Thursday, May 13, 2010 - Will counting caste help to reduce inequality? - Will counting caste help to reduce inequality?

  • Nandini Sundar
  • On the surface, caste enumeration appears to be a UPA concession to its OBC allies, but more fundamentally, it fits with the larger political agenda of moving people off the land, holding out the illusory promise of formal employment. For social justice, we are made to believe there is no alternative to reservation, and for reservation, no alternative to counting caste. With over 90 per cent of people in the informal sector, reservation can hardly be the primary solution to greater equality. There is no doubt that stringent affirmative action policies are required to make formal institutions more socially inclusive, but to shackle the census to this agenda betrays a failure to learn from the past or to think imaginatively about the future.University degrees are important for certification, especially for those historically deprived of education, but they do not necessarily contribute to the creation and expansion of knowledge.
  • Enumeration also required people to be slotted into categories that were mutually exclusive even if untrue to their lived experience. A person could not have two castes or two religions. Where the 1911 census had recognised several sects as Hindu-Muhammadans, in 1921 they were reclassified as either one or the other, except for the Sindh Sanjogis who refused and were relegated to ‘other.' The Meos today face similar problems, caught between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Tabligh e Jamaat.
  • Source: The Hindu(The author is Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics.)