The Odisha Assembly on Monday passed the Odisha State Backward Classes (Amendment), Bill, in a bid to identify socially and economically backward classes based on the socio-educational status.
The government's move will enable Odisha's Backward Class Commission chaired by Retired Justice Raghunath Biswal, to conduct a survey and identify socially and economically backward classes.
While moving the resolution in the Assembly, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik called the step "historic."
"In a historic move today, this August House has resolved to amend the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993, to enable the Commission to make a survey of the social and educational conditions of the people belonging to the backward classes," CM Patnaik said in the Odisha Assembly.
The state government said that certain events and developments of the last few years had made it necessary to pass the Bill.
The caste Census was last declared in 1931. Later in 2011, the Odisha government had collected the data of Other Backward Class (OBC) but it was not released. Following that, the BJP had criticised the Congress-led UPA government during the general elections in 2014, for not releasing the caste data and promised to release it if it came to power.
However, during the last five years, the data had not been released.
"With Century-old data in hand, we cannot make accurate and focussed planning to reach out to the Backward Classes of the society. The government of India realizing this need, conducted a Socio-Economic and Caste Census in 2011. In 2017, the Government of India released only a part of this data, which is being used as a basis of identification of beneficiaries for few Government schemes. However, the survey data relating to the Backward Classes were not released. This has put a serious handicap for giving focussed attention towards welfare and empowerment of the backward classes," Chief Minister Patnaik said in the Assembly on Monday.
In 2018, Rajnath Singh as Home Minister had assessed the preparations for Census 2021 and decided to collect data on OBC but nothing much happened.
Therefore, the Odisha government sent a resolution to the Centre seeking the collection of OBC caste data through Census.
"The State Cabinet resolved on January 11, 2020, to move the Central Government to include backward class survey as part of the Census 2021. This has been formally moved by the State Government to Central Government. Further, this issue has been raised both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by our Members of Parliament. However, there has been no response," the Chief Minister added.
Chief Minister Patnaik, therefore, moved the resolution in the Odisha Assembly to conduct a survey of backward classes by the state. The resolution was adopted unanimously by the house.
On the occasion, CM Patnaik asserted that it is important to have reliable data about the backward classes of Odisha to facilitate inclusive growth.
(with inputs from ANI)