that his party (All India Muslim League) does not want to live with India and that a separate Muslim Land / nation should be carved out of India for them, based on their population. It was at this time that a great freedom fighter and the biggest leader of the SCs & STs, poor and the down-trodden, the oppressed class in the society at that time (and also the chief architect of Indian Constitution), Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, also announced that his people also do not want to live with India and that another separate country should also be carved out of India for them, based on their population. Thus, most of the Congress leaders became apprehensive that when India attains independence shortly, it shall be split into not two, but three parts.
It is equally important to mention here that Dr. Ambedkar’s demand for a separate nation was not raised all of a sudden. It was in fact, a perpetuation and culmination of centuries old oppression, suppression, exploitation and denial of so many rights of the Dalits by the higher caste people, which had continuously kept them at the lowest ebb of the social hierarchy. There were indeed well thought of social and economic policies and practices aimed at marginalization of the Dalits in all spheres of life. They were made subservient to all other castes in society and even the right to education was denied to them. After listening to the arguments of Dr. Ambedkar and unfolding series of atrocities and wrong-doings of the higher caste people on the Dalits, the Britishers had given him an assurance that the sentiments of their community shall be given due care and thought at the appropriate time. Then the major Congress leaders of those times, headed by Mahatma Gandhi, started buttressing Dr. Ambedkar and applying some balm on his bruised sentiments. They had, in fact, feared that if Dr. Ambedkar ultimately succeeds in his mission, a major part of India shall be gone forever out of their hands. It was under the constant pressure of this apprehension that they also assured him that due representation shall be given to the people of his caste in all government jobs, state assemblies and in Parliament as well, in proportion to their population in India, if he promises not to press his demand for a separate state. Thinking from various angles and the socio-economic status of the SCs, STs and many other poor people, Dr. Ambedkar, ultimately succumbed to the continuous pleadings made by the Congress leaders, and he agreed not to press for his demand for a separate nation, for his people. This is how the concept of reservation was given a green signal in India, after independence.
No doubt, the representation to the SCs and STs @ 15% and 7.50 % respectively was started in India in 1952, but the percentage of their representation was fixed based on the census done long back in 1931, as the latest figures of their people were not available at that time. And right from that date till today, caste based census have always been avoided by the governments in power, which shows their lackadaisical approach and attitude towards the SCs and STs, to give true share of representation / reservation to the Dalits. It is also not out of place to mention here that even the reservation for the Dalits is not being implemented in letter and spirit and that is why, their back-logs of vacancies often remains in so many states and so many ministries and departments and often they have to resort to a lot of struggle from time to time for fulfilling their vacancies in various jobs, etc.
Thirdly, people who are opposing caste to be included in the on-going census, are in fact, against the continuation of reservation for the Dalits. Fourthly, the Central or State Govts. or Planning Commission make some schemes for the welfare of the Dalits from time to time (and also in five year plans) and if the caste is not included in this census, how you will determine the quantum of funds for such schemes or plans meant for the Dalits? These figures are also important in view of the fact that while initially implementing reservation in 1952, data pertaining to the 1931 census was taken and that data very strongly needs to be corrected honestly and seriously, so that true percentage of the SCs and STs could be known to all concerned.
I do not subscribe to the view of the opposing set of people that this issue will further create more problems, rather than solving them. It just reveals their lack of sincerity in doing so and avoiding what they do not want to do from the core of their heart. But mind one thing; it is this very set of people who are bent upon creating problem right at the beginning by refusing to make head counts of various castes, as they do not want that true picture should be known / shown to the country as whole. By including caste in the current census, rather it will set at rest so many ill-founded doubts and ambiguities about their real number of people.
In view of the above, I strongly opine that caste based census should also be done for all practical purposes; otherwise, true relevance of the concept of reservation shall be lost somewhere in the quagmire of confusing figures and thereby, economic progress and all round developments shall remain a mirage for India from so many angles. And lastly, if you make a serious analysis of the developed countries around the globe, it shall transpire that they have been able to make all round development and make some worthwhile progress by taking all sections of society along with them, rather than leaving a few of them out of this purview / race, unlike India has been doing so for the last many decades and is still not serious enough to make the desired correction in this field, even now.