PMK slams DMK government over not conducting caste census in TN

PMK MLA GK Mani asked why the Tamil Nadu government could not conduct its own caste census in the state as done by respective state governments in Bihar, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
PMK slams DMK government over not conducting caste census in TN
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Batting for the internal reservation of the Vanniyar community (Most Backward Class), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) on Monday, June 24, demanded the Tamil Nadu government to conduct a caste census in the state. GK Mani, the honorary president of the PMK and legislator of Pennagaram staged a walk out from the Assembly questioning the reluctance of the DMK-led government in conducting a caste census and providing reservations based on the caste representation. 

The Pennagaram MLA said that the DMK-led government in Tamil Nadu did not have to wait for the Union government to conduct the caste census. “It has been done in Bihar, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. If those states can do it, why can’t the state that claims to be the birthplace of social justice, the birthplace of Periyar?” he said. 

During the Assembly session Mani asked when the 10.5% internal reservation for the Vanniyar community would be implemented. Responding to this, Chief Minister MK Stalin reiterated his government’s stance that the internal reservation could not be brought in without a caste census. He added that a resolution urging the Union government to conduct the caste census would be tabled. Following this, Mani walked out of the Assembly and told mediapersons that he had not been permitted by the Speaker to ask further questions. “If they’re bringing in a resolution to urge the Union government,  let them. We have no difference of opinion regarding that and it must be done. But the state government can conduct a caste census without having to resort to that,” he added. 

While the DMK has pledged its support for a nation-wide caste census, it has not followed the examples of the previously mentioned states by conducting its own census. Further, the 10.5% internal reservation for Vanniyars from within the aggregate 20% reservation for MBC castes has been a long-standing bone of contention for the PMK, a Vanniyar-majority party and an ally in the NDA. In 2021, just before Assembly elections in the state, the then AIADMK state government hastily passed the Special Reservation Act, providing an internal reservation of 10.5% to Vanniyars. When the DMK came to power the same year, Stalin passed an order approving the Act’s implementation in public and private education and in appointment to state government jobs. Further, the order was to be retrospectively implemented from February 26 of that year— the date the Act was passed.

However, in November 2021, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court struck down the Act as “unconstitutional”. The prime opposition to the Act had been that if 10.5% of the 20% demarcated for MBCs was given to Vanniyars, over a 100 other caste groups would be left to compete with each other for the remaining 9.5% reservation. 

The Madurai court had also observed at the time that the Act had been passed without “quantifiable data on population, educational status and representation of the backward classes in the services and the sub-classification done by virtue of the impugned Act solely based on population data, in the absence of any objective criteria, is illegal in the eye of law and in violation of the Constitution of India.” In 2022 the Supreme Court upheld the Madurai court’s order saying that it found no basis for treating Vanniyars as a separate group. 

Speaking to the media, Mani said, “You must know that the caste census is not just a headcount of people from each caste. It is also about finding out the economic and social status of each household within each caste. There may be people without access to concrete houses, or education or government jobs. Their numbers need to be determined so that welfare schemes can be brought in to alleviate their condition. Isn’t that the only way Tamil Nadu can develop? There are people who are economically and socially backward among Dalits or Vanniyars or Thevars, or any other caste, without their betterment, how can Tamil Nadu become a developed state?

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