By Agencies

NEW DELHI: A 10-party delegation from Bihar headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday in support of a nationwide caste-based census.

Kumar was joined by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and representatives of many other parties, including the BJP, and both leaders made a strong push for counting the population on the basis of caste.

Kumar told reporters later that Modi heard them patiently.

Asked about the prime minister’s stand on the issue, he said Modi did not “deny it” (caste census) and heard out everyone.

A caste-based census will help in formulating various development plans effectively, he said.

Speaking strongly in its support, Yadav said it will be a “historic” measure in helping the poor. If animals and trees can be counted, then so can people, he said.

Asked if Kumar’s JD(U) and the RJD are getting closer with both parties joining hands over the issue, Yadav said the opposition in Bihar has always supported the government over pro-people measures and those in national interest.

Besides Nitish and Tejashwi, JDU leader Vijay Kumar Choudhary, who is also the minister for education and parliamentary affairs, former Chief Minister and President of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) Jitan Ram Manjhi, Congress legislature party leader Ajeet Sharma and BJP leader and Bihar minister Janak Ram, CPI-ML legislature party leader Mahboob Alam, Akhtarul Imam of AIMIM, Mukesh Sahni of VIP, Suryakant Paswan of CPI and Ajay Kumar of CPM.

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Nitish Kumar had said a resolution regarding the caste-based census was passed unanimously in Bihar Legislative Assembly as well as the Legislative Council in 2019. A resolution was passed unanimously once again in 2020 in the state Legislative Assembly.

“The demand of the caste census is not just the demand from Bihar but other states also. The Opposition parties in Bihar also wanted to meet the Prime Minister with us. We had written a letter to the Prime Minister regarding this,” Bihar chief minister had earlier said.

“We want a caste-based Census and it is our long-standing demand. A caste-based Census will help all castes to get their exact numbers so that policies can be made accordingly. Caste census is in the interest of all. It is for the benefit of the country. It is the job of the central government to take a decision regarding the caste census. It is not a political issue but a social one,” Nitish Kumar had said.

Delhi | People in Bihar and the entire country are of the same opinion on this issue. We are grateful to the PM for listening to us. Now, he has to take a decision on it: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on meeting with PM Narendra Modi over caste census pic.twitter.com/8e2F0LYoNo
— ANI (@ANI) August 23, 2021
Kumar, meanwhile, stated that if Centre does not agree then “Bihar will proceed to conduct a caste-based census.” However, the Central government has so far refused to accede to the demand.

On July 20, in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai had said: “The Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in the census.”

On March 10, 2021, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had clarified on caste-related details received from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. In a reply, the Union Home Ministry said that raw caste data has been provided to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) for the classification and categorisation of the data.

Delhi | Our delegation met the PM today not only for caste census in the state (Bihar) but in the entire country. We are awaiting a decision on this now: Tejashwi Yadav, RJD after meeting with PM Modi over caste census pic.twitter.com/HRyg77P3D5
— ANI (@ANI) August 23, 2021
“The Office of the Registrar General, India had provided logistics and technical support in conducting the SECC-2011. The raw caste data has been provided to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) for the classification and categorization of the data. As informed by MoSJE, there is no proposal to release the caste data at this stage,” the Home Ministry had said.