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What does the Survey Report reveal?
The Bihar Government, in light of the upcoming general elections in 2024, published a report titled ‘Bihar Jaati Adharit Ganana’ (Bihar caste-based survey) on October 2, 2023, in order to understand the composition of the population on the basis of caste.
The report revealed that Hindus comprise 81.9986% of the population while 17.7088% form the Muslim population in the state. With caste being one of the 17-point socio-economic parameters, the Other Backward Class (OBC) population in the State stands at 27.1286%, the Scheduled Caste population is at 19.6518%, the Scheduled Tribe population is at 1.6824% while the General Caste population stands at 15.5224%. Extremely Backward Class (EBC) comprises 36.0148% of the total population which is recorded to be 13.1 crore.
With a budget of Rs. 500 crores, the whole cycle of the survey was completed in August 2023 in three phases and documented the details of around 29 million registered households. The first phase of the survey started on January 7 and was completed on January 21. The second phase started on April 15 but could not be completed when the Patna High Court put a hold on it, saying that the state government was not competent enough to hold this survey. However, on August 1, the High Court passed a judgment that the survey was “completely valid” and thus, it was resumed the very next day and was finally concluded on August 25, 2023.
There are about 214 castes that were mentioned in the survey and each was allotted different individual codes.
CM Nitish Kumar shares his response and plans for the future
On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, CM Nitish Kumar expressed his enthusiasm on Twitter by congratulating the entire team involved in conducting the survey and leading it to its fruition with the publication of the findings. The findings of the data are considered to be a “watershed moment” in the history of caste struggles as remarked by Tejashwi Yadav, current Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar.
CM Nitish Kumar has announced that he is planning to call a meeting of all the nine parties, who had unanimously supported the conduct of the survey, so as to discuss the findings of the report and “methodology” to ensure a steady development and betterment of all the communities. This will be done by making policies that will target those castes that need “greater assistance” and the survey will indeed help every community “without exception”, Mr. Kumar added.
Bihar’s Caste-Based Survey: How did the other ministers respond?
Rahul Gandhi, a member of the Congress Party, has positively responded to the survey report by saying that such surveys are essential “for providing a firmer foundation for social empowerment programs”. Mr. Gandhi has also commented that if their party wins in the upcoming elections in Madhya Pradesh, they will also conduct a similar caste-based census as these statistics play a significant role in understanding one’s rights. He has also demanded that the union government conduct a similar survey on a national level, a claim further backed by Jairam Ramesh, the general secretary of Congress.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not directly addressed the survey report but has remarked that the opposition is trying to divide the country on the basis of caste and has committed “sin” as it plays “with the emotions of the poor”. BJP Minister, Giriraj Singh, has called the survey report an “eyewash” aiming to create a “bhram” (illusion) among the poor people of the state.
Former Chief Minister Lalu Yadav and founder of Rashtriya Janata Dal has celebrated the publication of this report and has said that the data will help in giving a representative figure of the poor and deprived sections of society. This, in turn, will enable the government to make such policies that can help in their upliftment. Tejashwi Yadav, son of Lalu Yadav, has commented that the report has shed light on the “socio-economic condition” of the population and this opens up the possibility for their “all-round development”.
A similar survey was also conducted by the state of Karnataka in 2014 but the report was not published. Telangana also announced to conduct a similar survey in 2021 but never carried out. Odisha has also announced to hold a similar survey this year.