Sunday, Jan 29, 2023

Dishonouring a commitment

UPA 2 repeatedly assured Parliament it would conduct a proper caste census,but seems to be failing to do so.

The Union government has made a commitment to Parliament that it would conduct a caste census from June this year. The month of June is over and no caste census is taking place — if one doesn’t count Tripura. There is no preparation for it,either. The present government has earned a reputation for not fulfilling commitments. Supporters of a separate Telangana state are saying this; even Anna Hazare and his team. The issue of caste census is a glaring example of how it does not care even for its commitments to Parliament.

This government is accountable to Parliament. While it faces MPs in the House,it takes note of their sentiments; once the session is over,it starts thinking in its own way,careless of its commitments. It promised a caste census in the House many times and gone back once out of Parliament.

A thorough nation-wide BPL survey is on; the government claims that by also identifying the caste of those being surveyed,it is fulfilling its commitment — making a laughing-stock of itself. We were demanding the enumeration of caste along with the 2011 census,such as would happen before Independence. After Independence it was discontinued without any valid reasons. Many programmes of the Union and state governments are related to the deprived castes; billions of rupees are spent there. There are even caste-based reservations,and we need to know how this policy is working. For all this,we need caste-based authentic data,so that we can focus those sections that are more impoverished and need more support. But we do not have such data,because the caste census was discontinued by our self-clamed “welfare state”.

Whenever the government tries to give support people of weaker castes,the matter is brought to the judiciary,and there the data are demanded. But we have caste data only from 1931,considered too old. Why should we not have updated caste data? There is no answer to this question. If we still face caste problems,with the caste system eating up our party system,it is because of the neglect of the caste question by successive post-Independence governments.

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There was consensus in the Lok Sabha on the issue. All parties demanded it; the government committed that the sentiments of the members would be honoured. Subsequently it used various tactics to wriggle out of honouring its commitment: it announced with much fanfare that caste would be enumerated in the camps where biometric data for the Unique ID would be collected. It was a well thought-out decision to dump the question of caste data. We protested that it was not practical to enumerate caste in those camps,only through a door-to-door census.

The government then said it would happen alongside the census — but last February the census happened without it,for no valid reason. We asked the government to add just one more column to the questionnaire — but we were told that caste would be enumerated separately from July. There was hardly any need for a separate caste census,but this government committed to it,and so we ceased our insistence in Parliament on caste enumeration as part of the February census exercise.

But what is the government doing now? It is doing nothing to collect the socio-economic data of various castes of the country. It is just enumerating the number of people belonging to various castes — and we can know at best what proportion of people of any caste is below the poverty line,and what proportion above. These data may be important for the purpose,they are being collected,but the socio-economic conditions of various castes and their education status cannot be known. Our Constitution says those backward classes of citizens would be given special opportunities in the recruitment of government services that are not adequately represented. Our BPL survey is not going yield any data of representation of people from various castes in government services. How will we judge whether job quotas are working or not as policies?


The government has delayed the monsoon session of Parliament. Whenever it takes place,the government will have to answer what it is doing about the caste census. This government seems to invent problems for itself. It has invented problems over Telangana. It has done the same on black money. And it has on the issue of caste census,it has done the same by not conducting it under the Census Act of 1948.

The writer is a JD(U) MP in the Lok Sabha and convenor of the NDA

First published on: 12-07-2011 at 03:42 IST
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