Opposition raises pitch for caste-based census, increasing quota


President of India Pratibha Patil receiving the 2011 Census report from the Census Commissioner C. Chandramouli

NEW DELHI: Several opposition parties on Monday raised the pitch for a caste-based census in the country and giving reservation according to the population of ST, SC and OBC communities, with the Congress accusing the central government of resisting it while playing politics on the issue.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the underprivileged need economic and political power and not empty words as he again called for removing the 50 per cent ceiling on quota and demanded reservations for Dalits and tribals based on their population.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding an up-to-date caste census, saying meaningful social justice and empowerment programmes are incomplete without such data.

Supporting the Congress’ demand, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar said such a census would be beneficial for all sections of society.

The BJP unit in Bihar had supported a resolution at an all-party meeting convened by Nitish Kumar and later a unanimous resolution was passed in the Bihar Assembly on caste census. However, the BJP’s central leadership is yet to respond to the demand for a socio-economic and caste census raised now by the Congress and other opposition parties.

“Prime Minister ji, the underprivileged need political and economic power, not empty words,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

“Take these three steps: Make the 2011 census figures public, tell how many OBCs are there in the country and remove the 50 percent cap on reservations. Give reservation to Dalits, tribals according to their population,” he said.

Besides the Congress, JD(U) and the RJD, which are part of the ruling ‘Mahagathbandhan’ alliance in Bihar, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have also been vociferously demanding caste-based census.

Early this month, DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin lent support to the demand along with other opposition parties during a conference convened by his party on social justice.

“There should be a caste census, this is the demand of the whole country. There is a demand in Tamil Nadu, there is a demand in Bihar. Why is the BJP running away?” Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh said on Monday.

BJP ally Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party, meanwhile, also demanded an increase in the reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

“The population share of SCs and STs has been increasing but their reservation share remains the same which is not justified. It is requested to the central government that the share should be increased in line with the population ratio of the castes which have been included in these categories, the party said.

RLJP leader Pashupati Kumar Paras is a cabinet minister in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government. The Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP), which has five Lok Sabha MPs, is based in Bihar and draws support from a section of Dalits.

In his letter, Kharge stressed that conducting the census is the responsibility of the Union Government.

“I am writing to you to once again place on record the demand of the Indian National Congress for an up-to-date Caste Census. My colleagues and I have raised this demand earlier in both Houses of Parliament on a number of occasions as have leaders of many other opposition parties,” the Congress chief said in his letter dated April 16.

The Bihar chief minister said the survey report would help the government in better implementation of welfare schemes for socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

“We have been in favour of the caste census right from the very beginning. When the central government refused to do so, we decided to conduct the caste survey on our own. It is going on in the state. The exercise will provide data to the government for carrying out works for the benefit of weaker sections of society,” Kumar told reporters in Patna.

The SP had promised a caste census in Uttar Pradesh in its 2022 election manifesto. Party chief Akhilesh Yadav recently said that it will be an important issue for the 2024 parliamentary elections and is getting support from regional parties.

“Had SP formed the government in UP, it would have gone ahead with the caste census in the state,” Yadav had said.

The party had launched a statewide campaign from Varanasi in February to pressure the BJP government at the Centre and in the state to hold the caste census.

In a party statement issued in February, BSP president Mayawati had stated that her party wants a caste census to be done not only in Uttar Pradesh but across the country in one go.

For this, the central government would have to come forward, she had said.

The BSP chief had also criticised the SP, asking why it did not get the caste census done during its tenure.

Opposition parties are looking at the issue as a counter to the BJP’s Hindutva and nationalism planks.

Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Monday targeted the Congress over the remarks of its leaders on the quota issue.

He accused the party and the JD(S) of joining hands by promising to reverse the Karnataka government order of scrapping the four per cent quota for Muslims to deny benefits given to Vokkaligas, Lingayats as well as SCs and STs.

Describing the Janata Dal (Secular) as the B-team of the Congress, he said on Twitter that the BJP will stand strongly with these communities and will make sure it is with them for their progress.

While Karnataka Congress leaders want to reverse reservation, Rahul Gandhi “dropped” into Karnataka and said he wants to breach the Supreme Court limit on reservations, the BJP MP from the state tweeted.

“So the Congress politics of lies and promise and scoot politics continues. That is why voters chose BJP because we deliver what we promise,” Chandrasekhar said.

The BJP government in Karnataka has scrapped the 4 percent quota for Muslims and has divided it equally among the Vokkaligas and Lingayats in the poll-bound state, which comprises a majority of the population.

Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar said in Delhi that if the government is really concerned about the OBCs, why is it “reluctant” to issue the data about caste and social and economic status.

He said the BJP must clear its stand on caste census and tell people whether it wants a caste census or not.

“They will take votes based on caste and attack them on caste basis, but they will not come out with data on what is their numbers,” the Congress leader alleged.

Kharge in his letter noted that for the first time, the UPA Government conducted a Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) during 2011-12 covering some 25 crore households.

“For a number of reasons, however, the caste data could not get published even though the Congress and other MPs demanded its release after your government came to power in May 2014,” Kharge said.

“In the absence of an updated caste census, I am afraid a reliable database so very essential for meaningful social justice and empowerment programmes, particularly for OBCs, is incomplete. This census is the responsibility of the Union Government,” Kharge said.

“We demand that it be done immediately and that a comprehensive Caste Census be made its integral part,” Kharge said.

Rahul Gandhi had on Sunday dared Prime Minister Modi to release the 2011 caste-based census data in the public domain and also demanded that the 50 per cent cap on reservation be removed.

The Congress leader while speaking at a poll rally in Karnataka claimed only seven per cent of secretaries in the central government are members from Other Backward Castes, Dalits and tribal communities.


Source: Press Trust of India

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