Hyderabad-On October 2nd, a date associated with the birth anniversaries of Mohandas Karamchandra Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri, another historic milestone could be added to its record. The Caste-Census report, released by the Bihar government on October 2nd, 2023, is expected to have wide-ranging implications not only for Bihar but for the entire country.
Demands for a caste-based census in various states and a pan-India caste census have begun to emerge from different parts of the country. The demand for a caste-based census has gained new momentum with the release of caste-based survey/census data in Bihar. The All India OBC Students Association has kickstarted a nationwide postcard campaign demanding caste census in all states. The students' collective emphasize that the caste census when conducted would give an empirical data to the governments to give OBCs their share in the development process.
The All India OBC Students Association (AIOBCSA) plans to send postcards to the Prime Minister, urging the government to conduct a caste-census in the country. Highlighting the significance of the caste-census, AIOBCSA posted on Twitter:
"Caste Census will help identify gaps in development and enable the government to effectively reach marginalized communities. Caste is not a myth but a reality. Understanding the facts is the need of the hour."
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the student organization, led by Kiran Kumar, has raised the demand for a caste census. In 2021, they launched a campaign in which they sent postcards to 542 Lok Sabha MPs and 237 Rajya Sabha MPs, urging them to raise their voices in Parliament. In addition to the postcard campaign, AIOBCSA has also decided to initiate discussions and demonstrations.
The Mooknayak spoke to Kiran Kumar, President of AIOBCSA. He said, "As part of the Nationwide Caste Census Campaign-II, we are writing postcards to the Prime Minister and starting a Twitter storm. We strongly believe that a Caste Census will provide insightful data for designing policies for marginalized sections. However, unlike the previous time, the organization has not bothered to write to all the MPs; rather, it is sending the postcards directly to the Prime Minister."
Commenting on this change of course, Kiran Kumar said, "The ball is in the Prime Minister's court, and he is the de facto authority for everything. There is no party system, and the MPs are not aware of anything." He also noted that since the caste census figures have become public, he is saying that it is divisive, whereas the reality is that we need the data to formulate public policies. The caste census will reveal the socio-economic parameters of the privileged and the underprivileged.
Harping on the significance of the post cards in the times of posts and tweets, Kiran Kumar said “The post cards are definitely sent to the prime minister and the campaign is not only about sending the post cards to the prime minister it is also about connecting with the students. So we not only explain the student about caste-census but also ask them to write, this way we can connect with the students. “
One reason AIOBCSA has intensified its demand for a caste census is that the lack of data regarding the population has always hindered the development of OBCs and often obstructs any efforts to assess the true deprivation of the community, which is estimated to be between 50-60% of the country's population. In fact, in 2007, the Supreme Court scrapped OBC reservations in higher education, citing a lack of data to justify the 27% reservation. However, the reality is that any reasonable estimate can confirm that their population is more than 27% of the country.
Kiran Kumar also shed light on the hardships faced by OBC students, pointing out the case of BHU. He said, "OBC students are being denied hostel facilities in a central university like BHU. OBC reservation was implemented in Central Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) since the 2007-08 academic year. OBC grants were allocated under the 11th and 12th Five Year Plans for recurring and non-recurring expenditures. Many universities diverted such funds to other activities, which is the reason for the non-allotment of hostels to OBCs. The present issue of non-allotment of hostel facilities to OBC students is a gross injustice to more than 3000 economically and socially disadvantaged students of the country."