The controversies around an economic survey in Kerala

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The story so far: The first-ever attempt in Kerala to take stock of the socio-economic status of forward castes has run into trouble with the Nair Service Society (NSS), a prominent organisation of Hindu upper castes, objecting to the methodology of the assessment. From the first week of December, on the terms set by the Hariharan Nair panel, volunteers from the women self-help group, Kudumbasree, will carry out a survey across the State among target communities who are the most economically poor.

What is the plan?

The Hariharan Nair panel decided to carry out a sample survey programme, which it said was an attempt to provide additional benefits to the listed forward communities while retaining the existing benefits offered to Economically Weaker Sections.

The most economically backward families from the target communities will be identified with the help of village officers and civic representatives. The panel hopes to cover 97,445 houses of the economically backward forward caste communities by choosing five families each from the total of 19,489 wards in the State.

The panel, while concurring with the views of the NSS on the need for an exhaustive survey, decided to opt for random sampling as it can formulate recommendations only on the basis of studies, analysis and research as stipulated in Section 9 of the Kerala State Commission for Economically Backward Classes among Forward Communities Act II of 2016. The sampling survey, according to the panel, shall be viewed only as an interim measure to ameliorate the difficulties faced by the economically backward forward community members.

Why is the Nair community upset?

The Hariharan Nair panel’s decision to do random sampling irked the NSS and the Ernakulam Karayogam, another outfit of Nair community members from Ernakulam district. The organisations fear that a random survey will do more harm and that the backwardness of the community members may not be reflected in the studies. They feel that only a comprehensive and exhaustive survey, along the lines of the census, can bring out the issues faced by the community.

The NSS has highlighted the recommendations of the Ramakrishna Pillai panel, which had called for a census on the socio-economic conditions of all the communities in the State along with the population count. The panel had included the suggestion for assessing the socio-economic status of all communities in its recommendation to the Government as it felt that the aspect was not touched upon in the decadal census. However, the State Government chose to ignore the suggestion, which has irked the NSS.

How many communities does the State Government’s list include?

A recent list released by the State government, which was finalised by the Kerala State Commission for Economically Backward Classes among Forward Communities, had put the total number of forward communities in the State as 164. The Nair community is considered to be one of the largest and organised among the forward caste communities besides the Christians. It is estimated that around 20 Nair sub-castes have been included in the forward list.

Though it’s generally estimated that all the forward communities together account for around 32% of the State’s population and Nairs 17%, there has not been any authentic data on the population of these segments of society. It was only a few months ago that the list of forward communities was finalised and published by the State Government. The State Government approved the list of forward communities, which was first compiled by the Commission led by A. V. Ramakrishna Pillai, a former judge of the Kerala High Court, and vetted and fine-tuned by the subsequent commission led by M. R. Hariharan Nair, also a former judge of the Kerala High Court, after the NSS moved court.

Did these communities get benefits before?

These communities were till recently out of the ambit of any form of reservation in government jobs.

The first reservation quota for them came in the form of the 10% reservation for Economically Backward Classes, which was facilitated through a constitutional amendment.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 5:12:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/the-controversies-around-an-economic-survey-in-kerala/article37783305.ece

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