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Govt To Carry Out Caste Census Next Year

New Delhi: Bowing to demands by several political parties, government on Thursday decided to carry out a caste census next year. The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to carry out a
PTI September 09, 2010 23:04 IST
PTI
New Delhi: Bowing to demands by several political parties, government on Thursday decided to carry out a caste census next year.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to carry out a caste census. The exercise would be carried out independent of the ongoing census operation next year, sources said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had told the Lok Sabha recently that all political parties had supported the idea of including caste in census and there was no need for any "apprehensions" over the issue.  

His statement had come after leaders of BJP, JD(U), BSP and Samajwadi Party wanted to know as to what happened to the government's promise to carry out a caste census.  

The Group of Ministers, which examined the issue, has decided that caste census should be carried out during house enumeration exercise.

Having decided to go for caste census, government is expected to seek the opinion of the Attorney General on its legal aspects amid fears that the exercise could lead to infringement of privacy. 

The Union Cabinet, which decided to hold caste census next year, noted that "a suitable legal regime for collection of data on castes would be formulated in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice." 

Elaborating on this, sources in the government said the top law officers, including the Attorney General, could be asked to give their opinion on whether asking for a person's caste and mentioning it in documents could amount to "infringement of privacy". 

"At times, people avoid telling their caste to avoid embasrassment...there are several cases pending in courts relating to infringement of privacy," sources said. They said people have a right to deny giving details of their caste to the enumerators. "Infringement of privacy can be seen with fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution," they added. 

The last caste-wise census was held in 1931 and such a practice had been given up as a matter of policy after Independence. Since this would be the first caste census after Independence, the government is treading cautiously. 

After several deliberations within the government on the politically sensitive issue, the Cabinet decided to carry out a separate house-to-house caste enumeration from June to September next year. PTI