Opposition parties on Monday said in the Lok Sabha that since reservations and other benefits were given to people on basis of caste, government should include it in the Census data being collected across the country.

Raising the issue, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said Government should agree to a debate on allowing caste-based census tomorrow itself to resolve the issue.

She said her party has already given notice for a discussion on caste-based census. Similar notice has been given by Samajwadi Party and Rastriya Janata Dal.

Responding to her demand, Parliamentary Affairs Minster P.K. Bansal promised a debate on the issue tomorrow.

“Census is a big exercise of the government. 25 lakh personnel have already been enrolled for the purpose. Census is for collecting data on the poor and the backward population so that welfare schemes such as the Food Security programme could be implemented effectively,” Ms. Swaraj said.

Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) wondered why government was hesitating from carrying out caste-based census and pointed out that lack of caste details in the previous census posed difficulties for government-appointed committees, such as the Mandal Commission, in determining the support needed by the communities for their social uplift.

“Even the Supreme Court had faced difficulties in this regard due to unavailability of caste-based data. Why is the government hesitating to have such details covered under the census process? Such data is important to take government’s schemes to the intended population,” he said.

Sharad Yadav (JD(U)) said his party would give up all demands related to caste census if caste barriers were done away with in society.

“The condition of the tribals and backward castes is such that nobody is even ready to listen to their plight,” he said.

Caste was a “reality” in India which could not be ignored, he said pointing out that the government recognises caste when it gives scholarships and jobs on basis of caste.

The opposition leaders warned the government that if it did not give a satisfactory reply tomorrow during the debate it may face problems in smooth running of the House.

Supporting the demand for inclusion of caste data in the census, Lalu Prasad (RJD) said, “Caste should be written in bracket in the census.” He and Mulayam Singh Yadav maintained they have no issues with this practice being followed for upper caste too.

Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) said his party believed that the share of castes should be proportionate to the numbers.

Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) said his party supported the proposal but there should be a thorough discussion on it.

However, Basudeb Acharia (CPI(M)) said, “We are for caste and society should not be divided on basis of caste. But since census is done for ST/SC why not do it for OBC?”

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