“We will conduct a Jati-Aadharit Ganana (caste-wise headcount), not a conventional census,” CM Nitish said after the all-party meeting, to which both LJP factions and the fledgling Vikassheel Insaan Party weren’t invited.
Muslims should be included in it: Giriraj
A state government official said the government chose not to use the term “census” because it denotes a subject on the Union List. “We want to avoid any statutory complications in future,” he told TOI.
While BJP, which has always had reservations about a national caste-based census, gave its nod to a caste-based enumeration, Union minister Giriraj Singh said ahead of the all-party meeting that care should be taken to ensure illegal immigrants like Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims weren’t part of the headcount.
“I am not against a caste-based census. Muslims should be included in it as well since they, too, enjoy the benefits (of government schemes). But the government should be cognizant of the presence of Bangladeshi infiltrators and Rohingya Muslims,” he said, referring to 4 lakh such people being left out of the 1991 census in Bihar in response to a petition by BJP’s Rajendra Gupta and Janardan Yadav.
Deputy CM Tarkishor Prasad and BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal represented the saffron party at Wednesday’s all-party meeting.
In neighbouring Jharkhand, parties across the political spectrum pressed for a caste-based census in the state soon after Bihar arrived at a consensus on the subject. JMM, which leads a coalition government in the state, wants a census to back its demand for a “Sarna Dharam code” as the marker of the state’s tribal identity.
Nitish said detailed information about every citizen would be collected as part of the enumeration, collated and compiled within a timeframe that would be fixed by the cabinet. The CM said government staff designated for the exercise would be properly trained to ensure there are no slip-ups.
“A proposal will be formally approved by the state cabinet soon. The state government will arrange the necessary funds for the enumeration. Advertisements regarding the exercise will be published in all language newspapers so that citizens are fully aware about the intent and methodology. The government will update all parties on the progress of the headcount from time to time.”
On whether people of all religions, castes and sub-castes within a particular community would be enumerated, Nitish pointed out that the purpose of the exercise was to “reveal who is poor and who is affluent”.
“Our aim is to ensure the progress of all sections of the society by using the data,” he said.
Nitish also clarified that ally BJP never opposed the proposal for a caste-based census. “It only said that a caste-based census was not possible at the national level. The states can do it. When a delegation from Bihar went to meet the PM to demand a caste-based census, BJP was part of it.”
An 11-member delegation, led by Nitish, had met PM Narendra Modi on August 23 last year.This was a month after the Centre informed the Lok Sabha that it would not enumerate the entire population caste-wise, except SCs and STs, as a matter of policy.
The Bihar assembly had twice passed unanimous resolutions for a caste-based census — on February 18, 2019, and February 27, 2020.
Odisha is, meanwhile, likely to review its plan for a survey of backward classes after the Centre declined a proposal from the state government for a caste-based census. The state government had amended the relevant law to empower the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes to enumerate the backward classes.