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

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Opposition refuses to legally challenge EVMs amidst plans of "back to ballot" protest

Counterview Desk
Even as opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly to rig polls is growing, a group of prominent citizens who have come together to form the EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan has controversially called for a national protest against EVMs on May 30, demanding future elections should be held only on ballot paper.

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.

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.

It's now official: Akshay Kumar has not been conferred honorary Canadian citizenship

By Our Representative
It is now official. Super-star Akshay Kumar has not been conferred any honorary citizenship by Canadian authorities, as claimed by him ahead of the 2019 elections. In reply to a query by Roshan Shah, who is a Canadian citizen living in Waterloo, Ontario, and belongs to Ahmedabad, the country’s authorities dealing with issues related with immigration, refugees and citizenship in Canada have said that only six persons have so far been granted honorary citizenship.

Govt of India overestimated GDP by 2.5%, must restore reputational damage: Ex-CEA

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Arvind Subramanian has said that changes brought about by the Government of India in data sources and methodology for estimating the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 “has led to a significant overestimation of growth”. While official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent, the actual growth may have been 4½ percent, ranging from 3 ½ to 5 ½ percent during the period, he adds.

Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.

If EC's credibility is under question, shouldn't one "assume" EVMs might be tampered?

Counterview Desk
Gauhar Raza, scientist, documentary film maker and poet; senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); military veteran Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury (retd); and Sucheta De and Sandeep Saurav of the All India Students' Association (AISA), have asked “individuals, organisations and people's movements” to send their endorsement to an appeal they have prepared on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

Will minorities in India be 2nd class citizens? Wake up call: Be a 'communicating' Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
India today is at a defining moment of her history. There is so much that has taken place in the past five years (and particularly in the last ten days)- that several citizens of the country are genuinely concerned about the future of the country! Will democracy survive? Will key elements of the Constitution be changed?