Bihar: First phase of caste-based census begins

By, Patna
Jan 08, 2023 12:55 AM IST

In the first phase, which is scheduled to end on January 21, the number of all households in the state will be counted.

The first phase of the caste-based census kicked off in Bihar on Saturday, with deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav hailing the exercise as “historic”.

The decision of a caste census was taken by the Bihar cabinet on June 2 last year.(ANI)
The decision of a caste census was taken by the Bihar cabinet on June 2 last year.(ANI)

The exercise is being conducted in two stages.

In the first phase, which is scheduled to end on January 21, the number of all households in the state will be counted.

“The first leg of the survey will be conducted from January 7 to January 21, when house-listing will be conducted according to the prescribed format. The surveyors will number each household in their respective areas in urban and rural areas. Following this, all information will be uploaded on portals,” a senior government official said, asking not to be named.

In the second phase, set to begin in March, data pertaining to people of all castes and religions will be collected. Nearly 350,000 enumerators, who's training began on December 15, will also record information about the financial status of all people, officials said.

Calling the exercise “historic”, deputy CM and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said that the Bharatiya Janata Party created roadblocks in the survey because of its “anti-poor mindset”.

“The BJP is now scared after having tried their level best to stop the exercise. The BJP never wanted the caste head count because it has an anti-poor mindset,” he told reporters in Patna.

The Bihar cabinet on June 2 last year decided to conduct the caste-based census in the state, months after the Centre ruled out such an exercise at the national level. The normal decadal census counts religious groups and Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) separately.

For the survey, an estimated population of 127 million in over 25 million households across 38 districts, which have 534 blocks and 261 urban local bodies, will be covered.

Of the total households across the state, over 2 million are in Patna district alone, where Chandrashekhar Singh, the district magistrate and nodal officer of the exercise, said, “We are working towards completing the survey by May.”

The state government will spend 500 crore from its contingency fund for the exercise. The general administration department (GAD) is the nodal authority for the survey.

Even temporary dwellings, like people living on the roadside, under a bridge, homestead land, will be numbered and put on a layout map which will be prepared once the survey starts, GAD officials said. These maps will carry information like location particulars and geographical details like hills/plains/ rivers/ landmarks (schools, hospitals, post office, community halls), for easy identification of the dwellings at a particular spot, the officials said.

“The location maps are important to ensure full coverage of all households and verification of the allotted area by the enumerators. It would also help in identifying whether any house or any dwelling has been omitted during the survey or not,” a second GAD official said.

The exercise will provide scientific data for implementation of welfare schemes for the economically weaker sections of the society, Yadav said on Saturday.

“The scientific data to be collected through caste-based survey would facilitate in preparing state budget tailored for welfare of oppressed classes and better implementation of welfare schemes. This is our big aim,” he said.

“The government should know who in the society are poor, who are begging on the streets or collecting garbage or remain landless,” he said, as he called the BJP “the party of the rich” that does not want to “uplift the poor”.

On Friday, Janata Dal (United) leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar said that the government has trained officials for the exercise, taking into consideration the castes in the state and the financial status of the citizens.

“We have trained our officers to conduct a detailed caste census. This will benefit the development of the state and also the country,” Kumar said in Sheohar district.

Kumar, one of the original leaders of the Mandal movement in the 1990s that led to reservation for other backward classes (OBCs), has frequently raised the demand for a caste census in the past, an issue that deepened his party’s rift with its erstwhile ally, the BJP.

Notably, the Lalu Prasad-led RJD has supported the demand for the caste-based census. The Congress, the third constituent of the Mahagathbandhan, the state’s ruling coalition, has also rallied behind the demand in the state.

Finance minister and senior JD(U) leader Vijay Kumar Choudhary said that the chief minister had kept his promise for the census. “The entire country is witnessing how CM Kumar has fulfilled his promise,” he said.

Gyanranjan, state spokesperson of Congress, said the need for a nationwide caste-based census was again in focus. “The caste survey is for better implementation of welfare schemes and uplift of the poor,” he said, accusing the BJP of trying to keep welfare schemes out of the reach of the poor.

Political observers expect the exercise to sharpen the caste polarization in the state and revive the Mandal Politics of the 1990s.

“The caste-based survey would give a fillip to caste identity politics and revive Mandal politics in the state. In that scenario, the ruling RJD-JD(U) would get an opportunity to retain power and weaken religious polarisation as well as counter the BJP. At a time when caste was slowly being submerged by development politics, the survey is yet another way of pushing identity politics,” said Nawal Kishor Choudhary, a political scientist.

BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi, meanwhile, has demanded that the state government hold an all-party meeting over the exercise.

Hitting out at Kumar, state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal said that the CM should explain why sub-castes were not being included in the survey. “The plausible reason is that CM Kumar’s own sub-caste is less than 5% in his own caste. This is why surveyors are not asking for sub-caste details,” Jaiswal alleged.

On the ground, however, residents were divided over the results of the survey.

Sixty-nine year old Sita Ram Yadav, a resident of Araria district, was among the thousands who were visited by enumerators on Saturday. “It is a great day. Now we can say we will also get something in the future,” Yadav said, sounding hopeful of new welfare schemes.

However, Arun Verma, 50, appeared non-enthusiastic, saying that the survey would not yield anything concrete. “We know we are going to get nothing out of it,” he said.

Some of the teachers, who have been engaged as enumerators, said the people were cooperative in the exercise.


    A journalist for 21 years, Anirban covers RJD, legislature and government beats. Has extensive experience in covering elections and writes regularly on finance, land reforms, registration, excise and socio-economic issues.

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