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Bihar: Govt to Make Data of Caste Survey Public, Announces Nitish Kumar

Kumar claims Bihar's caste survey will serve as a role model for the country and will be followed by other states.
Enumerators during the first phase of the caste-based census in Patna on January 7.

Enumerators during the first phase of the caste-based census in Patna on January 7. Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: The Mahagathbandhan government led by Nitish Kumar will make public all the data from the ongoing caste survey, Kumar announced on Friday. This move is widely seen as a significant decision by the state government, likely the first of its kind in the country.

"The caste-based survey work has been completed. All the data is being uploaded to the portal, and after that, the final report will be prepared. The government will make all the data of the caste survey public," Kumar told the media.

Kumar claimed that Bihar's caste survey will serve as a role model for the country and will be followed by other states.

According to him, "Earlier, the governments of Rajasthan and Karnataka conducted caste-based surveys but did not make their data public."

Without directly naming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Kumar stated, "It is well known how some people tried their level best to disrupt the caste survey."

Two days ago, Kumar's party, Janata Dal (United) (JD-U), a major ally in the ruling Mahagathbandhan, criticised the top leadership of the BJP for openly obstructing the ongoing caste survey within the state. JD-U leaders accused the BJP of attempting to disrupt the survey, leading to tensions within the political landscape.

Leaders of JD-U and ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) attributed interference from the central government in the Supreme Court (SC) as an attempt to undermine the ongoing caste survey. Their concerns stem from the potentially far-reaching consequences of the central government's involvement in the survey's progress.

The conflict between the ruling coalition and the BJP revolves around the recent intervention by the central government in the hearing of petitions challenging the Patna High Court's decision to proceed with the caste survey in Bihar. On August 21, the Supreme Court summoned the central government to respond within a week.

While the SC has declined to halt the high court's verdict unless convinced of its errors, the matter is scheduled for further hearing on August 28.

Earlier this month, the Patna High Court granted permission to complete the long-awaited caste survey. The court's nearly 100-page ruling dismissed all Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking suspension of the survey.

Following the court's decision, the Bihar government promptly initiated the third and final phase of the survey. The majority of the fieldwork was concluded by mid-August, and the remaining collected data is being finalised for upload.

State Advocate General PK Sahi affirmed the government's right to conduct the caste survey, highlighting its authority to gather socio-economic data that informs welfare policies.

The second phase of the caste survey began in April, despite opposition from influential segments of society. The first phase, launched in January, aimed to identify the number of households across Bihar. Subsequent phases involved collecting caste and socio-economic data from each household.

This survey has the potential to strengthen the coalition's support among Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), fulfilling a significant promise to these communities.

Bihar's leaders, Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, long proponents of Mandal politics, have advocated for a Caste Census since 2015. They believe this data will inform targeted development plans and uplift historically deprived communities.

Kumar underscored the survey's importance in identifying individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The last Caste Census was conducted in 1931. While the BJP-led Central government rejected a national caste census two years ago, the ongoing dispute highlights the complex interplay between politics, social dynamics, and the pursuit of accurate socio-economic data.

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