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GoM nod for inclusion of caste in census
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, August 11
GoM headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, today endorsed the demand for inclusion of caste in the ongoing census operations. The ministerial panel will recommend to the Union Cabinet that caste head count could be undertaken during the biometric phase of enumeration, which is expected to be undertaken by this year-end or early next year. The biometric phase covers photographing, fingerprinting and iris mapping of citizens for the National Population Register (NPR).

UPA sources said the enumeration would cover all castes and would not be confined to the head count of only Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The panel members felt that this was the appropriate stage to undertake caste enumeration through biometric capture as exercise was to be conducted over a year giving the enumerators sufficient time to collect this additional data.

The Cabinet would take a decision on this matter soon, UPA sources said. Today’s meeting, it is learnt, was a brief affair as there was overall agreement to go along with the decision on a caste headcount.

The panel had sought the opinion of all political parties on this issue at its last meeting, which were taken into consideration today.

SP, the RJD and the JD(U), which had raised a storm on this issue in the last Parliament session and even extracted an assurance from the Centre that their demand would be considered sympathetically, had been pressing for an early decision.

These three regional parties, which derive their support and strength from the OBCs, have been maintaining that the country did not have an accurate figure of the OBC population as their last enumeration dates back to the 1931 census.

The BJP had written to the GoM last week saying it was not against a caste headcount in the ongoing census but wanted the exercise to be conducted in such a manner that the integrity of the exercise would not be affected.

With most political parties going along with the demand for caste headcount, the Congress had no choice but to support it. Although the party and the Union Cabinet was bitterly divided on this issue, the grand old party gave in as it could not afford to alienate the substantive OBC population even though they have traditionally never supported the Congress. Mukherjee, therefore, got around this by suggesting that all castes be enumerated.





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