Will take views of all parties on caste survey data, says Nitish Kumar
The meeting attended by 9 parties came a day after the results of the survey showed that OBCs comprise nearly 2/3 of Bihar’s population.
Data collected in Bihar’s landmark caste survey will help the state government work for the upliftment of all sections, chief minister Nitish Kumar told an all-party meeting on Tuesday, even as members of the state’s ruling coalition pushed for higher reservations to socially and economically backward communities and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flagged flaws with the exercise.
The meeting -- attended by nine parties -- came a day after the results of the survey that enumerated 130 million people showed that backward communities comprise nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s population. Opposition parties hope to use the survey results to reverse the BJP’s inroads among marginalised castes.
A government statement said Kumar told the meeting that the survey was carried in a proper manner with the educational and economic data of households. “We will take the opinion of all parties to work in the interest of the state‘s population based on the caste survey report. Our objective is to uplift the deprived sections and we will do it with consensus of all,” he said, according to the statement.
“The idea is to bring the most deprived sections into the mainstream. We suggested that caste data having socioeconomic profile of various castes is a tool to uplift the deprived sections through reservations and also tailoring schemes which could uplift economic condition of poorer sections,” said Sarvajeet Kumar, agriculture minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader, who attended the meeting.
He said that increasing reservation for giving representation to people as per their numerical strength can be looked at as a plausible policy decision to uplift those classes who were deprived both economically and socially. “The data has given information about which classes of people have land or no land or are educationally or economically weaker. Policy decisions need to be taken and reservation could be one,” he said.
Left parties broached the idea of increasing the reservation for those belonging to backward and economically poorer sections. “There should be reservations based on the numerical strength of populations of various caste groups,” said Mehboob Alam of the Communist Party of India - Marxist Leninist (Liberation).
Finance minister Vijay Choudhary said the all-party meeting was called to apprise the parties about the government’s fulfillment of its commitment to carry the caste survey. He said the government would first invite suggestions from parties on various aspects of the caste survey and then act on it.
Bihar currently has 50% reservation for backward, extremely backward, scheduled caste and tribe, and women from backward classes in jobs and seats in educational institutions.
The BJP was not satisfied. There were several lapses in the survey report and it was done in haste, Vijay Kumar Sinha, Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, told reporters after the meeting held at the chief minister’s secretariat. He raised the matter in the meeting, saying he had not been covered under the household caste survey as no enumerator came to his house.
Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) supremo and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi expressed concern over the decline in the population of Manjhis, his caste group and one of the scheduled castes. There could be some anomaly in the survey as the real population of Manjhis was much higher than what was reflected in the report, accounting for only 3.08%, he said.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed Khan said he suggested addressing economic disparity though various state interventions based on the report.