Nitish's ambitious survey of castes begins in Bihar

The Asian Age.  | Nayyar Azad

India, All India

The survey would cover an estimated population of 12.70 crores in more than 2.58-crore households across the state

Enumerator staff prepare to record data during the first phase of much-hyped caste-based census in Bihar state, in Patna, Saturday, Jan 7, 2023. (PTI Photo)

PATNA: The first phase of the caste census began in Bihar on Saturday. According to officials, the census will be conducted across the state in two phases.

Reports suggest that the first phase of the census will end on January 21 and the second phase of the exercise will begin from April onward. The decision to carry out the caste-based census was taken during a Cabinet meeting held on June 2, last year.

According to officials here, the survey would cover an estimated population of 12.70 crores in more than 2.58-crore households across the state. The survey is likely to be over by May 21.

 "I am confident that the census would be beneficial to the overall development of the state and the country as well. This exercise is being carried out after taking approval from political parties," Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said during his Samadhan yatra on Saturday.

Earlier, Mr Kumar had said that the officials conducting the caste-based census were trained by the state government and have been asked to "take note of every minute detail of people, their households and other things. They will also gather information about people who have gone out of the state."

The move was also welcomed by the grand alliance partner, the RJD. Talking to the media about the survey, RJD leader and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav said, "The exercise will help the government to carry out development work in Bihar and will benefit the poor and weaker section of the society".

Mr Yadav also used the occasion to blame the BJP for its policies and said that "the party (the BJP) created hurdles and didn’t want the survey to be conducted. This census will provide data that will help the government launch welfare schemes for the people."

The caste-based census has been a major issue for the JD(U) and the RJD. Earlier, the Bihar Assembly passed the resolution twice in February 2019 and again in February 2020. The resolution was also sent to the Central government with a request to hold a census based on castes.

However, the demand was triggered in 2022 after the Centre clarified that it has no plans to hold surveys based on castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

In 2021, a delegation led by Bihar chief minister also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press the demand for a caste-based census in the country. Mr Yadav, who was in Opposition then, was also part of the delegation.