Opinion divided on preparations being completed on time

The Cabinet has given its approval to the Karnataka State Permanent Backward Classes Commission to conduct a census that can bring to the fore the social and educational backwardness of castes at a time when the commission is without a head or members, and its former chairperson has gone to court questioning his removal from the post.

Opinion is now divided on whether the preparatory process, starting with the formation of a new commission, can indeed be completed for the mammoth exercise to start at the scheduled time. The census is to start in April-May next year, unless the schedule of 2014 general elections delays it.

Questioned in court

The outgoing chairperson N. Shankarappa said he had approached the High Court challenging the legality of dissolving the commission before the completion of his three-year term in October 2014. In his view, the commission can conduct a “survey”, but not a “census”.

His predecessor C.S. Dwarakanath, during whose time much preparatory work had been done for the census, argued that the government has “entirely underestimated” the work involved in this exercise.

Enumerators needed

“This is much more than a head count,” he said, adding that the process needs at least one lakh well-trained enumerators.

“We had come up with 93 indicators on gauging social and educational backwardness. We had also done a pilot survey using Simputers so that data is not open to manipulation,” said Mr. Dwarakanath. The process was shelved after the change of government.

Mr. Dwarakanath also believes that the findings of the Justice A.J. Sadashiva Inquiry Commission, which looked into methods of equitable distribution of reservation facilities among Scheduled Castes (SCs), needs to serve as an important supplementary material. “But the government is yet to even make this document public,” he said.

However, Ravivarma Kumar, former chairperson who is at present the Advocate General, said it was not an impossible exercise given that household listing of the 2011 census is already available. He suggested that the new commission could use the indicators that his own commission and that of Mr. Dwarakanath had come up with. “I think it is not an impossible task if the exercise is put through before the code of conduct for general elections is brought in,” said Mr. Kumar.

October more likely

The general elections, of course, hangs like a Sword of Damocles over the exercise. A source in the Social Welfare Department said the prospect of the process getting postponed to October is high and what will happen in April is a preparatory exercise. It may be recalled that the process of holding a caste census has been delayed several times since it was first proposed in 2005.

Important count

The last caste-based census was conducted during the British rule in 1931. The census is seen as an important exercise to provide a scientific basis for determining backwardness.

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