11 Aug : Decks were cleared for inclusion of caste in the census with a Group of Ministers on Wednesday approving the exercise to be undertaken from biometric stage, capping months of uncertainty over the issue that had divided many parties.
The GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, met a few days after the deadline ended for political parties to submit their views on the ticklish issue.
The biometric phase, expected to start sometime in December, covers photographing, fingerprinting and iris mapping of citizens for the National Population Register (NPR).
Most of the political parties favoured inclusion of caste in the census which began on 1st April.
BJP has already supported the inclusion of caste in census, a move being vociferously advocated by parties like SP, RJD and JD(U).
Two days ago, the Congress Core Group headed by party chief Sonia Gandhi had deliberated on the issue amid differences in the party.
While Congress formally did not write to the GoM, its views were articulated by Mukherjee who had given hints in this regard recently.
Party strategists have been indicating that government could go in for the exercise at the biometric stage.
Every person aged over 15 will be photographed and fingerprinted to create a biometric national database that will form the base of a new National Population Register of the nation’s 1.2 billion population.
The biometric stage would see camps being set up across the country to collect fingerprints and iris scan of people.
BJP has favoured inclusion of caste in census despite reservations expressed by RSS.
In Congress, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and Law Minister M Veerappa Moily have favoured the move openly while some others expressed reservations about inclusion of caste in census.
A view in the party is that Congress would have to go in for inclusion of caste in census given the fact that backward classes are electorally significant.
Besides, the party strategists recall that Congress lost ground heavily in the North in the wake of the Mandal Commission report on reservation for backward classes and does not want a repeat of that.
The last caste census was carried out in 1931.