Disregarding the union government, the Bihar government will conduct a caste census, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said today, announcing an institutionalisation of a regressive-but-prevalent social system in India. The state government will conduct the caste census at its own expense, the chief minister said.
Making the announcement, the chief minister of Bihar and head of the JD(U) told reporters after a public meeting, “The preparations have been done.”
The chief minister said that the Bihar government would conduct the census in a transparent manner. “No mistake will be made of any kind. All the political parties have agreed. We are going to hold an all-party meeting soon,” he said, adding, “I have spoken to the deputy chief minister and all the people of his party (the BJP).”
Nitish Kumar said that an all-party meeting would be held soon after deciding upon a date that suited all participants.
Previously, Karnataka had conducted a caste census. Bihar will be the second state in the country to conduct a caste census.
Chief Minister Kumar said, “The opinion of everyone is necessary. How to get the caste census done, when to get it done, through which medium — all this will be decided after taking the most opinion in the meeting. Whatever comes out with everyone’s consent, we will proceed on that basis. It will be done very well so that nothing is missed.”
In the winter session, Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav (of the RJD) met the chief minister and demanded a caste census. Kumar assured Yadav that soon a caste census would be finalised following an all-party meeting. After today’s statement, it is official.
In August, leaders of 10 parties of Bihar, including Chief Minister Kumar and Leader of Opposition Yadav, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue. They discussed with the prime minister the demand for a caste census in the 2021 exercise at the union level.
In Bihar, however, the BJP did not demand a caste census but all other parties did. The Modi government is against the idea.
The first census was conducted in the country in 1881. The caste census data was released in the first census report. Since then, the census is held every 10 years. Caste-wise figures were released also in the census till 1931, which the BP Mandal Commission had made the basis of its technically flawed list of Other backward Classes. Caste-wise data was collected in the 1941 Census too, but these were not released.
After Independence, successive governments, of the Indian National Congress in its previous avatars mostly, decided to release only the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe population data. Caste-wise figures for other castes have never been published post-1931.