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After the Bihar caste survey, the discussion on the issue has been gaining momentum. Although the Central Government has submitted an affidavit before the apex court stating that the caste census is not possible to conduct, at one time it seemed that it had toned down whenever the issue came up during the Assembly elections in the five states, saying that it was not adverse to it. However, all along the course of the elections, it remained non-committal. Meanwhile, Congress has made conducting a caste census an election promise in the five states that had gone to elections in the last round. The issue was hot at that time, as Bihar had shown the way to go about it. On the day of Gandhi Jayanti last year, the government of Bihar declared the results of the caste census in the form of certain tables showing population data, which were not authenticated by any government functionaries. And now, the Telengana Chief Minister has declared that the state will go for a caste survey very soon (Jan. 27), for which his government will bring a bill in the next budget session in February.
Undoubtedly, Bihar has become a hero after conducting the caste survey, and there were demands pouring in from many states for conducting the caste census. What Bihar has conducted cannot be termed a census. Bihar named it a “caste-based survey.” The Census as a subject is included in Serial No. 69 of the Central List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. As such, it is the exclusive domain of the Central Government to conduct any type of census in India. For this purpose, a Census Office is there under the name and style of the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI), which is entrusted with the responsibility to conduct the census in the country. As such, until the ORGI conducts a census operation under the Census of India Act 1948, covering castes in India, anything done in this regard cannot be termed a caste census. Bihar conducted their caste-based survey under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, which is a Central Act and came into force in 2010. This Act was mainly enacted to enable the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) to collect various statistics concerning India or any state on various subjects. Section 3 of the Act provides that the central government or any state government, by notification in the official gazette, may collect data concerning the economic, demographic, social, scientific, and environmental aspects of that state as per the procedure laid down in the Act but not on the issues specified in the Central List of the Constitution. From this, it follows that if the Telengana Government, or for that matter, any other state government, decides to conduct a caste survey, it will have to rely on the provisions of this Act.
The Bihar Caste Survey covered 207 notified castes within its purview, apart from the Brahmins and transgender, who were enumerated separately. Through the survey, Bihar worked out its total population as of 2023 at 13.072 crore. In 2011, the Census registered the total population of Bihar as 10.41 crore, which was 25.42% higher than the population of Bihar as enumerated in 2001. In the present case also, the rate of growth was maintained at 25.57 percent between 2011 and 2023, despite the fact that there was the attack of COVID-19, where as many as 8.5 lakh people were affected, with an official death toll recorded at 12500, whereas the actual figure of deaths will be much higher than that. Apart from this, there were also factors like restrictions on marriages, loss of jobs resulting in loss of earning sources, movement of migrant labourers, lack of hospital facilities, etc. that played their part in restricting the growth of the population. In fact, the prevailing conditions anywhere in India during 2020–23 cannot be said to be conducive to attaining normal population growth. The Report of the Technical Group of Population Projections 2020 also suggested declining growth rates of population in Bihar to the tune of 18.5 percent between 2011 and 2015, 15 percent during 2016–20, and 14.4 percent between 2021 and 2025.
The size of the population of cultural categories such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, etc., as worked out by the Bihar Survey, also shows an unprecedented growth rate. As per the 2011 census, the total scheduled caste population in Bihar was 165.67 lakh. As against this, the caste-based survey has recorded the SC population at 256.90 lakhs, i.e., an increase of 91.23 lakhs in a span of 12 years, indicating thereby an addition of 7.6 lakhs of populations every year. This implies that the growth rate of the SC population between 2011 and 2023 will be 55.07 percent, i.e., an annual growth rate of 4.6 percent. This is perhaps not possible under the backdrop of the 2.13 percent annual growth rate of the total population. Similar is the case with the scheduled tribe population. The growth rate is showing an unprecedented rise in a 12-year period. In the 2011 census, the total ST population of Bihar was to the tune of 13.367 lakhs, while the cast-based survey enumerated it at 21.993 lakhs, or 22 lakhs. This shows a growth of about 64.58 percent, indicating that the annual growth rate was 5.38 percent. As regards the population of backward classes, the Bihar survey registers a population of 3.54 crore for the year 2023. It is quite astounding that the proportion of the population belonging to other backward classes is exactly equivalent to 27 percent of the total population—the ratio at which seats in educational institutions and government jobs are currently reserved for OBCs. Then there is another category of OBCs, namely extremely backward classes, and their population has been recorded at 4.71 crore, which is 36.03 percent of the total population of the state. Thus, OBCs and extremely OBCs together make 63.12 percent of the total population.
In the case of the distribution of population according to religion, it is observed that, as per the 2011 census, the total Hindu population in Bihar was 860.787 lakhs, which has increased to 1071.93 lakhs in 2023 as per the Bihar caste-based survey. Thus, there has been a growth in the Hindu population to the tune of 24.53 percent during the last 12 years’ period. In the case of Muslims, the population rose from 90.441 lakhs in 2011 to 231.50 lakhs in 2023, giving a rise of 155.97 percent, which is quite unprecedented and unbelievable as well. In the case of Christians, the population in 2011 was 1.29 lakh, which fell to 0.7524 lakh as per a caste-based survey. This may be due to the reorganization of Bihar and the creation of a new state, namely Jharkhand, where the major areas inhabited by the Christian population were included in Jharkhand and movement to and fro is a normal affair.
Conducting a caste-based survey in Telengana will not be a difficult task considering the fact that the state has a population of 3.50 crore as of 2011, which is almost one-third of the size of the population of Bihar. The state has a 15.45 percent SC population and a 9.08 percent ST population. In 2011, 85.43 percent of the population was Hindu, while 12.75 percent was Muslim. The state follows a reservation policy, and the reservation for OBC at present is 27 percent. But a basic survey conducted by the previous government in 2014, namely the “Integrated Household Survey,” found that the proportion of backward classes is more than 51 percent. If the state finally decides to go for a caste-based survey, they should first examine the possibility of enhancing the quota for OBCs or MOBCs in educational institutions and government jobs and also ensure that such a move will not invite the re-enactment of the Mondal situation of 1992. Moreover, it may also be noted that even if the quota for OBC, etc., is enhanced in the state, it will have no impact on the central government quota, which will remain at 27 percent.