Bihar economic ‘census’ rich in data but misses out on agriculture and land

A glaring omission in the socio-economic-caste survey report released in the Bihar assembly this week is data related to land ownership

(Photo: National Herald archives)
(Photo: National Herald archives)

AJ Prabal

The caste survey report published by the Bihar government has been criticised for allegedly excluding a significant number of people owing to flawed enumeration. The Opposition BJP has accused the government of having manipulated the numbers, even inflating some of them, etc. Yet, everyone agrees that the data thrown up by the survey/census provides valuable insights.

There is, surprisingly, no data related to land holdings, though 49.6 per cent of the state’s population is engaged in agriculture, which is higher than the national average. Failure to redistribute land and the failure of land reforms have been singled out as two of the major factors for the state’s backwardness in the past. Lack of irrigation facilities had also been blamed for the backwardness of agriculture in the state.

Some media reports have stated that data related to land holdings and irrigation etc. was not collected, which, if true, would be a sad omission. It is not clear if the data was collected and will be released in another instalment.

Analysts are waiting for the release of unit-wise data for a more detailed analysis, but are nevertheless overwhelmed by the wealth of data that question policies and governance in the state. While the state cabinet reacted quickly to recommend a higher reservation for deprived communities, raising the reservation ceiling to 75 per cent, the data calls for a serious scrutiny of the system of 'reservation' itself.

The report also reveals a fairly dismal picture, which would possibly justify chief minister Nitish Kumar’s repeated pleas for the grant of special central assistance to the state. The salient points revealed are:

  • A quarter or 25 per cent of the ‘general’ upper castes in the state survive on less than Rs 6,000 a month, the threshold of poverty in the survey. The relevant figure for SC/ST communities is 42 per cent and 33 per cent for backward classes.

  • Just 7 per cent of the population are graduates. Less than 1 per cent have a postgraduate degree; almost 37 per cent have studied up to class eight.

  • Only 9 per cent of general castes, 4 per cent of backward classes, 2 per cent of EBC and 1 per cent of SC families earn more than Rs 50,000 a month

  • 63 per cent of families have a monthly income of up to Rs 10,000. Only 4.47 per cent of families have a monthly income of over Rs 50,000.

  • For every 10,000 people, those with PG, PhD, CA, BTech or MBBS/BAMS qualifications are 387 among general castes, 125 among BCs, 63 among EBC and just 39 among SCs

  • As many as 95.49 per cent of the population don’t own a vehicle, with 3.8 per cent owing two-wheelers and 0.11 per cent owning four-wheelers. 12.48 crore of the 13.07 crore people don’t own a motorised vehicle.

  • Only 1.67 lakh people, or 0.13 per cent, own tractors

  • 45.78 lakh people from the state are working in other states, and 2.17 lakh working abroad

  • Of those 2.17 lakh, 23,738 are engaged in higher studies. Among those working in other countries, 76,326 people belong to the general category

  • In the general category, poverty is highest among Bhumihars, (27.58 per cent) followed by Brahmins, Rajputs and Kayasths, who are the most prosperous with 13.38 per cent of Kayasth families classified as poor

  • Among OBCs, 2,89,538 Yadavs have government jobs (1.55 per cent of the community), compared to 1,17,171 Kurmis (3.11 per cent), and 1,12,106 Kushwahas. In the general category, Kayasths hold the highest number of government jobs (6.68 per cent of the community).

  • Among Muslims, the Sheikh community has the maximum number of government jobs (0.79 per cent)

  • Brahmins are in the lead when it comes to owning laptops or computers (47,81,280 people. Overall, 2.109 crore people have their own laptops and computers

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