With the second phase of the caste based census underway in Bihar, the people of the state are starting to analyse its positives and negatives.
The 'intellectual community' believes that it has some loopholes like the sub-castes in the Extremely Backward Class (EBC), Other Backward Castes (OBC), Dalit and Muslim communities will be counted but there is no provision to count sub-castes in upper castes.
It has created suspicions in the minds of the people about the intentions of the state government, or this loophole being used for political purposes.
Ashok Kumar, a Patna based private teacher, told IANS: "The state government is well aware that MLAs, MLCs and MPs of upper castes cannot advocate for their castes in Bihar. They believe that if they talk in the interest of upper caste people, their vote banks of lower castes may slip away from them and they might lose the election."
"Two to three upper caste MLAs and MPs are in the RJD, BJP, JD-U, Congress, HAM and others but they are not vocal about the interests of their castes. On the other hand, Dalit and minority leaders talk in the interest of their castes. This is the reason why the state government is counting castes and sub-castes of EBC, OBC and the minorities but not in the upper castes. The leaders at the panchayat or block level may talk for the interest of their castes but in the rank of MLA, MLC and MP they cannot dare to do that. They are looking at their personal and party interests," Kumar said.
"I am connected to the Bhumihar Ekta Manch Whatsapp group where a number of BJP leaders are also present. The BJP has decided to celebrate Babu Veer Kunwar Singh birth anniversary on April 23 which is okay but I have pointed out to celebrate Parsuram Jayanti as well on 22 but no one reacted to it," Kumar said.
No one knows the actual numbers of castes but there is a general perception in Bihar that the numbers of EBC, OBC and minority communities are much higher than upper castes like Bhumihar, Brahmins, Rajput and Kayasth. The BJP has traditional voters belonging to the upper castes while Nitish Kumar is an undisputed leader of the Lav-Kush community and Lalu Prasad Yadav is a leader of Muslim-Yadav and other lower castes. Jitan Ram Manjhi is a leader of Mahadalits and Chirag Paswan is a leader of the Dalit community.
However, the caste based census has lots of positives as well. Dr Vijay Kishore, a Patna based economist said: "After the completion of caste based census, we would earmark the backwardness of a particular caste and community. Following that, the state and central governments are running many welfare programmes in the interest of EBC, OBC and minority communities. There is no political interest involved which I also believe will benefit the common people on the social, financial and political fronts."
The first phase of the caste based census was completed in March this year where every house had a unique house code. The second phase kicked off from April 15 and will end in one month.
In the second phase, Bihar government employees will go to every house and ask 17 questions printed on one sheet. The same will also be uploaded digitally as well so that anyone can access it from the internet.
The employees will ask the name of the family head, his/her father's name, age, sex, marital status, religion, caste, sub-caste (In case of EBC, OBC, minority) followed by code, educational qualification, profession, residential status (Staying in own house or rent), temporary migration status, owning computer, laptop, motor vehicles, agriculture land, residential land and income from all sources.
Patna district magistrate and nodal officer of the caste based census in the district Dr Chandrashekher Singh said: "It is taking half an hour to collect the information on one family in physical and digital modes. We are also contacting people who are living abroad. We are asking their profession, tenure, castes, financial status with country code through video calling. Everything is going in a smooth manner."
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said: "The report will be tabled in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad followed by it being sent to the Centre. The detailed report of the caste based census will be put in the public domain as well. It will not only give the caste status of a particular person but also its financial status. It will help to make policies followed by the development of the people and eventually the state."
"It is the responsibility of the Centre to conduct a census in the country. I am surprised that it has not happened in the last 12 to 13 years. The past governments were organising it every 10 years."