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OBC Quota Issue: Maha Legislature Passes Resolution to Seek 2011 Census Data from Centre

Representational image of a Census official marking a house after collecting information in April, 2010. REUTERS

Representational image of a Census official marking a house after collecting information in April, 2010. REUTERS

The Supreme Court earlier this year quashed quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in local bodies.

The Maharashtra legislature on Monday passed a resolution urging the Centre to provide the 2011 Census data to enable the State Backward Class Commission to prepare empirical data of the OBC population, in a bid to restore political reservations for its members in local bodies, amid opposition by the BJP which termed the move “politically motivated" and accused the MVA government of shirking its responsibility towards the cause of the quota.

This resolution was moved separately in the Legislative Assembly by NCP leader and state Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and in the Legislative Council by Rural Development Minister Hasan Mushrif, where they were passed by a voice vote.

The Lower House also saw two adjournments over the issue. BJP members trooped into the well of the Assembly and shouted slogans against the state government, as Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said the resolution was “politically motivated and will serve no purpose".

“To restore the reservation to the OBCs in local bodies elections, a State Backward Class Commission (SBCC) has been set up. The required social, economic, and caste-based 2011 Census data of OBC population is available with the Centre, but despite repeated requests, the information was not shared with the state government," Mushrif told the Council.

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He said the Census data is crucial for the SBCC for preparing the empirical data of the OBC population. “Thus the legislative council is moving a resolution recommending the Centre to make the information available to the state government," he said.

The resolution was passed by a voice vote before the chairman adjourned the session for 30 minutes. Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar (BJP) later criticized the government on the resolution, saying the state was passing the buck to the Centre. “This resolution shows that the state government does not want to do anything for the OBC quota and is passing the responsibility to the Centre," Darekar told reporters.

Darekar said there was no need to seek the empirical data from the Union government, as the 2011 Census data collected when Congress was in power had 8 crore discrepancies. “Using this erroneous data for the OBC reservation will be incorrect," he said.

The Supreme Court earlier this year quashed quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in local bodies after observing that the total number of seats earmarked for various communities, including the SCs and STs, should not exceed 50 per cent of its total strength. In the Assembly, Fadnavis said the Supreme Court had asked the Backward Class Commission to conduct an empirical inquiry to ascertain the political backwardness of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The BJP leader accused the state government of doing nothing on what the court had sought. Fadnavis said the 2011 census data had “eight crore mistakes", while the (census) data from Maharashtra had “69 lakh mistakes". Hence, it was not given, he said.

To this, Bhujbal asked, “If there are mistakes in the data, why wasn’t the rectification and correction done? Why were you sitting over the data for six years? If the data is used for central schemes like Ujjwala gas, why isn’t it being given for the OBC (quota issue)." The 2021 census has not begun due to COVID-19, then how can the state government begin an empirical inquiry for the OBC population? he asked. The minister said when Fadnavis was the chief minister, he wrote to the NITI Ayog on August 1, 2019, seeking the census data.

“Why are you playing with words like empirical inquiry or data? We are pursuing the demand for census data with the Centre. The Supreme Court has asked the State Backward Class Commission to conduct an empirical inquiry, which can be done only after the census data is provided," he said. When presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav put the resolution for the vote, BJP members Girish Mahajan and Sanjay Kute climbed the Speaker’s podium and argued with the Chair.

The Chair subsequently adjourned the House for 10 minutes. Later, when the House reassembled, Sunil Prabhu (Shiv Sena) and Nawab Malik (NCP) alleged that BJP members “misbehaved" with the presiding officer and manhandled him in the Speaker’s chamber.

Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal then adjourned the House for another 15 minutes. Speaking to reporters outside the House, Fadnavis said Bhujbal has not given factual information in the House. “The central government hasn’t used census data for its schemes," he said.

Earlier in the day, Fadnavis said the SC had asked for an empirical inquiry (into the issue of OBCs population) through the State Backward Class Commission. “The apex court has not asked for census data. The resolution is time pass, face-saver and misleading, and will not yield anything. But, we will support the resolution as we want to stand by the OBCs," the BJP leader said.

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first published:July 05, 2021, 20:37 IST