A delegation of leaders from 10 political parties including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Leader of Opposition in Bihar Legislative Assembly, Tejashwi Yadav is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand a caste-based census at 11:00 am on Monday.
"Caste-based Census would be not just for Bihar, people in the whole country will benefit from this," Janata Dal (United) supremo said, who arrived in the national capital on Sunday.
While speaking to reporters at the airport said, "We (a delegation comprising representatives of 10 different parties) will meet PM Narendra Modi at 11 am tomorrow with our demand for a caste-based census." Kumar's JD-U, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar, is in favour of a caste-based census. He has been advocating for a caste-based census in the country and had thus sought an appointment with the Prime Minister.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the demand for a caste-based census.
"The demand of the caste census is not just the demand from Bihar but other states also. The opposition parties in Bihar also wanted to meet the Prime Minister with us. We had written a letter to the Prime Minister regarding this,"Bihar chief minister had earlier said.
"We want a caste-based Census and it is our long-standing demand. A caste-based Census will help all castes to get their exact numbers so that policies can be made accordingly. Caste census is in the interest of all. It is for the benefit of the country. It is the job of the central government to take a decision regarding the caste census. It is not a political issue but a social one," Nitish Kumar had said.
Kumar, meanwhile, has stated that if Centre does not agree then "Bihar will proceed to conduct a caste-based census." The debate on the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 during the recently concluded Monsoon Session of the Parliament saw wide participation with many opposition members raising demands for caste-based census and removing the 50 per cent ceiling on the reservation.
The demand for the caste-based census was also made by the Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and several other opposition members. Some BJP allies have also made a similar demand.
The VP Singh government at the Centre implemented the Mandal Commission recommendation of providing reservation for the OBCs in 1990.
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Janata Dal-United's Rajiv Ranjan Singh `Lalan' have been making consistent demands for caste census so as to bring out the population of different groups.
"If we do not get to know how many of us are there, what is the use (of the census)," he added.
Rajiv Ranjan Singh, whose party JD-U is an ally of BJP in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), also made a strong pitch for the caste census.
He said the government will be able to translate its slogan of 'sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishvas' into reality if it knows who is standing in the last queue of development.
He said the population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is marked during the census and schemes for their welfare are made accordingly. The JD-U member said the census also gives a figure of the population in terms of religion but not of castes.
He said if one were to go by the claims made by various communities about their population, the total population of the country should be three times the present number.
"It should get clear and we should know the actual situation. If the government knows what is the population of each caste, it will help in making policies," Rajiv Ranjan Singh had said.
The JD-U leader said that the last caste census was held in 1931 and Mandal Commission also used that data for its recommendations.
What is the issue?
The caste-based census and its impact on the country's political landscape remain a sensitive issue for the government, given the fact that seven states will go for assembly polls over the next year.
With caste-based data, the political parties make their own estimates in states for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats during elections. However, the Central government has so far refused to accede to the demand.
Meanwhile, the BJP seems to be not in favour of a caste-based census as it had firmly stated in the Parliament’s recently concluded Monsoon Session that it will not undertake a caste-based survey as a policy matter.
On July 20, in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai had said: "The Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in the census."
On March 10, 2021, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had clarified on caste-related details received from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. In a reply, the Union Home Ministry said that raw caste data has been provided to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) for the classification and categorization of the data.
"The Office of the Registrar General, India had provided logistics and technical support in conducting the SECC-2011. The raw caste data has been provided to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) for the classification and categorization of the data. As informed by MoSJE, there is no proposal to release the caste data at this stage," the Home Ministry had said.
According to a report by Hindustan Times, BJP allies such as the JD-U, Apna Dal and Republican Party of India-Athawale have raised the demand for holding a caste-based census.
According to Financial Express, till now there is no clarity over the population of OBCs. The Mandal commission estimated OBCs constituted about 52% of the population, but the NSSO survey of 2007 put the number at 41 per cent. This increases the chances of possible errors in the upcoming census.
The demand for a caste census is an old and sensitive one. Castes begun to be officially enumerated in the British era and the last caste census was conducted in 1931.
(With inputs from ANI)
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