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Agreement on caste in census eludes Cabinet

The discussion on whether or not to include caste data in the ongoing census remained inconclusive even after the Union Cabinet deliberated on the issue for nearly two hours on Tuesday.

delhi Updated: May 04, 2010 23:51 IST
Saroj Nagi

The discussion on whether or not to include caste data in the ongoing census remained inconclusive even after the Union Cabinet deliberated on the issue for nearly two hours on Tuesday.

The Cabinet will now have another round of meeting on the issue.

While most ministers, who spoke supported caste-based enumeration, the Cabinet note circulated by the Home Ministry maintained that the census is not a proper vehicle for collecting such data.

Some, however, were of the view that the census is a viable platform for such collection as setting up another mechanism would be a huge exercise.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was called to elicit the views of ministers ahead of a parliamentary debate on the issue on Wednesday.

The Opposition, including the BJP, RJD, SP and JD-U, has been demanding caste-based data.

Congress leader Anand Sharma came out strongly against such a census. Ministers such as Sharad Pawar (NCP), Dayanidhi Maran (DMK) Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad or Subodh Kant Sahai (Congress) are yet to speak their mind.

DMK’s D. Raja maintained that caste is a fact of life. National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah pointed out that the census exercise is already under way and it may not be possible to introduce a new element at this juncture. Veerappa Moily is believed to have pointed out that there is no provision in the Constitution for it.

Some leaders also noted certain angularities in the exercise. A caste-based census would, for instance, prompt people not just to list their caste but also their sub-caste, thereby complicating the exercise. Also, an OBC in one state may not be considered so in another state.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee wrapped up the discussion by stressing that it is for the Home Ministry to spell out whether caste-based census is practical or not. The Prime Minister ended the meeting by declaring that a decision on the issue is being postponed.