The Hindu Editorial Analysis
25 September 2021

1. A precise caste census is difficult, but the data will be useful to drive social policy

  1. Source: The Hindu - Page 6/Editorial: Complex count
  2. GS 1: Society

Context: The issue of conducting a Socio-Economic Caste Census(SECC) which enumerates the caste identities of the citizens.

 About Census exercise in India:

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  • India has been conducting a synchronous decennial Census from 1881, going back to the colonial times. It has evolved over time and has been used by the government, policy makers, academics, and others to capture the Indian population, its access to resources, and to map social change.
  • The last census conducted was Socio-Economic Caste Census(SECC) of 2011.
  • It was conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the then Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) in rural and urban areas respectively.
  • Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes. Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.

 

Importance of a Census:

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1. Justified affirmative actions: it will be useful to establish statistical justification for preserving caste-based affirmative action programmes. It may also be a legal imperative, considering that courts want ‘quantifiable data’ to support the existing levels of reservation.

2. An important Socio-anthropological study: Important in its  inclusion of broader caste information as a necessity to capture contemporary Indian society and to understand and remedy inequalities. For example, the SECC 2011 data contained 46 lakh different caste names, and if sub-castes were considered, the ultimate number may be exponentially high.

3. Captures educational status: Since Independence, aggregated Census data on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on certain parameters such as education have been collected.

4. Captures economic inequalities objectively: It has the potential to allow for a mapping of inequalities at a broader level. For example, regional inequality, urban-rural divide, caste & religion wise distribution etc.

5. Used for Planning: It helps the government in understanding the development deficits in the society and to helps in mending them. For example identifying the districts with worst sex ratio.

6. Captures the population trends: Such as population growth, migrations, family structure etc. This helps the sociological studies and helps the government planning accordingly.

7. Administrative uses: for example, It forms a preliminary background for a delimitation exercise.

 

Limitations of the Census:

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1. Against Caste-less society: The idea of a national caste census might be abhorrent when the stated policy is to strive for a casteless society.

2. Leads to Vote-bank politics: Political parties with their base in particular social groups may find a caste enumeration useful, if their favoured groups are established as dominant in specific geographies; or they may find the outcome inconvenient, if the precise count turns out to be lower and has a negative bearing on perceptions about their electoral importance.

3. Not comprehensive: It is not quite useful enough for a detailed and comprehensive understanding of a complex society, which can be captured better with randomized control trials.

4. Administratively difficult and cumbersome: It consumes a lot of time and effort - SECC-2011 took years to complete;

5. Time Lag: Nearly a decade after the SECC for instance, a sizeable amount of data remains unreleased.

6. Solidifies Identities: It may help solidify or harden identities. Many critics view it as a step against a casteless society. 

7. Inaccurate: The Government has said data from the 2011 SECC were not acted upon because of “several infirmities” that rendered them unusable. Even in the Censuses up to 1931, when caste details were collected, they were wanting in completeness and accuracy.

8. There are alternatives: A preliminary socio-anthropological study can be done at the State and district levels to establish all sects and sub-castes present in the population. These can be tabulated under caste names that have wider recognition based on synonymity and equivalence among the appellations that people use to denote themselves.

 

Government's Stance: In this backdrop, the Union government has asserted in the Supreme Court that a census of the backward castes is “administratively difficult and cumbersome”. There are two components to the Government’s stand.

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1. It asserts that it is a policy decision not to have caste as part of the regular census and that, administratively, the enumeration would be rendered so complex that it may jeopardise the decennial census itself.

2. It cites the difficulties and complexities inherent in getting an accurate count of castes, given the mind-boggling numbers of castes and sub-castes, with phonetic variations and similarities, that people returned as their caste in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) conducted in 2011.

 

Way Forward: However, these limitations need not mean that an enumeration of the social groups in the country is impossible. A caste census need not necessarily mean caste in the census. Is ultimate goal is not for political or electoral purposes, but for equity in distribution of opportunities. A caste census may not sit well with the goal of a casteless society, but it may serve, in the interim, as a useful, even if not entirely flawless, means of addressing inequities in society.

