BHUBANESWAR: In a significant move, the Odisha Cabinet on Saturday unanimously passed a resolution evoking the Centre for conduct of a socio-economic caste enumeration simultaneously alongside the General Census which it said would help further accelerate the process of inclusive growth and transformation.
The Cabinet, presided by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, suggested that the caste census be conducted either by inserting suitable columns in the Census format or by prescribing a separate format for a simultaneous enumeration of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) and Other Backward Classes/Castes (OBCs). The State’s move comes days after the Maharashtra Government passed such a resolution in its Assembly.
The Cabinet also resolved to impress upon the Centre to ensure that the enumeration details are published without any delay. "This will enable the State Government to accelerate the pace of development of SEBCs and OBCs leading to inclusive growth with greater momentum," Law minister Pratap Jena told mediapersons citing the resolution.
As India commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a socio-economic caste census will be a fitting tribute to his idea of India guided by his talisman in which the welfare of the poorest and the weakest becomes the core objective of the State, the State Cabinet resolution stated.
In fact, the last caste census in the country was held in 1931. After Independence, the Centre wanted a caste census but it was not part of the Census Act, 1948 which is why it could not be conducted. In 2011, the UPA government conducted Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 but it could not be published due to anomalies.
The Cabinet took note of the fact that in the proposed formats for 2021 census, no provision to capture the details of SEBCs and OBCs exists despite the Centre having conducted such an exercise in the SECC 2011 from which the full data is yet to be released.
It said the necessity of such a data was well appreciated by the Government of India as unavailability of reliable and authentic data about the exact number of SEBCs and OBCs, geographical areas of their spread and density have been a challenge in ensuring focussed and outcome specific planning.
"While Odisha has made appreciable progress in improving the human development indicators of these sections of society, especially during the last two decades, there is a need to further accelerate this process of inclusive growth and transformation," the Cabinet resolved and added that no formal census including the caste details of the population since 1931.
The Cabinet invoked Article 15(4) of the Constitution which enables the State to make any special provision for advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes.
Similarly, 16(4) enables the State to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of backward class of citizens to ensure adequate representation in the services under the State.
Besides, under Article 46 State is mandated with providing special emphasis on educational and economic interests of the weaker sections such as SCs and STs and protect them from social injustice and exploitation.
The resolution invoked Mahatma Gandhi’s views on economic equality which the Father of the Nation considered the master-key to complete independence.
In the proposed formats for 2021 census, no provision to capture details of SEBCs and OBCs exists
The census needs to be conducted either by inserting suitable columns in the Census format or by prescribing a separate format for a simultaneous enumeration of SEBCs and OBCs
The full data of the Centre’s exercise in the SECC 2011 yet to be released
The necessity of such a data was well appreciated by the Government of India
The exact number of SEBCs and OBCs, geographical areas of their spread and density have been a challenge