New Delhi: Government on Friday refrained from releasing the caste-based data in its first Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released in eight decades and maintained that it was concerned with economic data which will help in effective implementation of its programmes.
Brushing aside suggestions that government avoided giving the caste count in the survey report due to political reasons ahead of Bihar polls, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said, "There is no such thing. Connecting it with elections is not good."
Pressed further, the minister said, "This is the jurisdiction of DG Census. It is for him to decide what he thinks about it. This is entirely in the domain of the DG. Only he can comment on it. Only he can satisfy your queries."
He was asked why the report of the SECC does not include enumeration of caste and whether it will be released in future or not.
The SECC process, which had begun during the UPA government in 2011, had led to a huge political controversy with OBC leaders from various political parties including the then government making a strong pitch for enumeration of caste in the SECC on the lines of the 1931 census.
The Yadav trio --Mulayam Singh Yadav from SP, Lalu Prasad from RJD and Sharad Yadav from JD-U --had in 2010 and 2011 raised the issue vociferously in and outside Parliament demanding that it should be held on the basis of caste to ascertain the number of people belonging to backward classes.
There were sharp differences even among the UPA Cabinet on the issue. Those who had opposed it were apprehensive that it could open a pandora's box and could lead to demands for a fresh look at reservation.
This is the first Census after 1931 and contains various details with regard to specific regions, communities, caste and economic groups and measures the progress of households in India.
Chaudhary parried repeated questions over non-releasing of caste data in the SECC report saying his ministry was only concerned with the data regarding economic backwardness of people.
"We are concerned with economic data so that we can implement our programmes knowing who need to be brought forward today," he said.
He, however, rejected contentions that the government has refrained from releasing data on caste keeping in mind Bihar Assembly polls where the opponent RJD-JDU combine representing OBC leaders Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar is considered a strong force numerically.
"There is no such thing. Connecting it with elections is not good. The survey, which we had conducted has all this data, the categories of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes that we had mentioned in our statistics are there," he said.