A comprehensive headcount at biometric stage
Ending months of fractious debates across the political spectrum, a Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, gave its seal of approval to the enumeration of caste in Census 2011 on Wednesday evening.
The GoM, sources said, has recommended that the caste headcount should be done at the biometric stage. Most significantly, it will not be just an OBC headcount, but a comprehensive caste headcount, with every citizen being asked which caste he or she belongs to. This data will be tabulated and analysed later to arrive at figures of different castes in the country, it is learnt. The GoM's recommendations will now be taken to the Union Cabinet, and the caste headcount should begin in December, official sources said. The biometric phase will cover photographing, fingerprinting and iris mapping of all citizens over the age of 15 for the National Population Register (NPR).
Wednesday's decision comes in the wake of the meeting on Monday of the Congress's Core Group — shortly after Congress president Sonia Gandhi returned to the capital — and decided that it would back a caste-based census, as well as the receipt of written replies from all political parties which had been asked by the GoM to give their views on the subject.
The GoM was set up after parties, cutting across the political spectrum, had vociferously backed a caste headcount in May during the budget session of Parliament. Subsequently, when it appeared that the BJP was having second thoughts on the subject, because of RSS pressure, the Congress, which is deeply divided on the issue, decided that it would not proceed till it received written approvals for caste enumeration from all parties. Eventually, pushed by its OBC constituency, a reluctant BJP, too, gave its approval, leaving the Congress with no option but to go ahead with a caste headcount.