Lately, the people belonging to the Backward Castes (BCs) have been raising their voices against the inordinate delay by the Centre in taking up the census of castes among them.
Very recently, BC organisations staged a demonstration in front of Parliament, seeking steps for a caste census among the BCs across the nation.
As political parties are warming up for Parliament elections next year, the BC leaders are trying to strike the iron while it is hot.
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Ire over census delay
The demonstration of the BC groups, in which about 10 MPs took part, expressed their annoyance over the delay in delivering what is due to the communities that come under the broad umbrella.
Though several states have set the ball rolling to undertake a BC census, the process is yet to begin in some states, including Telangana. The ruling BRS has even passed a resolution in the state Assembly in 2021 asking the Centre to initiate steps for the census of castes among the BCs.
“The Centre is against census of the castes among the BCs. It is worried that if there are official statistics of the population of each caste, then there would be pressure on them for allocating funds to the castes on a pro-rata basis,” National President of the BC Welfare Associations Jajula Srinivas Goud told South First.
“Not only this, the BJP would then have had to cede political power, too, proportionate to their population,” Srinivas Goud added.
The BCs have been sore over successive governments handing over the sticky end of the stick to them. When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, the BJP — which was in Opposition then — insisted on conducting the BCs census.
However, since the saffron party took over at the Centre in 2014, it has maintained a stoic silence.
“In 2019, the BJP dispensation said it was against the BC census in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court,” Srinivas Goud pointed out.
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Seeks creation of separate ministry
The BC leaders who took part in the Delhi demonstration sought the creation of a new ministry in the Centre solely focused on the welfare of the BCs, an allocation of ₹2 lakh crore budget for the community, and immediate steps for the census of the castes among the BCs.
BC leader and Rajya Sabha member from Andhra Pradesh R Krishnaih said it was unfortunate that the Centre was not realising the necessity for the creation of a ministry for BCs, who constitute around 75 crore of the population in the country. He wanted financial support of ₹10 lakh for each BC family in the country.
The BC leaders believe that in the absence of any official statistics on the BCs, the courts too are unable to adjudicate the claims of the percentage of reservations for the BCs.
At a time when several welfare schemes are being implemented in the states for BCs, the lack of official status is standing as a barrier to making a judicious assessment of the number of beneficiaries in each caste.
As reservations too are being made after the classification of the BCs into groups, the absence of statistics is fraught with the risk of making a disproportionately large percentage of reservations to a caste that might be small in population.
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‘A group of castes’
As BCs are not a caste, but are a group of castes, it is only natural that one should know what is the population of each of the 130 castes in this group.
Apart from this, reservations are being made for BCs in education and employment and seats in the panchayat raj municipal institutions.
Without knowing which caste has how much population, it would become difficult to do justice to various castes.
More often than not, less populous castes get bigger representation, and vice-versa, BC leaders have noted.
As there are no statistics on how much of the population in a state or the country comprises BCs, deciding the percentage of reservations is becoming difficult.
Any dispute on this is also difficult to settle by the courts as it does not have any numbers to go by.
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‘State governments should take initiative’
The BC leaders say that, at least at the state level, the respective governments could take the initiative. In Bihar and Karnataka, the process has already begun. The Andhra Pradesh government has said it would attend to it soon.
“The Telangana government has declared that it was in favour of the BC census. It has even passed a resolution in the Assembly in October 2021. Pending the Centre’s decision, KCR should initiate the BC census at the state level as it would herald the beginning of better days for BCs,” Srinivas Goud told South First.
In Telangana, the largest BC caste is Mudirajus, followed by Golla Kurumas, and Gouds.
“I cannot hazard a guess on how much they constitute of the total BC population as there are no statistics. What I am sure of is that there are about 136 castes among BCs,” he added.