Eye On Rural Polls: BJD Defends Naveen Govt Stand On OBC Quota, Seeks Caste-Based Census

Bhubaneswar: The ruling BJD on Tuesday reiterated its demand for a caste-based census in Odisha.

At a joint press meet here, BJD leaders Ranendra Pratap Swain and Arun Kumar Sahoo said that the number of those belonging to the backward communities has to be ascertained before formulating any welfare programmes for them.

“Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had demanded this earlier, now BJD is demanding the same. NDA’s allies also have raised this issue. It will help to ascertain the actual population of backward classes and subsequently, their development can be initiated,” Swain said defending the government’s stand on the issue.

Chief Minister and the state government had placed a demand for a caste-based census in the state. But after the Centre turned down the demand of Odisha, the Chief Minister had convened a meeting of the state cabinet on January 11, 2020, which approved a proposal for the amendment to the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.

Following the approval of the cabinet, the state government on February 12, 2020, constituted the State Commission for Backward Classes with the appointment of former High Court judge Justice Raghunath Biswal as chairman.

Five days after the formation of the Commission, the State Assembly on February 17, 2020, a unanimous resolution to amend the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act 1993 to enable the state government to make a survey of the social and educational conditions of the people belonging to the backward classes after the Chief Minister presented a proposal in the House.

Stating that the number of the Other Backward Class (OBC) and the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) is more than half of the population of Odisha, the BJD leaders said that the state government has not been able to make 50 per cent reservation for them due to the directive of the court.

Sahoo said that hike in reservation and caste census are two sides of a coin.

“While political parties with allegiance to the BJP have raised their voice in support of repealing the 50 per cent cap on the reservation. The silence of the saffron party on the caste-based census shows its apathy towards other backward classes,” he said.

The Chief Minister of Odisha is committed to ensuring justice to OBCs in the state, he added.

This is being seen as an attempt by the ruling party to consolidate its vote bank ahead of the three-tier panchayat poll slated for next year.

Meanwhile, BJP OBC Morcha state president Surath Biswal alleged that the state government had failed to protect the rights of the OBC. “The government is hoodwinking people. It recently notified 7633 posts and only 288 are for OBCs. While Centre has implemented 27 per cent reservation, the state’s existing OBC quota is 11.25 per cent,” he said.

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