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‘Move Census from Union List to Concurrent List’

DMK Rajya Sabha MP P. Wilson. File Photo

DMK Rajya Sabha MP P. Wilson. File Photo | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

DMK Rajya Sabha member P. Wilson has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to take steps to introduce constitutional amendments to compulsorily grant OBC reservations in local bodies elections on the basis of empirical data, and move the census from the Union List to the Concurrent List, providing both the Union and State governments power to conduct census.

Mr. Wilson said the legal obstacle to States granting OBC reservation in local bodies elections was the want of empirical data, which has been made a prerequisite by the judiciary. As per judicial pronouncements, States have to appoint a dedicated commission to gather information for ascertaining political backwardness of the Backward Classes to specify the proportion of the reservation required local bodies-wise, he said. For this, it is vital to have access to the caste census data, relating to OBCs.

Pointing out that there was a constitutional deadlock in granting reservation to OBC’s in local bodies, he said the Union government had not yet published, ‘for unknown reasons’, the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) that was prepared with the assistance of States and Union Territories in March 2011. The Union Cabinet had spent ₹4,893.60 crore for the exercise.

‘Not released yet’

“This SECC raw caste data was collected by the Union Government in 2015 and the Cabinet Committee chaired by your good self, decided to screen the raw caste data through an expert Committee under the NITI Aayog to find out any infirmities. Yet, till today, the said committee has not functioned and the caste census data has not been released,” he said.

With the 105th Constitutional Amendment and insertion of Article 342A(3), the MP said, a State or a Union Territory may by law, prepare and maintain for its own purposes a list of socially and educationally Backward Classes. But with the Union government refusing to publish the screen caste census data, the question arose on how States could prepare such a list. States were also powerless to ascertain the population of Backward Classes within their States as census was a Union Subject and, hence, were not constitutionally competent to conduct their own census.

“If census is moved to the concurrent list, it would enable States to conduct its own census and would aid the State in maintaining an accurate list of backward classes contemplated under Article 342-A(3) and have empirical data of OBC communities local body-wise. The States can then grant reservations in accordance with this data and there can be no challenge before Constitutional Courts and shadow fighting in the legal arena can be avoided. This would be a win-win situation for both the Union and the States. The Union is saved from the time and expense and the States need not wait indefinitely on the Union to provide caste census data,” Mr. Wilson contended.


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Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 2:14:25 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/incoming/move-census-from-union-list-to-concurrent-list/article65595596.ece