As per Census 2011, the population of SCs and STs stands at about 16.6 and 8.6 per cent, respectively. However, on OBC numbers, there is lesser clarity. OBC data was collected in 2011 for the first time since the 1931 Census, as part of the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), but its caste data is yet to be made public.
The Mandal Commission report of 1980 estimated the OBC population at 52 per cent based on the 1931 Census. The National Sample Survey Organisation data of 2006 shows the OBC population at 41 per cent, but it was only an estimate based on sample data.
The decision to conduct the SECC was taken during the UPA-II government following demands from its coalition leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad, and supported by the BJP, among others. The process was completed in 2015.
The household findings of the rural data were released officially by the NDA government in July 2015 and the same for urban data was made public eventually. The rural SECC data is being used to identify beneficiaries for several schemes in rural India while the urban data is being used for the first time to identify the beneficiaries for the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
However, the data on caste, which includes thousands of OBC categories, was not made public by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
On Tuesday, Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said the SECC data should be made public soon as it presents the real picture on OBC population. “It is not true that casteism will increase if the caste census is made public. The caste census is essential so that the reservation given to OBCs can be increased accordingly,” he said.
Releasing the 2011 caste data is also significant as it will form the basis of the OBC sub-categorisation exercise. The exercise is being carried out by the Justice Rohini Commission appointed by the Union government to provide quotas within exiting quotas so that the weaker sections among OBCs do not get left out of the reservation pie.
The Union government had recently announced that a caste census would be conducted as part of the next Census, but that means a wait up to 2021.