The ongoing debate surrounding a caste-based survey in Bihar has seen the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) questioning the Nitish Kumar government’s initiative. Amidst this, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that only it has the authority to conduct a census, adding another layer to the discussion. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy have sought to clarify the distinction between a census and a survey.
According to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the responsibility of conducting a census lies with the Central government. He reiterated that the state government’s intention is to conduct a survey to gather financial information about individuals regardless of their caste, religion, or economic status. This data would then be used for the welfare of the people.
Kumar’s remarks align with a clarification provided by Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD, stating that they are not advocating for a caste census but rather a caste-based survey. He emphasized that the caste census falls under the jurisdiction of the Union government, as per the constitution.
Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar further emphasized the need for an economic survey along with the caste-based survey. He highlighted that poverty exists in every section of society and that gathering accurate data about economic conditions is crucial for effective policymaking, including determining the allocation of reservations.
Amidst the debate, JD(U) leader Vijay Kumar Chaudhary criticized the Central government for filing an affidavit against the Bihar government’s decision. While the issue had faced legal and political challenges, the Bihar government received approval to proceed with the caste-based survey last month.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar noted that the caste-based survey has been completed in the state and the data is being compiled for public dissemination. He reiterated that the survey aims to benefit all sections of society by aiding the government’s efforts for their development.
Nitish Kumar also clarified that the exercise was never directed to be put on hold by the Supreme Court. The Patna High Court had previously dismissed a set of public interest litigations challenging the validity of the Bihar caste survey, declaring it legally competent and valid. As a result, the state government resumed and completed the survey.
The debate over the caste-based survey showcases the complexities of balancing state-level initiatives with constitutional and legal frameworks. The Bihar government’s efforts to gather accurate and comprehensive data for informed policy decisions are at the forefront of this ongoing discussion.