Bihar passes resolutionfor caste-based census

Published on Feb 27, 2020 11:14 PM IST
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Patna: After passing a resolution against a National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in the state, the Bihar assembly on Thursday passed another unanimous resolution -- demanding a caste-based census in 2021 in which information about an individual’s caste be collected and compiled during the nationwide population count survey.

The demand, on which the wider policy of the Union government and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) is unclear, was pushed by chief minister Nitish Kumar months ahead of assembly polls in the state.

To be sure, after the 2011 Census, the Union government got a socio-economic caste census carried out, but while the economic data was published, the case data was not. Earlier this year, the Odisha government announced a caste-based census across the state, along with Census 2021.

The resolution, taken up by Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary, was passed amid thumping of desks by both ruling and opposition parties, including lawmakers from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Two days ago, apart from passing a resolution rejecting a proposed nationwide NRC, the assembly unanimously resolved that the latest round of National Population Register( NPR) be conducted in the state using the format from survey’s previous edition in 2010.

This effectively means that a new question on birthplace of parents, included in the new NPR format cleared by the Union government in 2019, will not be asked in the survey.

Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) is in coalition with the BJP in the state, but there have been differences between the parties on some larger policy issues -- NPR and NRC among them. The BJP lawmakers in the state, however, sided with Kumar on all three assembly resolutions, perceptibly to dispel the notion of any differences between the alliance partners.

“Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had raised the demand for caste based census in the house. Today’s resolution is in line with that. It is a welcome move,” said JD(U) MLA Lallan Paswan.

Senior MLA Lalit Yadav of the RJP, meanwhile, said the resolution was a victory of the long struggle carried by his party for carrying a caste based census. “We welcome the house resolution,” he said.

Legislators from the BJP, however, offered mixed responses. Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi wrote on Twitter that the resolution should “silence the Opposition trying to reap political benefits out of rumour-mongering on NRC and NPR”.

Road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav said the resolution was nothing new, as a similar resolution favouring caste based census was passed by the same house a few years back. “This is nothing new,” he said.

BJP MLC Sachidanand Rai, however, voiced disapproval of the resolution, saying that a caste-based census would “divide society”. State minister Vijay Kumar Sinha, who was in the House when the resolution was passed, said, “It would have been better had the members been informed about the resolution in advance.”

Experts said the demand for a caste-based census moved by the JD(U) is a strategic ploy to bolster his regional identity and its vote bank among backward classes, economically weaker sections and Scheduled Castes.

“ Favouring a caste based census by political parties will actually not serve the purpose of uplift of poor among the various caste groups. Had it been the case, the 2011 socio-economic census should have been made public and acted upon because it had made a comprehensive report on the various social parameters to identify caste groups lying low in the social strata,” said DM Diwakar, social scientist and former director, AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, Patna.

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    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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