The political debate over holding caste census was resolved last year but a the issue of who will conduct this census is turning out to be trickier.
The cabinet had decided to hold caste census — the first in 80 years — between June and September this year. It is expected to cost R2,000 crore.
Two years ago, the government would have ordered its army of primary school teachers to hit the streets. But the right to education law —that came into force in 2009 —bars the government from deploying school teachers for anything other than teaching duties. The three exceptions to the rule — the decennial census, disaster relief and poll duties.
“The government hasn’t taken a decision who will conduct the caste enumeration,” a senior government official said.
One option being considered is to deploy anganwadi workers. But there are only 11 lakh anganwadi workers in position. In contrast, the home ministry had deployed 27 lakh teachers to cover 1.2 billion people over a three week window.
Since the caste questionnaire would not be as elaborate as the one for decennial census, the official said there was a view that anganwadi workers would be able to handle it. “It will have only two questions — the respondent’s religion and caste,” a ministry official said.
But number of enumerators is not the only problem staring the caste census at its face. The June-September window coincides with the monsoons when large parts of the country would be inaccessible.
Besides, there is no clarity on how anyone could make sense of the vast data that is going to be generated at a national level. A panel of experts is slated to take a call on this aspect.