Skip to main content

Indian ministries collected caste census data in highly cavalier manner: Top demographer Amitabh Kundu

Amitabh Kundu
By Our Representative
Foremost economist Prof Amitabh Kundu has come down heavily on the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) saying that the information on income that has been collected in the SECC has been done “in a very cavalier manner.” A demographer and an authority on urbanization, migration patterns and labour market, Prof Kundu has especially taken exception to collecting income data of the highest earning member of the family.
“I do not know why the question asked is only for the highest earning member and not for the household”, Prof Kundu, who was earlier with the Jawaharlal Nehru University and is now with the independent think-tank Delhi Policy Group, told Counterview. SECC data were released in early July this year, and they immediately led to sharp reaction from political as well as academic circles about their inconsistency at various places (click HERE to read on SECC data inconsistency).
According to Prof Kundu, the question that was posed to the respondents was not what the income was in a household but “if the income of the highest earning member was more that Rs 5,000.” The economist believes, “With the full knowledge that this exercise is being done primarily to identify the beneficiaries of certain targeted programmes, one can hardly expect a fair reply.”
Suggesting that the Government of India’s National Sample Survey (NSS) and the Census of India are more authentic than SECC, Prof Kundu underlines, “I believe that the households in general have reported a higher level of deprivation (even on literacy) in SECC just because the purpose of the SECC was to identify the targeted population.” Hence, he adds, “Data thus collected can hardly be comparable with other sets collected by the NSS or the Population Census.”
Insisting that India still needs “targeted programmes” for socio-economically poor sections, one reason why the requirement is felt for disaggregating data on different sections of population – ranging from school going children to workers – Prof Kundu thinks, one of the problems with SECC has been that it has sought to combine the collection of caste data with information on deprived sections, which has resulted in “over-reporting of deprivation and vulnerability”.
While favouring an “informed debate” on caste, instead of ignoring it, Prof Kundu believes, the type of data that have been created would precariously lead to encouraging casteism in India. Already, he adds, he has warned the government that combining caste data with Population Census would only lead to “conscious misreporting” different socio-economic parameters.
Prof Kundu shot into prominence recently for two critical reports he submitted to the Government of India – one on the condition of minorities in India the post-Sachar scenario, and on the tangled issue of how to rehabilitate slums in major Indian cities by working out a tenability index. He is known to have told the Union Ministry of Rural and the Urban Development Ministry, responsible for collecting SECC data, that NSSO alone is capable of doing SECC survey, which should be done by doing a special round of NSSO survey.
Prof Kundu’s critique of SECC comes close on the heels of another senior economist, Prof Sujit Bhalla, saying that while Census of India and NSS “have been doing survey/ census work for the last 65 years”, the Ministry of Rural Development, which was the nodal ministry for SECC, “has a reputation akin to the CBI rather than the NSS — that is, it’s prone to be a political organization and not an objective quasi-academic unit.”
“Comprehensive data by the NSS were collected between July 2011 and June 2012 in two surveys — the Consumer Expenditure Survey collected detailed data on consumer expenditures while the Employment-Unemployment Survey collected detailed data on landholdings, individual wages and earnings, as well as the age and education structure of the population”, Prof Bhalla says.
“For all indicators except education, the SECC data seem to be compellingly bad — that is, not worth discussing, let alone deriving any policy conclusions”, Prof Bhalla says, adding, “The SECC data are likely to overstate household income because it reports only the earnings of the highest earning member of the household. One further overstatement in the SECC relative to the NSS: the former is an average for the period of July 2011 to 2013; the latter is for the agricultural year July 2011-June 2012.”
“On average, the SECC 2011-13 income data are likely to be 14 per cent higher (9 per cent inflation and 5 per cent real growth) than the NSS 2011-12 data.Despite the considerable overstatement involved in the SECC, it still reports lower rural incomes than the NSS”, points out Prof Bhalla, who is currently chairman and managing-director of Oxus Investments, a New Delhi-based economic research, asset management, and emerging-markets advisory firm.

Comments

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

J&K Governor's rule: BJP's "failure" to go ahead with 44-plus strategy

By Syed Mujtaba Hussian*
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continues to witness cataclysm of events ever since the killing of editor-in-chief of “Rising Kashmir”, Shujaat Bukhari, followed by the BJP’s deliberated parting of ways with its coalition partner, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and imposition of Governor rule.

NTPC's "poor" track record on workers' safety, whether permanent or on contract

Counterview Desk
A recent report, “The Dark Side of NTPC: A Critical Look at the Social and Environmental Footprints of NTPC”, traces the performance of one of the four Navaratnas which also happens to be a Fortune 500 company, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), pointing out that, while it has played, for over four decades, “pivotal role” in India’s quest for development, this development was energy intensive and has caused “a plethora of negative impacts to people, environment and sustainability over the years.”