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Census debate back in House

delhi Updated: Mar 01, 2011 23:16 IST
Aloke Tikku

Three months before the first independent caste census is to begin, the three political leaders who had pushed the government into enumerating castes demanded on Monday that the caste count should also reflect the socio-economic status of various castes.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (U) told the Centre in Lok Sabha that an exercise, which only enumerates castes and not socio-economic condition, was useless.

Mulayam Singh also dismissed the ‘propaganda’ that the three Yadavs wanted caste-based census to promote their caste, saying the exercise would help all sections.

The Centre — that has earmarked a R2,000-crore plan to conduct the caste count beginning June — hasn’t made any promises yet. After hearing several MPs, including UPA allies —Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and the DMK — support expanding the scope of the caste census, home minister P Chidambaram said, “All your suggestions will be carefully considered and appropriate decision taken.”

When the assurance did not satisfy the MPs, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee asked political parties to firm up the questions that they wanted to be asked during the caste census and send it across. “We will look into all those aspects,” Mukherjee, also leader of the house, said.

Sources, however, say expanding the scope of the caste enumeration would not be easy.

As it is, there is no clarity who, and how the large number of names of castes would be processed in a stand-alone caste census.

“If enumerators also need to collect data on socio-economic conditions, we will need to hire school teachers. But the right to education law bars use of primary teachers for anything else than the decadal census, disaster relief and election duties,” a government source said.

Aanganwadi workers would not be able to handle the caste census if the political decision is to go for a second full-fledged census.