Two weeks after the Union cabinet, presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to refer the contentious issue of caste-based Census to a Group of Ministers (GoM), the panel is not yet been constituted.
After the cabinet met on May 26, sources had said that the proposed GoM would examine the modalities of a caste-based headcount and submit its report “at the earliest”.
But there is no word so far on the composition of the GoM and its terms of reference.
When the matter was left for the GoM’s consideration, OBC leaders like Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav accused the Centre of resorting to “delaying tactics”.
Seen as complex and volatile, the issue of caste enumeration had led to a division in the cabinet on the two occasions it discussed it, prompting the government to hand it over to a GoM. It also created a divide in political parties.
In the Congress, Union ministers like Veerappa Moily strongly supported caste enumeration, while Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken wrote a letter against it to 67 young MPs across parties.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal oppose caste census. So does BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, though his party has backed the demand. OBC leaders like Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad had flagged it during the fag end of the budget session of Parliament in May.
Besides the principled stand — for or against — on the issue, there are other complexities involved that the GoM would have to look into. These include examining whether the census is the best vehicle for a caste count, the modalities for such enumeration and who will be the custodian of that data.
The Union home ministry — which circulated a note at the cabinet meeting — has suggested that the caste count be linked to the National Population Register, instead of the ongoing census.