Stalin Can Conduct His Own Caste Survey, But He Is Passing The Buck To The Centre

S Rajesh

Jun 27, 2024, 04:41 PM | Updated 05:24 PM IST

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin.
  • The Tamil Nadu government asking the Union government for a caste survey has raised many eyebrows.
  • The Tamil Nadu Assembly yesterday (26 June) passed a resolution calling on the Centre to conduct a caste census along with the general census.

    The general census, conducted every 10 years, was to be held in 2021, given that the previous census was conducted in 2011. However, it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    While the demand from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government for a caste census is not surprising, given this was one of the major talking points of the INDI Alliance, the resolution calling upon the Centre to do it, has raised eyebrows.

    The main question being asked is why can’t the Tamil Nadu government do a state level caste survey given that states like Karnataka and Bihar have already done it. This was raised in the assembly too. 

    Addressing the question, Chief Minister M K Stalin said that a ‘census’ can only be done by the Centre as it is a subject mentioned under the Union List and under the Collection of Statistics Act, only ‘socio-economic data’ can be collected. Further, he said that the act bars the collection of population data. 

    The DMK also referred to a judgement of the Patna High Court which set aside the amendments which increased reservations in the state to 65 per cent. The increase had been made after the Bihar government (when the Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal were allies), came out with the caste survey.

    However, opposition parties in the state like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) stated that the state government can conduct a caste survey if it wanted to do so.

    Both BJP state president K Annamalai and Edappadi Palaniswami, the general secretary of the AIADMK, sought answers from the DMK as to why did it not extend the tenure of the Justice Kulasekaran committee, which was set up during the AIADMK-BJP regime to collect data on castes.

    No compelling answers have been offered by the DMK, predictably.

    Some believe the DMK could possibly be wanting to avoid any controversy that might arise from a caste census, like what happened in Karnataka. The survey faced opposition, especially from the dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities, as it reportedly showed their share in the population to be much lower than what was believed. 

    There is no guarantee that a similar thing would not play out in Tamil Nadu, which has multiple numerically and politically significant communities like the Vanniyars, Thevars, Gounders or Nadars.

    The data from a survey conducted by the state may not be accepted by courts for increasing reservations as mentioned above or the survey itself could be challenged.

    However, the DMK government must consider the fact that the Patna High Court eventually ruled that the Bihar government was competent to conduct the survey, after initially ordering a stay on it.

    Although the question of whether the Bihar government could have conducted a caste survey is now before the Supreme Court, there is no ruling yet.

    Therefore, given the final observation of the Patna High Court and the fact that other states have done it, there doesn’t seem to be anything at the moment that is stopping Chief Minister Stalin from conducting the survey and he is just passing the buck to the Centre. 

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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