New Delhi: Giving in to demands from almost all political parties, government on Thursday decided to hold caste census next year under an exercise to be carried out separately from the enumeration of population.
After several deliberations within the government on the politically-sensitive issue, the Union cabinet decided to carry out a separate house-to-house caste enumeration from June to September next year.
“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,” home minister P. Chidambaram told reporters while briefing on the decisions of the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The caste enumeration will be conducted in a phased manner after the population enumeration, which will include biometric capture and headcount, is completed by March next year, he said.
He evaded a reply when asked whether caste enumeration would be merged with the headcount.
The decision has been taken after considering options suggested by the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up on the issue and the consultations that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee held with leaders of various parties.
“Every point of view has been accommodated and the time-table drawn up....We hope this will be a satisfactory arrangement,” he said, in an apparent reference to political parties which have been demanding such an exercise.
Parties like Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal (United) had disrupted proceedings in Parliament for several days during the Budget and Monsoon sessions while pressing for caste census.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was divided initially, later decided to support it.
The issue even divided the Congress as well as the Union cabinet with some favouring caste census and others opposing it, prompting the government to set up a GoM to consider all aspects related to such a move.
Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha recently that all political parties had supported the idea of including caste in census and there was no need for any “apprehensions” over the issue.
Chidambaram said a suitable legal regime for collection of data on castes would be formulated in consultation with the ministry of law and justice.
There will be an additional cost for the exercise which will be assessed at a separate meeting.
The office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner would conduct the field operations of the caste enumeration.
The Central government will constitute an expert group to classify the caste/tribe returns after the enumeration is completed.
The office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner would hand over the details of the castes/tribes returned in the enumeration to the proposed expert group.
The last caste-wise census was held in 1931 and such a practice had been given up as a matter of policy after Independence.
“In response to the demands for enumerating castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Census 2011 raised inside Parliament as well as by various groups outside, the ministry of home affairs submitted a note to the Union cabinet in May 2010 pertaining to this issue,” an official release said.