Friday, May 7, 2010

pm promises caste count in census

7 May 2010


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: Castes will be counted in the Census after lapse of 80 years when their numbers were ascertained in 1931 Census and used by Kaka Kalekar Commission (1953) and B P Mandal Commission (1979) that ultimately led to 27 per cent reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) 20 years ago in 1990 during the prime ministership of V. P. Singh.

Conceding demand for the caste enumeration from all sides in the Lok Sabha during two days of debate to know exact percentage of OBCs in the Indian population, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that the Cabinet will take the decision shortly in deference to the views expressed by the MPs.

OBC is a collective term used for describing the castes that are economically and socially disadvantaged and what the MPs cutting across party lines demanded was actually their count to press for higher reservation proportionate to their percentage in the population. Their case was that the Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes are already enumerated in Census and so why not OBCs.

Dr Manmohan Singh's intervention in the post-lunch session to make the announcement that was greeted by leaders pressing for count of the castes like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Yadav, Gopinath Munde(BJ) and Dara Singh Yadav (BSP) and others ended the pandemonium that resulted in an hour's adjournment earlier because of Home Minister P Chidambaram giving no definitive answer to the debate.

The divided Cabinet on the issue was reflected in Chidambaram's reply as he kept the matter hanging by saying neither "yes" nor "no" to the demand for counting the castes. The Opposition was up in arms over Chidambaram refusing to say anything more than state that the government is already seized of the matter and views expressed by the members will be the valuable guide in taking the decision.

It will, however, amount to collection of the information as provided by people to the Census enumeration without any verification as the enumerators, mostly primary school teachers, are trained just to make the head counts and cannot do investigating agencies' job to verify the information that a person provides, Chidambaram said.

He even taunted Janata Dal(U) leader Sharad Yadav repeatedly interrupting him that the demand for caste count had also come up during the 2001 Census but the then BJP-led NDA government, in which he was a minister, had rejected it. Members say an earlier attempt to count the castes in the 1961 Census was similarly rejected.

Chidambaram cited the logistics and practical difficulties expressed by the Registrar General of India that the enumerators will face if they have to also record the castes. He said Census enumerators will find difficulties in many cases regarding the castes as to the status of orphaned children, children from mixed marriages and people migrating from one state to another as many communities are OBCs in one state and not in another.

The first OBC reservation in India was made back in 1902 by Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj, Maharaja of Kolhapur in Maharashtra, reserving 50 per cent of services in his state for the backward classes and communities.

The Mandal Commission had estimated the OBCs constituting 52 per cent of India's population while the only official count done since after the 1931 Census was in 1996 when the national survey carried out by the Centre through the National Sample Survey put their number at 32 per cent.


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