Opposition wants it done at the headcount stage itself
The government on Thursday said a final decision on the modalities of inclusion of caste in the census would be taken by the Cabinet.
Making a statement in the Lok Sabha — a day after the Group of Ministers (GoM) agreed to include caste in the census — Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said the GoM had decided that caste would be canvassed without affecting the integrity of the headcount.
An appropriate decision on the modalities of canvassing the caste was yet to be taken. How and when it would be done was still under consideration. Mr. Mukherjee said this after Opposition members disrupted question hour raising doubts over the GoM's recommendation that caste census would be conducted at the biometric stage, which would be after headcount that was under way.
According to Mr. Mukherjee, the GoM met on Wednesday and considered the views of several parties on the issue. The GoM was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after strong demands over inclusion of caste in the census.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal (United), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal raised the issue when the House convened for the day demanding inclusion of caste in census at the headcount stage itself and not at the biometric stage as suggested in media reports.
“Biometric stage will never come,” Mulayam Singh (SP) said. Similar sentiments were expressed by Sharad Yadav (JD-U), who said the biometric stage would not come in the next “100 years” as the government was yet to complete the process of issuing photo election cards to the people.
The Opposition members said enumeration of castes would not be possible at the biometric stage as it was a “long-drawn” process. Moreover, only those above 15 years would be photographed and fingerprinted to create a biometric national database, they contended.
After Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the proceedings till noon, as some of the members trooped into the well, the leaders of the parties met Mr. Mukherjee where it was agreed upon that the government would address their concerns and make a statement.
The biometric stage, expected to begin in November, would collect fingerprints and iris scan of people. Right now the government intends to make records of the caste of a person.