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Home / Opinion / Letters to the editor: Demand for a national caste census

Letters to the editor: Demand for a national caste census

Readers write in from Nadia, Ramnagar, Murathancode, Calcutta, and Mumbai
The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, recently led an all-party delegation to meet the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to press for a caste enumeration.
The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, recently led an all-party delegation to meet the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to press for a caste enumeration.
File photo

The Telegraph   |   Published 26.08.21, 01:46 AM

Numbers game

Sir — The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, recently led an all-party delegation to meet the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to press for a caste enumeration (“Caste count”, Aug 25). Although the prime minister is said to have patiently heard the concerns of the delegation, it must be remembered that it was only last month that the Union home ministry had informed Parliament that it had decided against conducting a caste-based census. Every census in independent India has, so far, only collated data on Dalits and adivasis, leaving the Other Backward Classes, the largest constituency of castes in the country, outside its purview.

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As of now, no political party has publicly opposed the demand of the Bihar delegation, but it is clear to all that the Bharatiya Janata Party-government is reluctant to undertake this exercise. The salience of caste as a fundamental marker of identity in India has only grown since Independence and can be one of the primary factors determining the outcome of an election. A caste-based census will have far-reaching implications for politics in the country.

In recent years, questions have been raised regarding the effective implementation of affirmative action with many caste groups claiming that some have disproportionately gained while others continue to suffer. With a decrease in government jobs, there has also been a clamour for implementing quotas in the private sector. These concerns are being debated without adequate and reliable data, leading to conflicting and often misleading claims. There is an urgent need to conduct a complete caste-based census so that the government can thoroughly evaluate the needs of the people and legislate accordingly.

S.S. Paul,
Nadia

Sir — The reason why the Narendra Modi government is non-committal about the demand for a nation-wide caste-based census is obvious. It fears that the exercise will be inimical to the interests of its core support base — the upper castes — but at the same time wants to be able to appeal to the other caste groups. If the BJP government truly wants the betterment of the people, it must not be blind to the continued ill-effects of caste divisions and the necessity for a fresh enumeration. It is a shame that even 74 years after Independence, caste continues to determine the lives of people in India.

G. David Milton,
Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu

Wasted lessons

Sir — The directive of the Bihar government ordering school teachers to sell gunny sacks to make up for the loss in revenue for the period between 2014 to 2016 under the mid-day meal scheme is deplorable (“Sold off”, Aug 19). Teachers were instructed to sell the sacks used to distribute the food grains at half the price and return the money to the government. Failure to do so would attract a charge of embezzlement.

Even if the government has incurred massive losses in the mid-day meal schemes, it is not up to the teachers to compensate for that loss. The teachers’ associations in Bihar are right to protest against that directive and the suspension of Muhammad Tamizuddin — the primary school principal was accused of ‘tarnishing’ the image of the state government by hawking jute bags in the marketplace. We must all stand in solidarity with the teachers in Bihar.

Shyamal Thakur,
Ramnagar, East Burdwan

Sir — It is unfortunate that teachers in government schools are often made to perform duties which have nothing to do with teaching. Besides classroom instruction, teachers are responsible for a plethora of administrative duties. On top of that, a Central government rule mandates that teachers can be deployed for non-educational activities such as census, disaster relief and election duties. But the Bihar government has taken it a step too far by asking teachers to sell gunny sacks to make up for the loss in revenue under the mid-day meal scheme. The Central government must intervene and put an end to such unfair practices.

Anthony Henriques, 
Mumbai 

Sir — We are quick to complain that the public education system in India is lacking but how many of us have spoken up about the injustice faced by teachers in Bihar? It is time we took a stand against such draconian orders.  

Mohana Ganguly,
Calcutta

 

Miraculous birth

Sir — In a baffling development, a baby shark was born in an aquarium in Sardinia, Italy, where only two female sharks have lived for over a decade. Experts believe that the baby could be the result of parthenogenesis — a process where the egg can develop into an embryo without fertilization by sperm — and could be a genetic clone of its mother. If confirmed, this would be the fourth shark species to have given birth in this manner. This shows that not only do we have a lot to learn about other species, but also nature’s ability to evolve in order to regenerate life.

Gitanjali Mehta,
Mumbai



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