2021 census delayed as BJP-led government wants to end SC/ST reservation, alleges Congress

Three-year census delay has also deprived 10 crore from free grain benefits, says Congress leader Jairam Ramesh; Congress chief writes to PM, seeking to “explain” party manifesto to prevent “false statements”

April 25, 2024 11:23 pm | Updated April 26, 2024 10:25 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Digital Population Clock at the Population Research Centre of Andhra University in Visakhapatnam.

The Digital Population Clock at the Population Research Centre of Andhra University in Visakhapatnam. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The 2021 census has been indefinitely delayed to end reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Congress alleged on April 25, stepping up its attack on the BJP-led government over the issue of caste enumeration.

“The census that was due in 2021 has still not been done. It has been delayed by three years. Why? It is because they want to end reservation. They don’t want us to know the population of SCs and STs,” Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference. “As a result of the delay in conducting census, about 10 crore people are being denied benefits under the Food Security Act, which has been renamed as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana,” he added.

Three-year delay

Though the Congress has been alleging that the BJP wants 400 plus seats in the Lok Sabha to amend the Constitution and end reservations, this is the first time that the party has linked the delay in conducting the census to reservations for SCs and STs.

When The Hindu pointed outthat the government attributes the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Ramesh said,“In 2021, many countries of the world carried out census during COVID. How was India alone an exception to this? Why was it not carried out in 2022, in 2023, or being done in 2024?”

‘False statements’

The Congress’ charge came on a day when party president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and charged his advisors of misleading him about “things that are not written in our manifesto”.

“I would be more than happy to meet you in person to explain our Nyay Patra so that as the Prime Minister you don’t make statements that are false,” Mr. Kharge said in his letter.

“You and your government have repeatedly turned away from the atrocities that the poor and backward women are facing in the country. Today, you talk about their mangalsutra. Isn’t your government responsible for the atrocities against women in Manipur, atrocities against Dalit girls, garlanding of rapists?” asked the Congress chief, in a stinging rebuttal to Mr. Modi’s charge that the Congress would take away wealth, including mangalsutras, from Hindu women and redistribute it among Muslims.

‘Cannot run away from caste data’

Mr. Ramesh also accused Mr. Modi of spreading “lies” to divert attention from real issues in the ongoing Lok Sabha election. He dared the PM to point out where in the party’s manifesto the phrase “redistribution of wealth” had been mentioned.

Rejecting Mr. Modi’s allegation that the Congress would charge inheritance tax from people if it came to power, Mr. Ramesh said, “Prime Minister symbolises asatyamev jayate.”

The Congress leader also asked the Prime Minister to clear his stand on the issue of conducting a caste census, and questioned why the government has not made public the entire dataset of the 2011 socio-economic caste census (SECC).

“Caste is the basis of our reservation, we can’t be running away from it... The data that we had collected about caste has not been published,” Mr. Ramesh said

‘Different pitch’

The Congress communications chief claimed that after reading the trends from the first phase of the Lok Sabha election, Mr. Modi has raised communal issues as he wants the Congress on a different pitch.

“The Prime Minister wants us to play on the pitch that has been prepared by Jay Shah and Amit Shah. We will not play on that pitch, we will play on the pitch that has issues of unemployment, inflation, increasing economic inequalities,” Mr. Ramesh said.

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