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

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

Ships recycling Bill 'allows' India to be turned into a landfill for foreign hazardous waste

Counterview Desk
In a letter to M Venkaiah Naidu, chairman, Rajya Sabha, senior activist Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance has said that the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change to "safeguard country’s maritime environment from harmful and hazardous wastes and materials".