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Union Cabinet okays caste-census

The Union Cabinet has approved conducting the next round of the Census of India to gather data on caste, religion and economic status of India’s 1.22 billion people.

The main phase of the Census, that established the total number of people, their educational qualifications and other details like number of livestock and appliances got over in February.

The census will be done by the ministry of rural development and poverty alleviation. The Census will also ascertain the poverty levels in the country for framing of policies. The entire process will be completed by December 2011

Caste and religion was not included in the first round due to opposition from those who felt that dissemination and discussion of such numbers would be harmful to the Country’s unity.

However, many regional parties, including Laloo Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and others strongly favored an enumeration of the different communities in India.

Most of the government jobs and educational institutions have caste-based reservations in them and most political parties derive their power from one or a handful of castes.

The caste census has been approved to provide for a strong data-base on which to formulate the government’s caste-based reservation system.

Caste or Jati literally means ‘origin’ and denotes the tribe from which the person has originated. There are hundreds of castes in India, each of which was created as tribal groups joined the mainstream society.

However, unlike similar divisions such as ‘Italian,’ ‘Irish’ etc.. in the US, in India, the castes never intermarried, preferring to marry within itself. As a result, the original tribes continue to remain as a separate identify thousands of years after they joined the ‘mainstream society.’

India often sees strife between castes and religious groups. Some castes, like the Nadars in the south and the Bhatts in the North, are spread across the religions. For example, some Nadars are Christians while most are Hindus, while many Bhatts are Muslims, while most are Hindu.

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