Nitish Kumar reiterates demand for caste census, Jharkhand seconds
The Bihar CM, who heads JDU-BJP coalition government, said he will speak to members of different parties in his state over the issue of caste census to chart out their next course of action
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday reiterated his demand for a caste census, saying it is in national interest and will facilitate development of the communities lagging in development.
Asked about the Centre's affidavit in the Supreme Court that virtually ruled out census on the caste lines, he told reporters that it was "absolutely not correct" but added that the matter was not directly related to the issue of caste census.
In the national capital to attend Home Minister Amit Shah's meeting with the chief ministers of naxal-affected states, the JD(U) leader also rejected arguments against caste census and asserted that the demand for it has been coming from not only Bihar but many states.
Kumar said he will speak to members of different parties in Bihar over the issue to chart out their next course of action.
He had led an all-party delegation from the state to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in support of such a headcount across the country.
However, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday that caste census of backward classes is "administratively difficult and cumbersome" and excluding such information from the purview of Census is a "conscious policy decision".
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the government has said that caste enumeration in Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 was fraught with mistakes and inaccuracies.
Kumar asserted that caste census can be done by imparting appropriate training to people.
However, the Bihar chief minister, whose party's ties with the BJP have been uneven for some time, refused to be drawn into any political implications of the issue.
"Caste census is in the interest of the country. It will help the country's development," he said.
After the Centre's stand, many BJP leaders in Bihar have strongly defended the move and questioned the need for caste census.
The BJP has made it clear that its stand on the politically fraught issue can be different from those, including some of its allies, supporting the step.
In a related development, in a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday, and an all-party delegation from Jharkhand led by Chief Minister Hemant Soren demanded that a caste-based census be conducted.
The visit came close on the heels of the Centre telling the Supreme Court that a caste census of backward classes is "administratively difficult and cumbersome" and excluding such information from the purview of Census is a "conscious policy decision."
The delegation led by Soren included the Congress' Jharkhand unit president Rajesh Thakur, BJP state president and Rajya Sabha member Deepak Prakash, Congress' legislature party leader Alamgir Alam, AJSU president and ex-deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahato, and RJD leader Satyanand Bhoka.
"All of us met Home Minister Amit Shah and urged him to ensure that a caste-based census is conducted. We apprised him of our state's sentiments in support of the caste census," Soren told reporters after the meeting.
The Congress' state president said the Union home minister gave the delegation a patient hearing and assured that he will "look into the matter".
BJP's Deepak Prakash evaded a direct reply to reporters' question as to whether his party supports caste census.
"The BJP was also part of this all-party delegation. We all know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government is a well-wisher of the people belonging to backward classes.
"The Modi government gave constitutional status to the OBC Commission and also provided for 27 per cent quota to OBCs in medical and dental colleges. The BJP and its government stand by the people belonging to backward classes," he said.
Prakash added that his party is consistently working for the welfare of the OBCs.
CPI-ML leader Vinod Singh, CPI's Buvaneshwar Mahato, CPI-M's Suresh Munda NCP MLA Kamlesh Singh and MCC leader Arup Chatterjee were also part of the all-party delegation led by Soren.
The Centre has filed an affidavit in the apex court saying it has already issued a notification in January last year prescribing the series of information to be collected during Census 2021 and it covers many areas including the information relating to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes but does not refer to any other category of caste.
It said the exclusion of information regarding any other caste from the purview of Census is a "conscious policy decision" taken by the Central government.
Enumeration of OBCs/BCCs (Backward Class of Citizens) has been always adjudged to be administratively "extremely complex" and even when Census of castes were taken in the pre-independence period, the data suffered in respect of completeness and accuracy, the affidavit stated.
The government has also stated that the caste enumeration in Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 was "fraught" with mistakes and inaccuracies.