13 Aug, 2010, 08.00AM IST,ET Bureau
Take up caste census now: OBC leaders
NEW DELHI: The Opposition and OBC parties on Thursday mounted pressure
on the Manmohan Singh government to take up the caste headcount in the
second phase of the census exercise, instead of the biometric stage.
After an uproar led by the members belonging to the OBC in the Lok
Sabha, leaders of BJP, SP, JD-U, RJD and BSP met finance minister
Pranab Mukherjee and home minister P Chidambaram. They told the
ministers that taking up caste census in the biometric stage would
defeat the purpose as it would be a long-drawn process.
According to sources, the two leaders said that they will place the
proposal of caste enumeration during the second phase before the
Cabinet. The Opposition is confident that the government will find it
difficult to turn down its demand on the premise that it cannot afford
to anger 'Backward Classes'.
While responding to members' allegations in the House that the
government was trying to "befool" the people, Mr Mukherjee said that
the modalities of caste enumeration had not been decided. He said the
Group of Ministers (GoM) looking into the demand for a caste-based
census had agreed to go ahead with it, but the final decision on "how
and when" will have to be taken by the Cabinet.
The members of the 'social justice' parties were on their feet as soon
as Speaker Meira Kumar finished reading obituary references after the
House met for the day. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, SP supremo Mulayam
Singh Yadav, BSP MP Dara Singh Chauhan and RJD leader Lalu Prasad
alleged that the government was trying to delay the caste headcount
exercise by including it in the biometric phase, which was a
"long-drawn" process. "This exercise cannot be completed in 100 years.
The decision to hand out voter identity cards was taken 15 years ago
and has not been implemented completely," Mr Sharad Yadav said.
Despite repeated pleas by the Speaker to take up the issue during zero
hour, the members continued with the uproar and started approaching
the well of the House. The Speaker adjourned the House till noon.
When the House was reconvened, Mr Mukherjee, who headed the GoM, said
it was decided that caste will be canvassed without affecting the
integrity of the headcount. "The decision on the mechanism will have
to be taken formally. The decision will be taken by the Cabinet. When
the Cabinet meets and takes a decision, we will inform you," he said.
The ministerial panel had on Wednesday recommended that caste
information can be recorded in the last stage of Census 2011 when
biometric information will be gathered. The biometric parameters
include photographs, fingerprints and iris-mapping of citizens which
will be collected for the NPR to create a multi-purpose unique
identity card. The first stage of the census — the household and
family survey — which began on April one is nearly over and the second
phase has begun.
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