 

Expected Question: Does the Socio-economic Caste census fit well with the notion of a casteless society? Critically analyse (250 words)

 

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1. Observers in New Delhi profess mixed feelings — some joy for Australia, but more commiseration with France

  • Source: The Hindu - Page 6/Editorial: India is not a bystander in the AUKUS saga
  • GS 2: IR

Context: The announcement AUKUS — a new security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

About AUKUS:

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  • Revival of an Anglo-Alliance(English speaking nations): They all are part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which also includes New Zealand and Canada. It is similar to a now defunct 1980s grouping between Australia, New Zeaand & the US named - ANZUS allies.
  • A Military Transfer: It involves the transfer of nuclear submarine technology to Australia.
  • It Creates a division in NATO: since it implies the cancellation of an ongoing U.S.$90 billion project by France to manufacture conventional submarines for Australia, France is fumed over this decision. Paris has recalled its Ambassador to Australia, accusing Canberra of “backstabbing” and betrayal. When Australian and French Ministers met less than a month ago, French officials said there had been no talk of cancelling the deal.

 

Impact on India: For observers in India, the AUKUS saga evokes mixed feelings.

Many are happy:

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  • Deterrence to China in the Indian Ocean: Many are happy for Australia — a partner in the Quad (of India, the U.S., Japan and Australia) — to receive top quality nuclear submarine technology from the U.S. and the U.K., strengthening China deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Deepening relationship with France: This could be a reason for France getting even more closer to India.

 

New Delhi is uncomfortable

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  • Irresponsible action from alliance partners: If Australia and the U.S. could deceive France, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partner, they ask, what is to prevent them from doing the same with lesser allies?
  • Strategic worries: There is apprehension that the deal could eventually lead to a crowding of nuclear attack submarines (SSNs/submersible ship nuclear) in the Eastern Indian Ocean, eroding India’s regional pre-eminence - as a net security provider. The Indian Navy presently dominates the space, but its conventional underwater capability has been shrinking. An Indian plan to develop a fleet of nuclear attack submarines has elicited no offer of help from the U.S. that does not share its prized nuclear submarine technology with even its closest allies; all except Australia, evidently.
  • AUKUS versus the Quad: It does not help that AUKUS has taken the focus away from the Quad. The agreement suggests preferential treatment on the part of Washington for a close Anglo-alliance partner. An “extremely sensitive” technology that will be shared as "an exception" to the US policy  for one Quad partner and not for another.

 

The technology pursuit

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  • Reliance on Russia: India has relied on Russia for nuclear submarine technology, including in the construction of the reactor of India’s first SSBN/submersible ship ballistic missile nuclear (Arihant) and in the acquisition (on lease) of a nuclear attack submarine.
  • A bigger requirement for SSN program: The Indian Navy’s indigenous SSN programme, however, requires a nuclear reactor more powerful than the one installed in the Arihant (a non war-fighting platform).
  • Fading hopes from US: Some in India were hopeful that the U.S. would consider providing the Indian Navy with nuclear submarine propulsion technology. The clarification by Washington that the deal with Australia is a “one-off” puts paid to Indian expectations.
  • France: There is now speculation that Delhi might consider seeking French help to transfer its nuclear propulsion technology. Despite the less than satisfactory experience with the Project 75 ‘Scorpene’ class submarine programme, India, some say, should accept French assistance with building an SSN reactor.

 

Conclusion - Indian Response:

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  • India is being careful in its official response to AUKUS. It cannot be seen to be taking sides in a feud among friends. France, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are some of India’s closest partners, and Indian officials would like to be spared the awkwardness of having to support one ally over the other.
  • Despite worries over the prospect that Australia’s nuclear submarine capability could overtake India’s own in coming years, Indian officials recognise Canberra’s need to reappraise its strategic environment and reinforce deterrence against China.

 

Expected Question: How does the AUKUS alliance impact India's relation with the countries involved? (250 Words)