Maharashtra assembly speaker Nana Patole on Friday directed the state government to take an all-party delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand caste-wise census in 2021.
After the speaker's direction, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar told the house he would discuss the issue with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and take a decision.
Members cutting across party lines demanded that an all-party delegation call on the prime minister to seek caste-wise census to determine the population of other backward classes.
OBC welfare minister Vijay Wadettiwar and housing minister Jitendra Awhad demanded that the state conduct its own caste-based census to know the data on OBCs so that steps can be taken for their welfare.
Food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal said after Maharashtra, the Bihar assembly has also passed a resolution demanding caste-based census in 2021.
"There are 350 sub-castes among OBCs whose proportion in the total population stands at 54 per cent. India had caste census till 1931.
"Pranab Mukherjee (then a minister in the United Progressive Alliance government) had agreed to the demand (for caste-based count) in 2004 which was supported by Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister. But the OBC count was done by the rural development department and not the census commissioner. The data was faulty and hence it was not released," Bhujbal said.
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party suggested that all-party delegation meet Modi seeking his intervention.
The office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, is an autonomous body, the former chief minister said.
Patole directed the state government to take an all-party delegation to Modi and said this should be done before the decennial exercise begins.
There is no politics in this demand as there is a need for data for upliftment of the poor among the OBCs, said Bhujbal.
Patole said the state government can examine if a separate census can be undertaken by Maharashtra like Tamil Nadu.
The state assembly on January 8 passed a unanimous resolution urging to the Centre to hold caste-based census in 2021.
In this backdrop, the legislature received a letter from the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner on February 17.
According to the letter, which was read out by Patole, the total number of OBCs in the country is nearly 6,285 and this includes sub-castes, sub-groups whereas the corresponding number of OBCs as per list of states and Union Territories is 7,200.
In case a question on OBCs is canvassed, it will return names of hundreds and thousands of castes, sub-castes as the people use their clan/gotra, sub caste and caste names interchangeably. The phonetic similaritiesin name of the castes often lead to misclassification, the letter said.
It said collection of data of OBCs/SEBCs and other castes will adversely affect the integrity of Census exercise and hence the enumeration of OBCs, SEBCs and other castes has not been taken up in 2021 Census.
However, members in the assembly opined the matter should be pursued with the Centre.
The issue came up in the house after the Question Hour when Congress MLA Vikas Thakare sought to know action on the unanimous resolution passed by the assembly on January 8.