98% of the caste data is error-free: Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India told parliamentary panel in 2016

Error is not in data but in government’s judgement: RJD MP Manoj K. Jha

September 27, 2021 10:51 pm | Updated October 03, 2021 08:38 pm IST - New Delhi

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only.

The Union government last week told the Supreme Court that the caste data enumerated in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 was “unusable”, but in 2016, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India had informed the Standing Committee on Rural Development that 98.87% of the data on individual caste and religion was “error free”.

In its report analysing the action taken by the government on the recommendations made by the committee on ‘BPL Survey currently Socio Economic & Caste Census (SECC), 2011’, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, has been quoted as saying that the “data has been examined and 98.87% data on individuals caste and religion is error free”.

The Office of the Registrar General of India said that errors had been noticed in the data of about 1.34 crore individuals out of the total surveyed population of 118 crore.

Govt. stance

Taking a diametrically different position, the government, in its affidavit in the Supreme Court filed last week, cited many reasons why the data is “unusable”. The government had said that the total number of castes surveyed in 1931 was 4,147, while the SECC figures show that there are more than 46 lakh different castes. “Assuming that some castes may bifurcate into sub-castes, the total number can not be exponentially high to this extent,” the affidavit said.


The affidavit added that the entire exercise was corrupted because the enumerators had used different spellings for the same castes. In many cases the respondents, the government said, had refused to divulge their castes.

Error in govt. judgement

Rashtriya Janata Dal Rajya Sabha member Manoj K. Jha said the error was not in the data, but in the government’s judgment.

Centre's affidavit in Supreme Court on Caste Census (pdf)

“As Leader of the Opposition in Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav said that the government is stonewalling the whole exercise because of fear of the numbers. The numbers will reveal a tragic story,” Mr. Jha said.

Former I&B Minister and Lok Sabha member Manish Tewari said if 98% of the data was error-free, as the RGI conceded, there was no reason for the government to withhold it, after taxpayers’ money was spent in conducting the SECC.

“The fact remains that the UPA government was not very enthusiastic about a caste census. However, in the face of a belligerent Opposition, it agreed to conduct SECC which was meticulously done. Since 98% of the data is error-free the government should put it out in the public,” Mr. Tewari said.

The Narendra Modi government finds itself boxed in a corner over the issue as allies Janata Dal (U) and Apna Dal are repeatedly demanding a headcount of the Other Backward Castes (OBC).

The government is facing heat from the Opposition parties, the majority of which support the call. On Sunday, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren led an all-party delegation to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah pressing for a caste census.

The RJD, meanwhile, is planning to begin protests on the issue.

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