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School enrolment data indicates 45% OBCs, 19% Dalits in India | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: We might not know what proportion of India’s population are OBCs with the idea of the caste census jettisoned, but the caste composition of primary school students is readily available and a rough indicator. It shows that 45% were OBC, 19% scheduled caste (SC), 11% scheduled tribe (ST) and the rest — which would include Hindu upper castes as well as the bulk of the population of other religious groups except Buddhists — roughly 25% in 2019-20.

The United District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+), which maintains data on schooling, has been collecting caste details of all school students for over a decade and since enrolment at the primary level is 100%, the caste composition of primary students from class I to V should broadly reflect that in the larger population.

To the extent that age structures of the more deprived sections are slightly more skewed towards younger age groups, it could overstate their shares, but not by much. Since the census enumerates SCs and STs, their proportion in each state is available. TOI analysed the UDISE+ data and found that the proportion of SC and ST students at the primary level is quite close to their proportion in census 2011, the variation in almost all states being within a couple of percentage points. Smaller states and UTs have been excluded from this analysis since minor differences in absolute numbers could make a significant percentage change.

The Mandal commission had estimated that OBCs constitute 52% of the population. Though the proportion of OBC students is lower than that estimate, the quota for them is clearly not proportional to their share in the population, unlike for SCs and STs. Southern states have the highest proportion of OBC students with Tamil Nadu at 71% followed by Kerala with almost 69% and Karnataka with 62%. In the north, Bihar at 61% has the highest proportion of OBCs, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 54% and Rajasthan with 48%.

“If we want to address the inequities in access to education and care about the outcomes of different social groups, having data on caste is very important. Without data, you cannot formulate policies to address these inequities. So, it is great that UDISE has this data and for the same reasons there ought to be a caste census for the larger population too. We have to find better ways of eradicating caste biases in society than avoiding census,” said Prof Rohit Dhankar of the School of Education in Azim Premji University.

Until 1931, the census always had data on caste. However, since independence, the census has collected data only on SCs and STs. A socio-economic and caste census (SECC) collected data that was to be published in 2016, but the government decided to withhold it on the grounds that there were serious classification issues to be resolved. The 2021 census was supposed to include caste, but that has now been jettisoned.

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