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Friday, September 24, 2021

Karnataka: BJP government, like other regimes, drags feet in making caste-based census public

During the Congress tenure and the JDS-Congress coalition regime, BJP had sought the release of the report

Written by Kiran Parashar | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 21, 2021 3:41:12 pm
Kota Shrinivas Poojary with Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai. (Twitter/Kota Srinivas Poojari)

Like the previous Congress-JDS coalition government and the Congress government which preceded it, the current BJP government in Karnataka is dragging its feet on releasing the report of a caste-based socio-economic census that was carried out in the state in 2015 by a Congress government headed by former chief minister Siddaramaiah.

BJP minister for the backward class welfare department Kota Srinivas Poojary, who was in favour of the release of the report when in Opposition three years ago, said the report is under evaluation with the backward classes commission.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Poojary said, “H Kantharaj was earlier the head of the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission (KSBCC) and was replaced by Jayaprakash Hegde. When I asked him (Hegde) about the report, he said it is in the evaluation stage. Once the report is ready, it will be taken to the cabinet and a call will be taken (on releasing the report).”

In the light of the passage of the 127th Constitution Amendment Bill to restore the power of states to decide quotas in the Other Backward Classes category, there has been a demand from several regional parties to carry out a socio-economic caste census in the country to understand the status of various castes.

Siddaramaiah, who had provided an impetus for the 2015 caste census in Karnataka but did not release its findings in his tenure, has also sought the release of the report of the census now.

“Why is the government not willing to accept the backward classes commission report? The resources of our nation should be distributed equally and social justice should be achieved. Data is necessary to do this so we had ordered for the survey to be conducted,” Siddaramaiah said this week.

He added, “The report is yet to reach the government. I had earlier directed the backward classes minister in the coalition government to approve the report. Former CM Kumaraswamy had opposed it.”

Siddaramaiah had commissioned the socio-economic caste census in April 2015 at a cost of Rs 133 crore but his government never released the report despite it being ready around 2017 when Congress was still in power. This census was carried out after a gap of 84 years. Congress leaders and ministers are reported to have convinced Siddaramaiah in 2017 to not release the census report, fearing an adverse effect in the 2018 assembly polls. The Congress eventually lost power in the 2018 polls and had to forge an alliance with the JDS to form a government headed by H D Kumaraswamy.

During the Congress tenure and the JDS-Congress coalition regime, BJP had sought the release of the report.

A leaked version of the census report had indicated that dominant castes like the Lingayats constitute only 9.8 per cent of the population (instead of a general estimate of 17 per cent) and Vokkaligas 8.2 per cent (instead of 15 per cent) in the six-crore population of the state.

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