In 1931, even Hutton felt Census was not fool-proof

New Delhi, Mar 29 | Updated: Mar 30 2007, 05:30am hrs
Are the 1931 Census figures, the last time when caste-wise enumeration was done, a valid database for determining the number of backward castes in India

The survey, presided over by the then Census commissioner JH Hutton, was done in British India and had left out some native states while including provinces like Baluchistan. Hutton, in his administrative report written two years later in June 1933, admitted that an accurate statistical survey of the Indian population along caste lines was not possible.

Writing in the 1931 Census, Volume 1, Hutton said castes depicted in the report were only representative and was not a complete tabulation of the whole population".

He added that some tribals and Muslim groups (since the caste Census was based on occupation) also figured in the Census. In the same report elsewhere, he again wrote: While compiling data, instruction was that all provinces should, in the interest of economy, compile figures only for such castes as the local government considered of sufficient importance".

In his administrative report written two years later in June 1933, Hutton underlined that the time available for the Census had been limited. While work on the Census took off in 1930 after he took charge of his office in October 29, he wrote that he effectively got only 18 months to complete the project.

Hutton also hinted that his census superintendents faced problems on the ground while tabulating figures. In the case of caste, an accurate return is already unobtainable. It is doubtful if the return serves any statistical or administrative purpose; the return involves a troublesome quantity of irritating propaganda which can be a serious affliction to census officers," he wrote in his report. He added in the report that attempts of innumerable castes to use the census for purposes for which it was not intended are excessively troublesome".