Monday, October 2, 2023

Nine parties which supported Bihar caste survey, opposed NPR

The Supreme Court is going to hear the appeal against Bihar caste survey on October 6. The appellants requested the bench led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna not to delete the matter in the aftermath of the publication of the survey.  The appeal was filed in Supreme Court against the verdict upholding Bihar caste survey which did consider it to be in violation of the Supreme Court nine-judge bench’s verdict in the 2017 Justice (Retd.) K.S! Puttaswamy v. Union of India privacy/Aadhaar/NPR case. 

On August 1, 2003, Patna high court had upheld the caste survey being carried out by the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar. A bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Partha Sarthy had dismissed all the five petitions filed against it. 

Amidst vociferous demand of Congress MP, Rahul Gandhi for nation-wide caste census, Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister, Bihar announced, "Today, on the auspicious occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, the data of caste based survey conducted in Bihar has been published." He said, "the proposal for caste based enumeration was passed unanimously in the Legislature. It was decided with the consent of all the 9 parties of Bihar Assembly that the state government will conduct caste based survey from its own resources and its approval was given from the Council of Ministers on 02-06-2022. On this basis, the state government has conducted caste based survey from its own resources. Caste based survey not only revealed the castes but also gave information about the economic condition of everyone. On this basis, further action will be taken for the development and upliftment of all sections." He added, "soon a meeting of the same 9 parties of Bihar Assembly will be called regarding the caste based survey conducted in Bihar and they will be informed about the results of the caste based survey." 

The survey counted the 214 castes on Bihar government list. Out of these, 22 were counted in Scheduled Castes, 32 in Scheduled Tribes, 30 in Backward Classes, 113 in Extremely Backward Classes and 7 in Upper Castes. 

It is generally held that the nation-wide headcount of all castes was undertaken in 1931.

The fact is that House Register for non-synchrnous national Census of 1871 had 17 questions. One of them pertained to "Caste or Class". The 1881 synchronous national Census Schedule had 13 questions. One of them was about "Caste, if Hindu, sect, if of other religion". The 1891 Census Schedule had 14 questions. One of them was "Caste or race-Main caste". The 1901 Census Schedule had 16 questions including "Caste of Hindus & Jains, Tribe, or race of others". The 1911 Census Schedule had same set of questions. The 1921 Census Schedule too similar number of questions. It also had "Caste, Tribe or Race" question. The 1931 Census Schedule had 18 questions including "Race, Tribe or Caste".  The 1941 Census Individual Slip had 22 questions including "Race, Tribe or Caste". The 1951 Census Individual Slip had 14+13 questions. The 13 questions were optional. It did not have Caste question. It had a "Special Groups" question.

Responding to the omission of the caste question, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar wrote, " I am sorry, I cannot illustrate these points by reference to facts and figures. The census which is the only source of information on these points fails to help me. The last census omits altogether the caste tables which had been the feature of the Indian census ever since its birth. The Home Minister of the Government of India who is responsible for this omission was of the opinion that if a word does not exist in a dictionary it can be proved that the fact for which the word stands does not exist. One can only pity the petty intelligence of the author" in 1955. During the Census in question, the Union Home Minister was C. Rajagopalachari. Notably, Dr. Ambedkar was the Union Law Minister from 15 August, 1945 till 11 October, 1951 for 4 years, 57 days. He was from a political party named Scheduled Castes Federation. 

The 1961 Census Individual Slip had 13 questions. It included SC/ST question. The 1971 Census Individual Slip had 17 questions including SC/ST question. The 1981 Census Individual Slip (Universal) had 16 questions including SC/ST question. The 1991 Census Individual Slip had 23 questions including SC/ST question. The 2001 Census Household Schedule had 23 questions including SC/ST question. The 2011 Census Household Schedule had 29 questions including SC/ST question.

Bihar's total population is over 13.07 crore. Out of which the Extremely Backward Classes (36 per cent) were the largest social segment followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13 per cent.

The Bihar Caste survey reveals that OBCs and EBCs constitute a 63 per cent of the state's total population. The data was released by Vivek Singh, the Development Commissioner. 

The unreserved castes, the so-called "upper castes" comprise 15.52 per cent of the total population. The survey reveals that the state's population is overwhelmingly Hindu, with the majority community comprising 81.99 per cent of the total population, followed by Muslims (17.70 per cent). The total forward caste Muslims: is 4.8 per cent and BC+EBC (Pasmanda) Muslims is 12.6 cent. 

The Christians, Sikhs, Jains and those following other religions and the non-believers have a miniscule presence, together making up for less than one per cent of the total population.

The state cabinet gave its gave consent for the caste survey on June 2, 2022. It allocated an amount of Rs 500 crore for the exercise. The survey was stayed for a while by the Patna High Court which was hearing petitions challenging the survey. The deadline of February 2023 could not be met. The survey had commenced on January 7, 2023. 

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the caste census of Bihar reveals that 84 per cent of people in the state are OBCs, SCs and STs. He said, "Out of 90 secretaries of the central government, only 3 are OBC, who handle only 5 per cent of India's budget. Therefore, it is important to know the caste statistics of India.... "

Former Union Rural Development Minister, Jairam Ramesh welcomed the Bihar initiative and recalled similar earlier surveys in other states like Karnataka by Congress governments. Indian National Congress reiterated its demand that the Union government conduct a national Caste Census at the earliest.  He said, "The UPA-2 government had, in fact, completed this Census but its results were not published by the Modi government. Such a Census has become essential for providing a firmer foundation for social empowerment programmes and for deepening social justice."

Significantly, the next national census was due in 2021 but it has not been conducted as yet. It seems Aadhaar/National Population Register have replaced the census done on an interval of 10 years with unending census which paves the way for unlimited indiscriminate surveillance and an unlimited government at the behest of non-state actors and anonymous donors. Notably, the parties that support the Bihar Caste survey also supported unanimous resolution against the NPR which has genocidal implications akin to the holocaust in Nazi Germany. 

Meanwhile, NPR and Aadhaar database is being converged according to "approved strategy". 

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