Demand for caste-based census grows ahead of Uttar Pradesh assembly election
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Uttar Pradesh : Ahead of assembly elections next year in around half-a- dozen states, including Uttar Pradesh, several political parties have intensified demand for a caste-based census and sub-categorisation of castes in the country, putting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a fix. Uttar Pradesh is home to as many as 79 castes that constitute the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 66 scheduled castes (SCs) and sub-castes. However, only a handful such as Yadavs, Kurmis, Lodhs, Rajbhars, Maurya and Kushwahas among the OBCs and Jatavs, Pasis, Valmikis and Koris among the SCs have been able to get political visibility with a lion’s share in political power, economic resources and government jobs.
The OBCs and the SCs together account for around 60-70% of UP’s population. The census is held in the country every 10 years but the last caste-wise enumeration was carried out in 1931 and the same data is taken into account for various purposes even today. Around 40-50% of UP’s population is estimated to be OBC while the SC population was counted at 20.7% in the 2011 census.
On August 23, an 11-member delegation led by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand caste-wise enumeration of the OBCs in the census, to be held shortly. The Centre had informed the Lok Sabha in July that it would not enumerate caste-wise population, except those for the SCs and STs.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) in UP has been the most vocal in raising the demand for the caste enumeration with the party eyeing OBCs votes, apart from consolidating the Yadavs, its core vote bank, for the 2022 assembly election.
“A caste-wise tabulation of the census is necessary to achieve the objective of social justice because without knowing the numerical strength of various castes it is not possible for governments to plan and execute welfare policies for them in the right way,” SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary argued.
He also cited Akhilesh Yadav’s slogan, “jiski jitni sankhya bhari, uski utni hissedari” (a community’s share in resources should be proportionate to its numerical strength) to highlight the relevance of caste-based census for delivering social justice.
Other small regional outfits, including Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal (Sonelal), Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Sanjay Nishad’s Nishad Party, Keshav Dev Maurya’s Mahan Dal and Babu Singh Kushwaha’s Jan Adhikar Party that are led by OBC leaders, are all vocally supporting the demand for a caste-based census.
Aware of the importance of caste politics in UP, the Congress, too, has backed the demand. It also claimed that it was during the last UPA government whena socio- economic caste census was carried out.