The headcount of castes in Bihar, which the Nitish Kumar government has taken up following the Centre’s inability to conduct a caste-based census, received the state cabinet’s nod on Thursday. Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting chaired by the CM, Chief Secretary Amir Subhani said a budgetary allocation of Rs 500 crore has been made for the exercise.
“The survey shall be completed by February 23 next year. Work will start no sooner than the notification is issued by the general administration department,” he said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday chaired an all-party meeting and agreed to conduct a state-specific survey. Briefing reporters after the meeting, which had been hanging fire for several months, Kumar said the exercise will be given the name ‘jaati adharit ganana‘ (caste-based headcount), but clarified that it will be a survey much larger in scope as it will take into account people belonging to all religions and their socio-economic conditions.
Kumar had underscored that there was unanimity among members of all parties on the issue, as had been evident earlier when unanimous resolutions favouring a caste census were passed by the state legislature in 2019 and 2020.
The caste census has become an emotive issue in Bihar where politics has been dominated by OBCs, whose last headcount was conducted during the British raj. Kumar, who owes his own rise in no small measure to the Mandal uprising, had headed the all-party delegation that met the PM Narendra Modi last year to press for the demand. The Centre, however, expressed its inability to extend the census beyond Dalits and tribals. He stressed that it was wrong to believe that the BJP, his ally in the state as well as the Centre, is opposed to a caste census, a charge repeatedly made by opposition parties like the RJD.
The chief minister, who belongs to the JD(U), said the findings of the survey will be shared with political parties and the public from time to time, making use of all communication forums, including social media. He, however, evaded questions about the mammoth exercise costing the impoverished state a bomb.