Issues

Delink BPL survey & caste census: Shahabuddin

New Delhi: Syed Shahabuddin, President of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, has issued the following statement on the proposed joint caste census and BPL survey:

The Cabinet decision on conducting simultaneously a Caste Census & a BPL survey appears to be a deliberate move to erode its commitment to the Parliament in conducting a Caste Census. It was indeed unfortunate that caste & some more relevant backwardness indicators were not included in the Decennial Census.

The Government has confused a universal Caste Census with a limited survey because the BPL survey will cover only a small section of the population, while the Census must cover the entire population. The MMM is therefore, convinced that a partial survey of the population for any purpose does not fall within the meaning of the Census Act.

Secondly,   the object and purpose of the BPL Survey and Caste Census are not the same. The BPL Survey relates to the proportion of population living below the poverty line, to workout the subsidy needed to provide food security to the hungry population & fight nutrition & disease. On the other hand, the purpose of the Caste Census is to define caste groups and sub-groups as well as caste-like groups and sub-groups which qualify to be designated as Other Backward Classes to enable the Government to take special measures under Articles 15 & 16 of the Constitution to raise them from their exiting level of backwardness by collecting data on population & quantification of backwardness as compared to SC/ST.   The Caste Census must therefore be based on uniform, universal and easily accessible socio-economic parameters to cover the entire population of the country, caste by caste and sub-caste by sub-caste. A Survey based on inclusion or exclusion as in the case of BPL Survey will not serve any purpose.

It may be noted that castes and sub-castes exist but social- groups are designated as OBCs on the basis of the backwardness parameters.

The AIMMM would like to point out that Muslims of the country have largely descended from lower castes of the Hindu community, namely Shudras, Achhuts, Adivasis and some others, who were converted to Islam. Muslims do not universally identify themselves with the original caste or sub-caste they descended from, though in many cases they carry on the original vocation or occupation. Largely the Muslim sub-communities use the term ‘Baradari’ or relate themselves to their occupation or vocation; many have Islamized the names of their Baradaris. An outstanding example is the Jolahas who are occupationally weavers but identify themselves as Bunkars, Momins & Ansaris. These Baradaris have caste-like feature and the Census must take special care not to leave them out. The Muslim OBC,s have been under-estimated by the Mandal Commission & left out in many states by the Backward Classes Commission.

It may be placed on record that the Sachar Committee came to the conclusion that the Muslims of India are almost as backward as the SC or ST & more backward than the non-Muslim OBCs. There are very few Muslim STs & only about 1 % Muslim Dalits among SCs. Since the Muslims were kept out of the SC List in some states they were included in the OBC List. But some Muslim Dalits have   been striving like Christian Dalits for inclusion in the SC List. The matter is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has imposed a ceiling of 50 % on the totality of reservation which is prima facie arbitrary, because the members of Backward Classes and their level of backwardness vary from state to state and therefore a uniform ceiling can not apply to all states. The Supreme Court has, however, indicated that this ceiling is flexible and can be raised in special circumstances.

In view of the above circumstances, The AIMMM suggest that the Caste Census be undertaken only after due logistical preparations to ensure that no caste group or sub-group or analogous group or sub-group, is left out and that backwardness parameters are collected for all of them.

The AIMMM therefore proposes that the Central Government must de-link the BPL Survey from the Caste Census, instruct and assist the RGI/ Census Commissioner to make necessary preparations and issue detailed Guidelines and directions to the enumerators, preferably employ those who worked for the Decennial Census, and defer the Caste Census to be undertaken after the BPL survey has been completed.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2011 on page no. 2

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