Caste on mind, Odisha government orders survey into socio-economic conditions of OBCs

Days after reinstating a Backward Caste Commission, the state government amended the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act. 1993. Not listed as an agenda until Monday evening, the passing of the bill was swift with almost no discussion....

BCCL
Bhubaneswar: The Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha on Monday ordered a survey into the socio-economic conditions of other backward classes (OBCs) in the state, ostensibly to facilitate more inclusive programmes for their development.

The last caste census was carried out in the state in 1931, 90 years ago. The state’s plea to the Centre, to have a caste based census along with the general census which gets underway in April, did not elicit any response.

Days after reinstating a Backward Caste Commission, the state government amended the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act. 1993. Not listed as an agenda until Monday evening, the passing of the bill was swift with almost no discussion. Patnaik, CM for a consecutive fourth term, leads 113 MLAs (including him) in an assembly of 147.


“We are commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. As a fitting tribute to Mahatma and his ideals, it is important that the state takes up the survey of the backward classes,” said Patnaik. “With century-old data in hand, we cannot make an accurate an focussed planing to reach out to the backward classes of the society,” he added.

With OBCs accounting for nearly half the population of the state, the move could bring in significant political dividends to the Biju Janat Dal say political analysts.

Caste has played a negligible role in modern Odisha which was formed on a linguistic identity basis. With the exception of two brief spells, under two CMs from tribal communities, Odisha has largely been led by non-OBC CMs, like Patnaik himself. In recent years, the BJP’s choice of issues and campaigns, like getting the 1817 Paika Bidroha - led by Khandayats, the state’s most prominent OBC group - recognised as the first mutiny seemed to suggest it was looking to rally such support for itself.
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The opposition has criticised Patnaik's government for failing to provide reservation to OBCs despite the fact that they account for more than half the population. The survey, it is expected, will lead to such such a move eventually.
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