Pressure mounts to make public ‘caste census’ report
Pressure to make public the Social and Educational Survey – 2015, popularly known as the ‘caste census’, seems to be mounting. Most Backward Classes Vigilant Forum, an organisation that has come together amid reservation demands by several ‘upper’ castes, has taken up a campaign for the same.
As part of this efforts, the forum is set to file a writ petition in the High Court of Karnataka seeking directions to the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes and the State government to make the report public. Ahead of the monsoon session of the State legislature, the forum met leaders, including the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Backward Classes Welfare Minister Kota Sreenivas Poojary. They have also sought time to meet Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.
Responses of the commission to right to information (RTI) applications by members of the forum show the survey was completed in 2015 at a cost of ₹162.67 crore, but the report is yet to be submitted to the government. H. Kantharaj, who headed the survey as chairman of the commission, handed over the report to the member-secretary of the commission, but not to the government, on September 22, 2019, the day he was to step down from the post, sources said.
“There has been no scientific rationale for the OBC reservation matrix in the State. To correct it, caste census report is the best tool,” said M.C. Venugopal, president of the forum, adding that it was an enormous waste to spend crores on the project that is only gathering dust. He said they were pushing for it being made public beyond party lines.
However, national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party C.T. Ravi has hit back at the move, terming it “Congress sponsored”. “Mr. Siddaramaiah could have accepted the report himself, but he did not as there have been dissenting voices within not only the Congress, but also the backward classes commission.”
While Mr. Ravi claimed that two members of the commission had not signed the report, K.N. Lingappa, former member of the commission, clarified, “There are two parts to the exercise — survey and its findings, and reconfiguration of the OBC reservation matrix based on the survey data. The first part constitutes raw data in 40 volumes which has been passed unanimously.” However, he added that two members, including himself, had differences over the recommendations on reconfiguration of the reservation matrix. “We were in the process of preparing our dissent notes, when all of a sudden the State government sacked us on September 22, 2019. But this does not in any way affect the legitimacy of the survey itself,” he said.
‘Will wait for HC’s word’
K. Jayaprakash Hegde, commission chairman, told The Hindu they were yet to examine the report. He said the commission would wait for directions from the High Court over the next course of action. “There is already a petition challenging the survey itself being heard by the High Court. Now, there will likely be a petition seeking submission of the report. So it is better to wait,” he said.