Seventy-five years after Dr JH Hutton conducted India’s first and only caste census, it still remains the basis for determining backwardness of a caste in India.
According to government officials, whenever a caste is considered for inclusion in the backward classes’ list, their economic, educational and social status vis-à-vis influential castes is measured on the basis of empirical evidence and fresh surveys conducted by the Census of India.
For each parameter, the caste being studied for backwardness has to meet certain criteria. The National Backward Classes Commission has set parameters on educational, social and economic backwardness. For example, castes where literacy rate is at least 8 per cent less than the state average are considered backward. The number of matriculates and graduates is important for evaluation of educational backwardness. Similar are the criteria to measure social and economic backwardness.
That is the apparent reason for Jats getting backward class status in Rajasthan but not in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, said PS Krishnan, an expert on reservation issues.
The survey is done to overcome the limitations in the 1931 Census, in which, as Hutton had admitted, the tabulation of data on individual castes was limited.
On a broad basis, the Census had divided the castes into three groups — exterior castes, primitive castes and other castes. Exterior castes were mostly today’s Scheduled Castes and primitive castes were tribal castes. The other castes included identification of persons on the basis of occupations such as business or those performing religious duties for their livelihoods and functional castes such as Rajputs.