Bhubaneswar: A day after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded caste-based Census; Governing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) once again raised its voice for reservation of OBC/SEBC people.
Senior BJD leaders and Ministers Ranendra Pratap Swain and Arun Kumar Sahoo, both belong to the OBC community, Tuesday held a joint press conference here at party office, on this issue.
Swain demanded legislation of a Central law to remove the 50 per cent cap on reservation and conducting of caste-based Census for other backward caste (OBC) or socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).
“More than 50 per cent of Odisha’s population belongs to OBC and SEBC. However, reservation at the rate of half of their population, cannot be provided to them because of the ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court,” Swain said.
If the actual population of the classes is ascertained, several developmental activities can be taken up for their all-round development, said Swain. To remove the cap set by court, conduct of caste-based Census is highly needed, he further said.
“Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier raised the issue and today, we are reiterating 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,” the BJD leader demanded.
Stating hike in reservation and caste census are two sides of a coin, Sahoo said, “Due to the capping by courts, OBC population of Odisha are deprived from getting the reservation benefits and facing difficulties.”
Various 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 BJP leaders on this issue shows its apathy towards other backward classes, he said.
However, the Odisha Chief Minister is committed to give justice to OBCs in the State, he added.
The BJD leaders also warned the Centre of a massive protest if its demand for the caste-based census is not met.
Earlier, participating in the OBC Bill debate in Rajya Sabha, BJD members Prasanna Acharya and Amar Patnaik pressed for caste-based census and central laws to ensure OBCs get their due share in jobs and education.
Reacting to this, State BJP OBC Morcha President Suratha Biswal said his party is not silent on this issue. The State has set up a Commission to identify the OBC/SEBC people, following the intervention of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
The BJD said it wants to provide 27% reservation to SEBCs/OBCs but courts have repeatedly struck down the move on the grounds of quota exceeding 50%. Odisha had passed a law in 2009 — The Odisha Reservation of Posts and Services (For Socially and Educationally Backward Classes) Act, 2008 — to provide 27% quota to backward classes.
The Orissa High Court struck it down in June 2017 stating that the overall percentage of reservation can’t go beyond 50% in the existing scenario. On the same ground, the HC in April 2018 stopped the state from reserving 50% seats in urban local body elections for OBCs.
Later, the Odisha Cabinet had in January last year passed a resolution for the conduct of a socio-economic caste enumeration simultaneously along with the Census in 2021. This proposal was rejected by the Centre.
After that, the State Assembly passed a resolution unanimously in February, 2020 to get a clear picture of the social and educational conditions of people belonging to Backward Classes in Odisha.
A Commission has also been set up for this purpose, which has postponed its survey due to Covid-19.