NDA Lacks Consensus on Caste-based Census in Bihar

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Tejashwi suggested that if the Centre does not undertake the Caste Census the state government should undertake this exercise on its own. — PTI file photo

Responding to Tejashwi’s proposal that an all-party delegation should meet the Prime Minister, Nitish assured that he would soon be writing to Narendra Modi to seek time in this regard.    

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India
 
PATNA — In Bihar though the Janata Dal-United and the Bharatiya Janata Party are together running the government, the irony is that on at least two very important issues, the former and the entire opposition have common view while the saffron party is finding itself totally isolated.

Be it the Caste-based Census or Two-Child Policy the BJP has its own different stand. On July 30, that is on the last day of the Monsoon Session of the Bihar Assembly the leader of opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, his brother Tej Pratap, leader of Congress in the Assembly Ajit Sharma and leaders of the Left parties, met chief minister Nitish Kumar in his chamber to reiterate the demand for Caste-based Census. The former state chief minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit, had also raised similar demand. His party, Hindustani Awam Morcha is also an NDA constituent in Bihar.

It needs to be mentioned that on February 18, 2019 and February 27, 2020 the Bihar Assembly had unanimously passed the resolution in this regard. But now when the Narendra Modi government had turned down the demand, the same BJP MLAs in the state are now saying that it is a useless exercise and waste of money.

On January 8, 2020 the Maharashtra Assembly too passed a similar resolution. Here too it was a unanimous resolution which was obviously supported by BJP MLAs. Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Ramdas Athawale of Republican Party of India, a National Democratic Alliance constituent, also sought the Caste-based Census, so did the National Commission for Backward Classes. The NCBC had in particular demanded data for Other Backward Castes (OBCs). Ironically, its chairman is Bhagwan Lal Sahni whose association with BJP is a known fact. He comes from Muzaffarpur in Bihar.

Responding to Tejashwi’s proposal that an all-party delegation should meet the Prime Minister, Nitish assured that he would soon be writing to Narendra Modi to seek time in this regard.

Tejashwi also said that if the Centre does not undertake the Caste Census the state government should undertake this exercise as Karnataka had done so, when the Congress government under Siddaramaiah was in power (2013-18).

It needs to be mentioned that RJD supremo Lalu Prasad too had raised this issue recently. He said that he had in the past struggled for the Caste-based Census. The argument of all those who are in its favour is that it would help understand the real picture as the last such exercise was done in 1931 Census.

Then Odisha and Jharkhand were parts of Bihar. Besides, after the recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission, a large chunk of land was exchanged with West Bengal and Odisha in mid-1950s. Elsewhere in the country several new states have come up–Gujarat, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh to name a few — and boundaries of many other states had got altered.

In 1941 the Caste data was collected but the exercise of Census could not be completed due to World War-II.

Since 1951, that is first Census after Independence, India has been enumerating different religious communities as well as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not of all the other castes. So most of the studies are done on the basis of the 90-year old data or on the guesstimates. According to the Mandal Commission estimate, there are 52 per cent Other Backward Castes population in India.

The demand of the Caste-based Census has become louder since the political empowerment of the backward castes, in particular after the imposition of Mandal Commission report in 1990.  Apart from this, in the last several years, many Other Backward Castes have been included in the list of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Thus there is confusion over the real figure of OBCs.

However, the upper caste lobbies have in general been opposing the Caste-based Census and they enjoy the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

But in a significant departure from the past the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government  agreed to this demand and Socio-Economic Caste Census was initiated in 2011. But after the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014 it released all the data of that Census, except that of the castes.

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