Under fire for not releasing details of the caste census, the government on Thursday set up an expert group to “classify” the Socio Economic and Caste Census, 2011 (SECC) data. To be headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, the expert group will be tasked with classifying about 46 lakh castes, sub-castes, synonyms, surnames, clans and gotras listed in the SECC.
“A decision was taken today to set up a committee chaired by Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog which will classify this caste data. When the task is completed, it will be made public at an appropriate time,” said Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley after the Cabinet meeting. He also sought to blame the states, saying they had not been able to classify the various categories of data.
Asked whether he felt the matter was being “politicised”, Jaitley said, “It will be good if the states which are politicising it send their caste consolidation recommendation at the earliest. They cannot hold back the recommendation and then say you please release it.” He underlined that most of the states had not sent the details so far.
Citing the example of the Jat community, Jaitley said a Jat could either be writing Malik or Solanki as his surname and these names have to be consolidated by the respective states. “Most of the states have not come out with their response so far,” he said. Asked about Bihar, Jaitley said the details sent were “minimal”.
Jaitley further said the government was keen to release the caste data at the earliest and the expert panel would only be able to classify it once the states send the consolidated details.
In May 2011, the previous UPA government had decided to collect caste data through the SECC and had secured the Cabinet’s approval. The SECC was conducted by the state governments and union territories. The field survey on economic data has since been completed and the socio economic data relating to rural areas has been released by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). “The work on urban data is under progress,” the government said.
The government also said that the decision “to constitute an expert group to classify the caste/ tribe returns at an appropriate time” was taken at the time of the UPA government.
The government, meanwhile, has maintained that not releasing the caste data has nothing to do with the Bihar polls.