New Delhi, May 7 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh on Friday assured Parliament that his government would soon take a decision on a caste-based census.
"I am aware of the views of the members of Parliament belonging to all sections. I assure you that the Cabinet will take a decision shortly," Dr. Singh said.
Dr. Singh's statement mollified agitated opposition members, who had forced an adjournment of the House earlier after Union Home Minister P Chidambaram virtually ruled out inclusion of caste in the ongoing census exercise.
The debate on the matter had seen members cutting across party lines favoring caste-based census.
Earlier, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said that the question of caste not being included in the Census was a matter of policy which has been followed since Independence.
"After Independence, as a matter of policy, the question relating to caste, other than Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, was not included," Chidambaram said.
"The main objective of the Population Census is to do an accurate de-facto headcount of the usual residents in India on the deemed date i.e. 00.00 hours on March 1, 2011, based on universally applied scientific demographic tools, we have an estimate of what the population of India will be on that day," he added.
Replying to a short duration discussion in the Lok Sabha, Chidambaram stressed on the need to lay down specific parameters for conducting the census.
Information relating to the caste of each member of the household was last collected and published in detail in 1931.
Chidambaram said caste was not included in the last Census of 2001 also.
"I may point out that the records show that an attempt was made by the Ministry of Social Justice to include caste as one of the questions that should be canvassed during the 2001 census. However, the Government of the day - the NDA Government - did not take a decision to that effect and maintained the policy that has been in force since 1951," he said.
Quoting a member's statement during the debate Chidambaram said: Caste is a divisive factor and that we are nowhere near establishing a casteless society."
Chidambaram said the Registrar General of India has also pointed out a number of logistic and practical difficulties in canvassing the question of caste while conducting the census.
"The enumerator is not an investigator or verifier. And, it must be clearly understood, that the enumerator has no training or expertise to classify the answer as OBC or otherwise," he said.
"As Honorable Members are aware, there is a central list of Other Backward Classes and State-specific lists of Other Backward Classes. Some States do not have a list of OBCs; some States have a list of OBCs and a sub-set called Most Backward Classes," he added.
For the Census 2011, over 21 lakh enumerators, mostly primary school teachers, have been selected and trained to ask the question and record the answer as returned by the respondent.
He further said that the Registrar General has also pointed out certain open-ended categories in the lists such as orphans and destitute children.
"Names of some castes are found in both the list of Scheduled Castes and list of OBCs. Scheduled Castes converted to Christianity or Islam are also treated differently in different States. The status of a migrant from one State to another and the status of children of inter-caste marriage, in terms of caste classification, are also vexed questions," Chidambaram said.
"The Registrar General has also pointed out that, assuming that it is desirable to canvass the question of caste, further issues will arise regarding the methodology, avoiding phonetic and spelling errors, stage of canvassing, maintaining the integrity of the enumeration, doing an accurate headcount of the population etc," he added.
Chidambaram said that in this connection, members must keep the distinction between 'enumeration' on the one hand and 'compilation, analysis and dissemination' on the other.
"It has been pointed out that the census is meant to collect 'observational data,' he said.
The census is done under the authority of the Census Act, 1948.
Census 2011 will be the 15th national census since 1872 and the seventh since Independence.
Population census is the total process of collecting demographic, economic and social data. What is published as the Census data are only aggregates; the information relating to the individual is confidential and not shared with anyone or any authority.
Census 2011 will be conducted in two phases - the first phase is called the House listing and Housing census and the second phase is called the Population Enumeration.
The questions to be canvassed during the two phases were decided on the basis of suggestions made during the data users' conference, experience of past censuses and the recommendations f the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprising eminent demographers, statisticians, social scientists and senior officers representing different Ministries and Departments of the entral Government. (ANI)