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‘Who will access the 10% quota?’: Chidambaram bats for caste survey before implementing reservation benefits

Former union finance minister P Chidambaram on Saturday said that a caste survey was necessary before deciding on any reservation benefits and it should be conducted by the central government along with the census.

In an interview to PTI, the Congress leader who is a well-known legal expert, also pointed out that the BJP-led central government has not conducted a census as it should have in 2021, and may defer the decadal exercise till after the general elections next year.

His statement came days after Bihar conducted a caste survey and recommended 65 per cent reservation for the deprived sections.

“I think if reservation is there, a caste count is necessary. According to me, it should be done along with the national census. But these people (the BJP) did not do the national census of 2021, now we are at the end of 2023. They will not do it before the 2024 elections,” Chidambaram said.

He referred to his party’s promise that if it comes to power at the Centre, it would conduct the national census and the caste survey simultaneously.

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Chidambaram said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin has said that he will not conduct a separate caste census and has appealed to the Centre to do it along with the national census, he pointed out.

“Chhattisgarh is doing a separate caste census, Karnataka has already done a separate caste census, Odisha has announced that it will do a caste census. This will vary from state to state,” the Congress leader said.

However, he pointed out that the national census is within the jurisdiction of the central government only.

“The state governments cannot do a national census. Therefore they have decided to do a caste census. But the correct thing to do is (to follow the) 1931 (pattern, when), in the national census you asked people about caste. In the census conducted between 1941 and 2011, you dropped that question. But now if you are doing a national census you must do a caste survey,” he said.

Chidambaram went on to pose a question on who will be eligible for the 10 per cent quota for the ‘economically weak section (EWS)’ in India and said that is why the caste count is necessary.

“Who will access the 10 per cent quota? You must count the SC/ST and OBC and identify what percentages are excluded before you can say who will access the 10 per cent (reservation for EWS). In the judgement of the Supreme Court, only 82 per cent are excluded but this is only an estimation by somebody,” he said.

Without a caste survey, it is not possible to know how many are excluded, the former union minister said.

“The OBC is now divided into OBC and MBC (most backward class). If you have 27 per cent for the OBC, it is far less than their proportion in the population. Leave that aside. Because in the SC judgement, the total reservation cannot exceed 50, only economically weaker sections reservation of 10 per cent is allowed (beyond that),” he said.

A caste survey is also necessary for two reasons – to know the number of MBC people and to ascertain whether their reservation is justified, Chidambaram said.

“Unless you do a count who is MBC, how do you know whether the reservation is equal or disproportional or more than justified or less than justified,” he pointed out.

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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Updated: 25 Nov 2023, 09:15 PM IST

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