Kerala Kaumudi Online
Tuesday, 25 June 2024 4.39 PM IST

Is caste census vital to end reservation injustice in India?


The Calcutta High Court's cancellation of around five lakh OBC certificates issued after 2010 in West Bengal has triggered a major political upheaval in the country. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was quick enough to reject the verdict and said she could continue with the schemes and would move to the Supreme Court if needed. Union Home Minister Amit Shah praised the verdict as a "big slap' to the appeasement policy of the Bengal government, igniting heated political discussions in Bengal where the second phase of the election is yet to happen.

Justices Tapabrata Chakraborty and Rajashekhar Mantha said that the order does not apply to those who have been granted reservation benefits under the 2012 Act and who have passed the recruitment process.

The court was considering a plea against the granting of OBC status to various sections under the West Bengal Backward Classes Act, 2012. It is widely agreed that Muslims have been the most beneficiaries of this scheme. However, the court struck down the provision of reservation to these sections as illegal and directed to prepare a new list of OBC categories under the West Bengal Other Backward Classes Act, 1993. Reservation in the Constitution was conceived to bring together the various social classes who had experienced social backwardness for centuries with other upper classes.

Over time, this scheme was shrewdly used to mollycoddle certain sections while the real backward classes remained omitted from such benefits. The reservation list is not something to be expanded to fit more sections.

To implement the reservation scheme scientifically, it is pertinent for the government to have the data of each backward class. The Supreme Court has also asked to submit the population data of various backward classes in the reservation case. But except for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Muslims, other backward groups such as Hindus cannot submit such data unless a caste census is conducted across the country.

In such a case, other backward groups, including the Ezhavas, will be stripped of these benefits in the future. If the government decides to include more groups in the current reservation list, many other sections now enjoying the benefits will have to relinquish their place. So it should be imminent for the government to conduct a caste census in the country before experimenting with such reforms.

In the current political scenario, the BJP is against the caste census while the INDI alliance have been vociferous for the census to happen. While one side of politics aims at majority appeasement, the other side sticks to minority appeasement. Amidst this political fracas, the backward classes will gain nothing and will continue to remain bereft of any benefits. Hence, strong pressure for a caste census should emerge strongly from the backward classes and their organizations, regardless of political colour. Reservation is an atonement for centuries of injustice.

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