Centre finally gives nod to caste census

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 10 2010, 06:29am hrs
Though it will cost much more, the UPA government on Thursday finally gave its nod to a standalone caste census that will be conducted from June to September next year.

Approving the decision that came in the backdrop of demands from almost all political parties to have such a caste headcount, the Union Cabinet, however, felt that delinking the exercise from the ongoing Census and population enumeration would ensure better results even though the expenditure would go up. Such a nationwide caste count was last conducted in 1931.

The decision, though, will necessiate some amendments in the Census Act to primarily ensure that collection of data does not face legal hurdles. This became necessary, sources said, in the event that a PIL filed by those opposing such caste count, put a spanner in the works by getting a stay from the courts to such an exercise.

After considering various options, the option that we have approved is, based on the responses of various political parties, that caste must be canvassed and the integrity of the headcount must not be affected, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters Thursday afternoon after the Cabinet decision.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who held consultations with the Opposition as well as other parties besides seeking their views in writing on the subject, opened the discussion by pointing out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had already given commitment to have a caste census. He added that the financial component would be higher since a separate exercise was being conducted, but said it would ensure accuracy. Outlining the calender for the exercise, he said it would be included after the biometric capture that would be completed in March 2011.