Government sets up expert group to classify caste names

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Amid growing demands for the release of caste census data, the central government on Thursday approved a proposal to form an experts group to classify caste names returned in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census, 2011 (SECC).

The decision to form the group under the chairmanship of Niti (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog vice chairperson Arvind Panagariya was taken in a union cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The enumeration under the SECC has thrown up about 46 lakh caste/sub-caste/synonyms/surnames/clan/gotra names and the expert group has been assigned to classify this data, an official release said.

The expert group will be serviced by the ministries of social justice and empowerment as well as tribal welfare, which will nominate other members to the group.

“The caste data will be made public at the appropriate time after the process of classification is complete,” union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told a press conference after the cabinet meeting here.

Jaitley denied the contentions of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad that the central government “withheld” information collected in the socio-economic census on castes.

“All data has been shared with state governments at least nine months ago. It will be good if the states, who are “politicising” the matter, send their recommendations on caste consolidation at the earliest,” Jaitley said.

The census, the first of its kind in seven decades, was conducted in 2011-12 and the government released provisional data on July 3.

Earlier this week, Lalu Prasad led a march in Patna to press for his demand to make the caste census public whereas Nitish Kumar raised the issue at a NITI Aayog meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

The Congress on Thursday demanded that caste census be made public as early as possible.

“The information on castes was collected and it is almost 15 months now that this information is with the ministries concerned. An analysis of this survey will not take more than 5-6 months. But it has been 14 months that this government is in power and the said analysis is still not done,” former union minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said.

“We demand that the caste related information collected in this survey be made public as early as possible. Since no analysis has been done, it raises some questions as to whether this government is committed as to whether they will release the said information or not,” the Congress leader said.

The Communist Party of India also on Thursday reiterated its demand for the release of caste census.

“The party demands immediate release of caste data so that special programmes can be planned for the uplift of those maltreated and suppressed in the name of caste,” CPI general secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy said in a statement.

The central government decided to collect data on castes through the SECC in May 2011 which was conducted by the respective state governments.

Releasing the data on July 3, Jaitley and Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said the census data would be used for government’s welfare programmes.

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