The long-awaited socio-economic caste census released on Friday has sparked fresh debate between political parties with the BJP expected to use its data, especially poverty figures, to counter the Congress on its development plank over the years.
However, opposition parties say the survey’s finding that a whopping 38% of rural population is still landless will also add fresh impetus to the debate on the contentious land bill that makes it easier for the government to acquire land.
“The SC, ST communities have been historically marginalised. Now we see the high numbers of landless rural poor. Any legislation that deals with land has to take all these aspects into account and the government has to tread cautiously on land acquisition,” said Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy.The opposition wants to keep a close watch on how the NDA government shapes its new policies as the census figures will be crucial for determining subsidy distribution and public policy on key schemes such as the rural employment programme MGNREGA, the livelihood mission and food security.
Observers feel the report may provide some relief to the BJP by temporarily diverting attention from controversies over foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s alleged links with former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
However, the government’s decision not to reveal the details on castes may also provide fresh ammunition to outfits like the Janata Parivar, which has been pressing for elaborate caste data.
The government says the decision to hold back such details was taken by the UPA when it added the caste component to the census.
The Congress says the census may be another UPA initiative for which the Modi government will take credit. “We are surprised to see the finance minister releasing the census figures. Had it been the UPA regime, the rural development minister would have done the task,” said former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.
The party also demanded the government should publish a recent UNICEF-sponsored immunisation survey. “Why is the government sitting on that survey? Is it because it apparently shows Gujarat in a poor light in child immunisation?” asked Jairam Ramesh.
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