Telangana Assembly adopts resolution for caste census; Opposition parties extend support, but with riders

The BRS said that it preferred legislation and not a resolution in the Assembly as it was what the Congress had promised.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Feb 16, 2024 | 7:02 PMUpdatedFeb 16, 2024 | 7:05 PM

Telangana Assembly

In a major initiative that should come as music to the ears of the Backward Class (BC) communities, the Telangana government on Friday, 16 February, adopted a resolution in the Assembly for conducting a caste census in the state.

All parties supported the resolution but with riders.

The principal Opposition party, the BRS, while welcoming and backing the resolution, said it preferred legislation and not a resolution in the Assembly as that was what the Congress had promised in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

The party felt that if the proposed caste census had legal backing, it would not hit speed bumps in future when the data is made applicable for enhancing reservations to the deserving castes.

Also Read: Promise of caste census in Telangana Governor’s budget session address

Not accorded legislative backing

BC Welfare Minister Ponnam Prabhakar moved the resolution and remained noncommittal on bringing forth a Bill.

He said the government was ready to call an all-party meeting to cover any areas that needed attention while conducting the caste census.

Intervening in an argument between BRS member Kadiam Srihari and Deputy Chief Minister Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy said that the purpose of moving a resolution was to elicit the opinions of the House on how to make the caste census fool-proof and ensure that the benefit arising out of it accrued to the BCs and other deserving weaker sections.

He took a dig at the BRS and the BJP, reminding them it was the Congress and not any other party that had shown concern for the BCs.

“This is the reason why Rahul Gandhi had given a call for caste census so that the castes that have the majority population should get the lion’s share in the fruits of development,” he said.

Also Read: How Revanth Reddy is looking to efface KCR’s legacy in Telangana movement

Recalls efforts of UPA government

He recalled the Union government led by the UPA in its first term constituted the Sachar Committee for assessing the socio-economic status of the Muslim minorities and how its findings formed the basis for several programmes that brought about their economic empowerment.

He took potshots at the previous BRS government for conducting a household survey after coming to power in 2014 but not making the report public.

“It has since then become a secret document of one family. The family used the report’s contents for its benefit,” he said, indirectly referring to K Chandrashekar Rao’s family.

He said he understood the feeling of unease of the leaders of a caste which constitutes not more than half a percent of the population — implying the Velama caste, to which former chief minister KCR belongs — but the Congress wants the numerically large castes to benefit from the development taking place in the state.

He said UPA-II had initiated the process of caste census in 2011 but could not proceed further because of the change of government after the 2014 elections. It was the first time the UPA had taken the right step in the right direction since the last survey done by the British in 1931.

Also Read: CAG report on Kaleshwaram project in Telangana raises red flag

KTR highlights need for legislative sanction

BRS member and former state minister KT Rama Rao (KTR) asked the government to remember how KCR had fought for justice for the BCs.

He highlighted that the former chief minister took a delegation of BC leaders to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2004 and sought the creation of a separate ministry for the OBCs.

He asked the government to extend the Assembly session by two more days and bring a Bill for conducting the caste census.

“This way, the caste census would have more acceptability,” he said.

He recalled how a similar resolution for the caste census passed in Bihar had faced legal hurdles after the government had spent ₹500 crore.

“If the census has to serve the purpose for which it is intended, legislation has to be brought in,” he argued.

Also Read: Hyderabad senior women’s cricket coach suspended amid allegations of misconduct

Focuses on legal sanction

BRS member and former BC welfare minister Gangula Kamalakar said that in the absence of any attempt to accord legal sanctity, the caste census might finally remain a political slogan without serving any purpose.

Kamalakar said he wanted the Congress government to conduct the census and ensure that the BCs would benefit in reservations even in the ensuing local body elections.

Kadiam Srihari demanded that a commission of inquiry be constituted to come up with a report that would be binding even in a court of law.

AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi sought to know if Muslim minorities would also come under the purview of the caste census.

He said if the state really wanted to benefit the disadvantaged castes, it should constitute a judicial commission of inquiry.

“Even then, the job is only half done since the commission’s recommendations should be referred to the SC, ST and BC commissions to decide on the quantum of reservations that should be made applicable to them,” he said.

Also Read: Janwada village church ransacked following inter-caste clash

‘No need to doubt the intent’

Wrapping up the discussion, Prabhakar said there was no need for anyone to doubt the government’s intent to carry out the census.

To formulate the guidelines for conducting the caste census, the state government would take the opinion of all parties, unlike the previous BRS government, he said.

Taking a dig at the previous government, he said that the buildings constructed for specific castes were touted as symbols of their self-respect, but many castes remained unempowered socially and economically.

“Several caste federations had been floated during the last ten years, but the BRS government had not allocated more than ₹23,000 crore,” the minister said.

“The previous government had allocated ₹1,000 crore for the Most Backward Cates (MBCs), but at the end of the year, not even one rupee was spent on them,” he claimed.

Also Read: War of words in Telangana assembly as CM pays KCR back with the same coin

Assures proper survey

“Though I am a minister, I would confront the government if the caste census went off the rails as I have the freedom to do so, unlike ministers in the previous BRS government,” he said and pointed out that in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, no Act was brought forth for conducting the caste census.

Vikramarka said that the Congress was serious about conducting the caste census and recalled Rahul Gandhi’s slogan, “jiski jitni sankhya, utni unki bhagedari (participation with respect to the population).

He said the chief minister and all ministers were very keen on taking the caste census forward and that they had spent hours together in the Cabinet meeting and debated on it before adopting the resolution for conducting a caste census.

He said this as a response to a member’s remark that the ministers and the chief minister did not appear very serious about the census.