Caste census report submitted to Karnataka govt, sparks debate within Congress | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Caste census report submitted to Karnataka govt, sparks debate within Congress

Mar 01, 2024 07:57 AM IST

This comes amid objections to the report by certain sections of the society and also within the ruling Congress.

The much awaited Socio-Economic and Education Survey report, popularly known as the "caste census", was submitted to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, by Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes Chairman K Jayaprakash Hegde on Thursday, triggering a renewed debate within the Congress which appeared divided over the issue.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah (ANI)
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah (ANI)

This comes amid objections to the report by certain sections of the society and also within the ruling Congress. "We don't know what is in the report. The government has received the report, it will be placed before the Cabinet, and will be discussed and decided there," Siddaramaiah told reporters after receiving it.

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Hegde said that the report was prepared based on data collected by 1.60 lakh officials, including 1.33 lakh teachers, under the leadership of respective Deputy Commissioners of the districts across the state in 2014-15. H Kantharaju was the Chairman when the data was collected, and he could not submit the report due to some technical issues, he said. "We have prepared a report and submitted it to the government, and I heard him (the Chief Minister) saying that he will place it before the Cabinet next."

Karnataka's two dominant communities -- Vokkaliags and Lingayats -- have expressed reservations about the survey, calling it "unscientific", and have demanded that it be rejected and a fresh survey conducted.

Not willing to share the highlights of the report as it has been submitted to the government, Hegde rubbished the claims that it is unscientific. "Who has read it (report) to call it unscientific...there are claims about leak, how? Even if one or two items might have leaked, the entire report cannot be leaked. My question is how the report can be called unscientific without reading it completely," he said.

Asked about some Ministers making such claims, he said, "you have to ask them about it." Minister For Backward Class Development Shivaraj S Tangadagi said, there is no question of any dissatisfaction (in the government) about the report. "No one has seen the report, how can there be objections without even going through it," he asked.

However, a few Congress Ministers and MLAs, especially those from the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, expressed their apprehensions. Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar said, during the survey many houses were not visited; also there are 103 sub-castes among Veerashaiva-Lingayats, and people have noted their castes separately during the survey and, so, there is a request for a fresh scientific survey.

Minister M B Patil said it is true that there is apprehension, especially among Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, about the caste census, as many of them have given the names of their sub-castes during the survey, and the community's demand is that all the sub-castes should be referred to as "Veerashaiva-Lingayats". There are similar such concerns among Vokkaligas and other communities, he said. "All these have to be taken into consideration by the government....the final decision is left to the discretion of the government."

Expressing similar sentiments, Congress MLA Vinay Kulkarni said there is no objection to giving reservation based on a fresh scientific survey. With pressure mounting on his government, from a certain section, to make public the state's survey, following the Bihar government releasing findings of its caste survey recently, the Chief Minister had earlier said a decision will be taken once he receives the report.

But the survey is mired in controversies even before the report is submitted to the government, amid deep divisions within ruling Congress, stiff opposition by the two dominant communities against its acceptance, and the survey's original "work-sheet" copy missing.

With strong disapproval from the politically-influential two communities, the survey report may turn out to be a political hot potato for the government, as it may set the stage for a confrontation, with Dalits and OBCs, among others, demanding for it to be made public.

Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar, who is also the state Congress President, and a Vokkaliga, was a signatory, along with a couple of other Ministers, to a memorandum submitted by the community to the Chief Minister, requesting that the report along with the data be rejected.

All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, the apex body of Veerashaiva-Lingayats, which has also expressed its disapproval vis-a-vis the survey and demanded conduct of a fresh survey, is headed by veteran Congress leader and MLA Shamanuru Shivashankarappa.

Several Lingayat Ministers and MLAs too have raised objections. According to some analysts, successive governments have been shying away from releasing it as the findings of the survey are allegedly contrary to the "traditional perception" vis-a-vis numerical strength of various castes in Karnataka, especially Lingayats and Vokkaligas, making it a politically sticky issue.

The then Siddaramaiah-led Congress government (2013-2018) had in 2015 commissioned the survey in the state at an estimated cost of 170 crore.

The Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes under its then chairperson Kantharaju was tasked with preparing a caste census report. The survey work was completed in 2018, towards the end of Siddaramaiah’s first tenure as Chief Minister, but it was neither accepted nor its findings were made public.

The Commission under its current Chairman Hegde, which had the caste census findings, was to submit the report in November last year. However, as some more time was sought, the government had extended his tenure for the submission of the report.

To a question on the missing "work-sheet" copy missing, Hegde said: "now that we have written it separately, there is no need for it." Political parties in the state have indulged in a blame game over successive governments not accepting the survey and not making it public.

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