CHENNAI: The clamour for a caste census is gaining momentum again across Tamil Nadu as well as the country after the BJP-led Union government informed the Supreme Court that it would not be feasible. Though the Dravidian majors are supportive of the census, they haven’t raised the demand vociferously so far. At the national level, the CPI and the CPM have supported the census, while the Congress formed a seven-member committee to study the issue. In TN, however, the PMK is the only strong advocate for the census.
On why the DMK is not taking up the issue strongly, party spokesperson TKS Elangovan said: “Our party still holds the view that a caste census is a must. In 2010, when I raised it in the Lok Sabha, the then Union minister concerned promised that a caste census would be conducted during the Below Poverty Line survey. I reiterated the demand recently. In the coming parliamentary session, the DMK will raise it again.”
Elangovan pointed out that a census on the OBCs would be useful for the DMK to break the reservation cap of 50 per cent as fixed by the SC. “When the actual number of OBCs is known, we can move the SC to increase the percentage of the reservation,” he added.
Questioned why then the DMK government failed to extend the tenure of the A Kulasekaran Commission, which had been appointed to carry out a caste census in the State, Elangovan said: “The State government cannot conduct a caste census. It should be held along with the general census.”
Asked about the AIADMK’s stand on caste census, a senior leader told TNIE that the party high command should take a stand on that. It, however, may be recalled that the party’s joint coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami had, on July 28, gone on record urging the DMK government to conduct a caste census in Tamil Nadu. VCK General Secretary D Ravikumar said his party is neither for nor against caste census. He said his party opposed caste census in the past because there was no reservation for the OBCs then. Now that OBCs have reservation, it is proper that such a census is conducted.
He, however, pointed out that the SCs/STs supported implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations and increase in OBC reservation to show that they want to build up solidarity with OBCs. “But no political party in the country supports enhancing the reservation for SCs/STs,” he added.
When asked about his party’s stand on caste census, Puthiya Thamizhagam president K Krishnasamy said: “If the caste census is to be undertaken at all, it should be done to resolve caste-related issues. It should not be conducted if it would give an opportunity to certain castes to pronounce their dominance over others.”
Krishnasamy said there should be no hidden agenda behind the caste census. “If this caste census is just a headcount, we won’t accept it. Details of economic stature, land, health, education, etc., should also be collected. Then, we can think of whether to support it or not,” he added.
The PT leader said the term ‘caste’ itself is yet to be defined clearly. In any caste, there are so many sub-sects. He added it was an open secret that all political parties have the details on the percentage presence of communities in the society. So, the parties that demand a caste census should reveal who is holding what post in their party’s administrative set-up
‘Convene all-party meet’
PMK founder S Ramadoss said the Union government’s policy since 1951 not to conduct caste census would not stand in sync with the present times. The reasons spelt out for carrying out a count of SCs/STs would equally apply to the OBCs too. “At this juncture, the stand taken by TN, which is hailed as the cradle of social justice, is important. The State government is yet to respond to the Centre’s latest denial to conduct a caste census. As such, to show TN’s solidarity, CM should convene an all-party meeting immediately,” he said