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Caste census modalities not decided: Pranab
Published on 12 Aug. 2010 11:26 PM IST
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The modalities of caste enumeration for Census 2011 have not yet been decided, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the Lok Sabha Thursday amid allegations by opposition MPs that the government was trying to delay the exercise.
Mukherjee said the ministerial panel tasked to look into the demand for a caste-based census had given the green signal to go ahead with it, but the final decision on “how and when this should be done” would be taken by the central cabinet. Opposition MPs have been saying the government is trying to postpone it to the biometric phase of the census, which may be a long-drawn process.
“(The) Group of Ministers has decided that caste will be canvassed without affecting the integrity of the headcount,” Mukherjee, who headed the panel, said.
“How and when this should be done is under consideration. The decision on the mechanism will have to be taken formally. The decision will be taken by the cabinet. When the cabinet meets and takes a decision, we will inform you,” Mukherjee said, bringing down the otherwise high tempers in the house.
He said the panel had considered the views of several parties on the issue and admitted that a major concern was that the enumeration of caste would not be possible at the biometric stage as it was a “long drawn” process.
His statement followed an hour-long disruption of the house in the morning as opposition members vociferously raised questions over reports that the ministerial panel has recommended that caste information can be recorded in the last stage of Census 2011 when biometric information will be gathered.
During this phase, biometric parametres, including photographs, fingerprints and iris-mapping of citizens, will be collected for the National Population Register (NPR) to create a multi-purpose unique identity card. The first stage of the census - the household and family survey - is almost over.
Opposition parties, including the BJP, JD-U, the SP and the RJD forced the suspension of question hour. They were demanding inclusion of caste in the census at the headcount stage itself and not at the biometric stage.
“Are they fooling us,” Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP shouted as RJD’s Lalu Prasad tried to explain that the biometric process will take “100 years and will still not be completed”.
JD-U member Sharad Yadav also joined the protests, urging Speaker Meira Kumar to allow the protesting members to speak on the matter and ask the government to explain its position.
“This (biometric) exercise cannot be completed in 100 years,” Sharad Yadav seconded Lalu Prasad, adding: “The decision to hand out voter identity cards was taken 15 years ago and has not been implemented completely as yet.”
The protesting MPs also contended that only those above 15 years would be registered for the NPR to create a biometric national database.
The speaker urged them to let the question hour proceed and raise the issue in zero hour. However, the SP, RJD and JD-U members advanced towards her podium, forcing her to adjourn the house till noon.
However, peace returned when members reassembled at 12 p.m. and Mukherjee, the leader of the house, made his statement.
The enumeration of caste in India has evoked a divided response, even as the pressure of other backward class (OBC) groups forced the ministerial panel’s nod. The last caste census was carried out in India in 1931.

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