Bihar: Nitish promises caste census after all-party meeting
Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said the Bihar government was preparing to conduct the caste census and an announcement would be made after an all-party meeting.
“Full preparations are being made on how to conduct the caste census in the state and through which medium. We will do it in such a manner that nobody is left out. All castes and sub-castes will be enumerated,” Nitish told reporters on the sidelines of his janta durbar (public interaction) here.
Asserting that he had always been seeking the caste census, the chief minister said all political parties, including the BJP, had been sounded out for a meeting on the issue, which would be held soon.
“We will explain to all the parties about how we intend to conduct the caste census, seek their opinion and make an announcement on the basis of consensus. I do not see any disagreement among the parties over the issue. I am just waiting for an agreement on the date of the meeting. Everybody will benefit from this,” Nitish added.
However, it will be interesting to see the BJP’s stand on the issue as its central leadership has categorically rejected the demands for a caste census, apart from the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST).
Nitish, at the behest of RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, had led an all-party delegation to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August to demand a caste census, but the effort came to naught.
Tejashwi met Nitish last week and said the state should conduct the enumeration of the population of different castes on its own. The latter agreed in principle to get it done.
The last caste census in the country was conducted in 1931.
It had put the population of Other Backward Classes (OBC) at around 52 per cent. The data became the backbone of the reservation policy of the central and state governments.
A socio-economic caste survey was conducted in 2011 by the then UPA government, but the data on castes was not published because of alleged discrepancies.
Karnataka is the first state in recent times to get a separate state-specific caste census done.
At the janta durbar, Nitish also expressed concern over the scarcity of fertiliser in the state, especially DAP (diammonium phosphate) and urea, at a time sowing for the kharif season has started.
“There is a scarcity of fertilisers and I have talked to the Union minister (Mansukh Mandaviya) concerned over it. He has assured that their availability will become normal in a week,” Nitish said.
On Monday, Dileshwar Kamat, an MP from Nitish’s JDU, raised the issue of the scarcity of fertilisers in Bihar in the Lok Sabha.
Bihar is witnessing uproarious scenes at fertiliser stores with thousands of farmers expressing anger on having to return empty-handed.
Fertiliser scarcity is also being witnessed in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan among others.
Asked about the observations in the CAG (comptroller and auditor general) report that expressed worry over the unavailability of utilisation certificates of around Rs 80,000 crore expenditure on developmental projects over the last several years, Nitish said it would be improper for him to comment on it.
However, the chief minister asserted that his officials had assured that it was not a matter of concern and everything was fine on the financial front.
“The comments (of the CAG) are damaging. But you get publicity by making damaging comments, not through normal work,” Nitish said.