Longer wait for caste census information

Data may not be released in present form over fears of opening Pandora's Box.

New Delhi: Despite the fact that the BJP is keen to play the OBC card during Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, there is a possibility that the much-awaited data of the socio-economic caste census (SECC) may not see the light of the day. According to highly-placed sources, the census is learnt to have revealed that there are around 1,200 sub-castes under the OBC category alone, which has put the Centre under a quandary with the general feeling being that it would require a lot of time to streamline the “complex data”. Also considering the sensitivity involved, any official publication could open a Pandora’s Box for it.

Sources privy to the developments told this newspaper that with 1,200 sub-castes falling under the crucial OBC category alone, the situation can easily be imagined if the data is released in its current format. “Every sub-caste will seek reservation under the OBC category, which is likely to create a mess. Many of these sub-castes have similar sounding surnames and gotras with minor variations. In some cases, there is only a difference of an alphabet and the sub-caste changes,” said a government functionary on condition of anonymity.

In such a situation, they added that there is a strong likelihood that details of the SECC concerning the actual figures related to caste may well be relegated to the back burner for the long haul.

However, with the OBCs forming almost 20 per cent of the population in Uttar Pradesh, the NDA government seems to have been caught on a sticky wicket, what with the polls in the state just less than a fortnight away and it may not be able to seek any mileage out of the data owing to the complexities involved.

Though the caste census had been conducted between 2011 and 2014 (when the UPA regime was in power), when it was actually released in July 2015, the NDA government had received a lot of political backlash for only releasing the economic status of rural India and not publishing the caste-related data, especially that of the OBC category.

To pacify parties like RJD and other caste-based outfits, the government had formed an expert committee to study the data in July 2015 itself. However, 18 months down the line, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya-led panel is yet to make a headway, thus giving an expression that the aim of the government was to only buy time, sources further informed.

However, with several OBC leaders creating pressure on the government to increase the reservation quota from the existing 27 per cent, and, therefore, are keen to ensure that the caste data is revealed at the earliest, it may also become a big political agenda during the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh polls, government insiders feel.

The SECC data which was released on July 3, 2015, was the first such exercise conducted by the Centre since 1912.

Next Story