Finding disparity in Other Backward Classes (OBC) population figures in different government surveys, experts have called for a caste-based survey or census to ensure that affirmative action policy is based on realistic data.
At a seminar on Thursday, a paper presented by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, brought to light disparities of over five per cent in OBC population figures in the National Sample Survey (NSS) data of 1999-2000 and 2004-05.
The NSS figures also differ with those of the National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3), conducted in 2005-06. As compared to NFHS-3, which is based on a survey of over 1 lakh households like the NSS, the difference in OBC population as compared to NSS 2004-05 survey was of over 1.35 percentage points.
In the absence of latest data, the government relied on 2004-05 NSS figures while pursuing reservation for OBCs in educational institutes case in the Supreme Court. Higher disparity was recorded for OBC population figures as compared to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who also benefit from reservation.
"One needs to note that every percentage may denote almost 10 crore or more of population and hence such differentials in the OBC population estimations by country's largest surveys put a question mark on their reliability and validity as credible sources of information for informed policy-making on affirmative action,” D.P. Singh of the Tata Institute said.