The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Tuesday once again demanded a caste-based census to determine the actual population of the other backward classes (OBCs) in Odisha.
Addressing a presser today, Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain said that the caste-based census will help know the actual strength of OBCs in the State which will further help the government to carry out developmental works for them accordingly.
More than half (54 per cent) of the State's population are believed to be OBCs. If the actual population of the classes is ascertained, several developmental activities can be taken up for their all-round development, said Swain.
"Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier raised the issue and today, we are reiterating the same as the caste-based census will help us know not only the population of OBCs in Odisha but also across the country," he said.
Swain further asked the reason behind the silence of the State BJP on the matter and said that the Saffron party's stance hints at its insensitiveness towards the OBCs.
The BJD also demanded a Central law to do away with the reservation limit of 50 per cent for these sections of people while stating that it will enable the State government to provide full reservations for OBCs.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Odisha Cabinet had in January last year passed a resolution for the conduct of a socio-economic caste enumeration simultaneously along with the General Census in 2021.
During the presser, the BJD also warned the Centre of a massive protest if its demand for the caste-based census is not met.
Speaking on the matter, BJP's OBC Morcha chief Surath Biswal said that the party is not silent on the matter, but rather hitting out at the ruling-BJD, Biswal stressed that it was only after the intervention of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan that an OBC commission was set up in the State.
"Why the Odisha government had not formed the commission, which work is to identify the different castes that will be included into the OBC section, earlier. Without doing what it needs to do to carry out caste-based census, the BJD is just making political excuses," said Biswal.
Senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty said that the census issue will definitely be a major political agenda during the 2024 general elections.
"Instead of engaging in political blame game, the parties in Odisha should come together putting their political affiliations just like in Bihar where the parties came united on a common ground to address the issue," he said.