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

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…