Modalities of caste census to be decided by Cabinet: Pranab

"Group of Ministers (on the issue) has decided that caste will be canvassed without affecting the integrity of the headcount," Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said in the Lok Sabha.

His remarks came after opposition members vociferously raised questions over the GoM's recommendation that caste census would be conducted at the biometric stage, which will be after headcount that is presently underway.

Mukherjee said a decision on the modalities of canvassing the caste was yet to be taken.
"How and when  ... it is still under consideration," he said adding that a decision would have to be taken by the Union Cabinet.

Opposition parties like BJP, JD(U), SP and RJD raised the issue forcefully as the Lok Sabha convened for the day demanding inclusion of caste in census at the headcount stage itself and not at the biometric stage as suggested in media reports.

"Are we fools? Biometric stage will never come," SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said.

Mukherjee said the GoM met yesterday and considered the views of several parties on the issue of caste census. The GoM was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after strong demands over inclusion of caste in census during the budget session.

Today, a major concern of the political parties was that enumeration of castes would not be possible at the biometric stage as it was a "long drawn" process.

Moreover, only those above 15 years would be photographed and fingerprinted to create a biometric national database, they contended.

After Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the proceedings till noon, the leaders of the parties met Mukherjee where it was agreed that the government address their concerns and make a statement in the House.

"This (biometric) exercise cannot be completed in 100 years. The decision to hand out voter identity cards was taken 15 years ago and has not been implemented completely," Sharad Yadav said.

He was backed by others and BJP, BSP, SP, RJD members were seen on their feet raising slogans in favour of headcount of every citizen on caste basis.

The biometric stage would see camps being set up across the country, beginning November, to collect fingerprints and iris scan of people.

It is at this stage that the government intends to make records of the caste of a person. The last caste census was carried out in 1931.

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