Biju Janata Dal rakes up issue of caste-based census in Odisha
The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Tuesday raked up the issue of caste-based census in Odisha, putting the ball into the Centre’s court.
With the BJD joining Nitish Kumar-led JDU in seeking caste-based census, the demand is getting louder. Some other allies of the NDA have also raised the issue of caste-based census in the country.
However, political analysts think that the Centre is reluctant to do so as this could open a Pandora’s box, changing political equations and affecting the NDA’s support base.
The BJD roped in two of its senior ministers Ranedra Pratap Swain and Arun Kumar Sahoo to raise the issue of caste-based census. Earlier on August 13, the party had announced to give 27 per cent reservations to people belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in panchayat elections scheduled to be held in February.
Raising the issue of caste-based census, Swain said: “Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier raised the issue. We must know the exact population of the backward classes so that steps can be taken up for their development. NDA allies have also raised the issue.”
Targeting the Centre for its failure to take up a caste-based census, Swain said: “After the Centre rejected Odisha’s demand, the state cabinet meeting was held under the chairmanship of chief minister Naveen Patnaik on January 11, 2020, and the cabinet approved a proposal for caste-based census. Later the state government on February 12, 2020, had constituted the state commission for OBC.”
The two ministers said: “Later, on February 17, 2020, the Naveen Patnaik government had passed a unanimous resolution to amend the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act 1993 to enable the state government to make a survey of the social and educational condition of the people belong to the backward classes.”
Both the ministers asserted that the number of OBC and the socially and economically backward classes is more than half of the population of Odisha and it is high time to remove the 50 per cent cap on reservation.
Stating that it’s the job of the Centre to organise a caste-based census and move the Supreme Court for repeal of the provision of 50 per cent cap on reservation, the ministers said: “While political parties with allegiance to the BJP have raised their voice in support of repealing the 50 per cent cap on reservation, the silence of the BJP on the caste-based census shows its apathy towards OBCs.”
However, the state BJP demanded that the Odisha government should fist implement 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in jobs.
“The Odisha government is cheating the people. The Centre has implemented 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in jobs but state’s existing OBC quota is 11.25 per cent,” BJP’s OBC Morcha state president Surath Biswal said.
Meanwhile, former union minister Srikant Jena in a letter to the chief minister urged him to take an all-party delegation to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue.
“The Odisha government should pass a resolution in the state Assembly for a caste-based census and to go above the 50 per cent stipulated reservation policy,” Jena said.
At present people belonging to the SC and ST categories are availing 39 per cent reservations and the OBCs are getting 11.23 per cent reservation.