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Bihar Caste Survey: CM Nitish Kumar Calls All-Party Meeting; Decision on Future Course of Action Likely

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Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has called for an all-party meeting a day after the controversial caste-based survey of the state was released. During the meeting, Kumar will present the censor report’s findings and accordingly decide on the next course of action.

The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Monday released findings of its much-awaited caste survey months ahead of the 2024 Parliamentary elections, which revealed that OBCs and EBCs constitute a whopping 63 per cent of the state’s total population.

The data which could spur demands for similar caste-based census elsewhere is a key agenda of the opposition INDIA bloc which may well help Kumar and the alliance in the forthcoming elections in the Hindi heartland where caste politics plays a major part.

According to the data released here by Development Commissioner Vivek Singh, the state’s total population stood at a little over 13.07 crore, out of which the Extremely Backward Classes (36 per cent) were the largest social segment followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13 per cent.

Backward caste politicians have long claimed that the population of castes they represented numbered far more than the conventional wisdom based on the 1931 census, which was the last time a caste headcount was conducted and released.

The survey also stated that Yadavs, the OBC group to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs, were the largest in terms of the population, accounting for 14.27 per cent of the total.

Dalits, also known as the Scheduled Castes, accounted for 19.65 per cent of the total population in the state, which is also home to nearly 22 lakh (1.68 per cent) people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.

Those belonging to the “unreserved” category, which denotes the proverbial “upper castes” who dominated politics till the Mandal wave of the 1990s comprise 15.52 per cent of the total population.

While talking to reporters, Kumar, however, ducked queries about whether the survey would prove to be “Mandal part 2”, triggering demands for revised quotas for different castes in proportion to their respective population, which may spell trouble for the “Hindutva” juggernaut of the BJP, which is seen as primarily pro-upper caste.

“It would not be proper for me to go into such details right now. Let me share the findings with all parties tomorrow. After that, our focus will be on making policies targeted at castes which may be deemed to be in need of greater assistance. I must add, the survey will benefit all castes, without exception,” he said.

At 3.30 pm tomorrow, the findings of the survey will be made before representatives of all nine parties, which have a presence in state legislature, and which had given the consent for the survey.

Kumar also expressed confidence that the state’s caste survey will provide an impetus for a nationwide census of all social groups.

RJD president Lalu Prasad, also issued a statement, declaring the survey will set the tone for “a nationwide caste census which will be undertaken when we form the next government at the Centre”.

Both Prasad and Kumar have played an instrumental role in the formation of the INDIA coalition, which affirmed its commitment to holding a caste census at a meeting it held in Bengaluru recently.

The Congress on Monday too welcomed the Bihar government’s move to release the findings of a caste census and called upon the Centre to immediately conduct a similar exercise at the national level to ensure social justice and provide a firm foundation for social empowerment programmes.

“Out of 90 secretaries of the central government, only 3 are OBC, who handle only 5 per cent of India’s budget. Therefore, it is important to know the caste statistics of India…,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a post in Hindi on X.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the UPA government led by the Congress had conducted a census but its results were not published by the Modi government.

That the survey would form part of the politics in the run-up to general elections was made quite clear by other leaders too.

“There was no regular census in 2021, while Bihar has managed to conduct the caste survey this year, it exposes the central government’s incompetence … Muslim population has also been found to be 17.7 per cent (against 16.86 per cent in the 2011 census) which exposes the lie spread by Sanghi propaganda about infiltration by Bangladeshi Muslims,” CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya told PTI.

The survey establishes that the state’s population is overwhelmingly Hindu, with the majority community comprising 81.99 per cent of the total population, followed by Muslims (17.70 per cent).

Christians, Sikhs, Jains and those following other religions as also the non-believers have a minuscule presence, together making up for less than one per cent of the total population.

Bhattacharya also pointed out that the Mandal recommendations for job reservation were based on the 1931 census which had placed the percentage of backwards at 52 per cent, “but we can see the population has gone up since … this means there has to be a fresh thinking on the issue.” The opposition BJP, however, voiced dissatisfaction with the caste survey, stressing that it did not give an idea of the “changed social and economic realities” over the years.

State BJP president Samrat Choudhary said that his party had “given its consent” for the exercise and would make an assessment of the findings which have now been made public.

Sociologists also considered the Survey findings significant. “Ever since the Mandal Commission recommendations came, backward classes have played an important role in Hindi heartland politics … (as) it became an important factor in pushing identity politics as against ideological politics,” said Prof Amites Mukhopadhyay of Jadavpur University to PTI.

Notably, the survey was ordered last year after the Narendra Modi government at the Centre made it clear that it would not be able to undertake a headcount of castes other than SCs and STs as part of the census.

The last time, a headcount of all castes was undertaken, was way back in 1931. Those calling for a fresh caste survey insist that a new estimate was required mainly for the weaker sections of the society which, with improved life expectancy in the post-independence era, must have seen a rise in their proportion of the population.

The state cabinet gave its nod to hold a caste survey on June 2 last year when it also allocated an amount of Rs 500 crore for the mammoth exercise.

The survey briefly ran into rough weather when it was stayed by the Patna High Court which was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the exercise.

However, the deadline it then set, of February 2023, was overshot and the survey itself could take off no sooner than January 7 this year.

Leaders of the ruling Mahagathbandhan in the state have been alleging that those filing petitions were “BJP supporters”, a charge denied by the saffron party which underscores that it was in the government when the cabinet nod was given for the survey.



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‘BJP Will Be Defeated’: Akhilesh Yadav’s Big Claim After Confirming Alliance With INDIA Bloc In UP

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Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. (Image: PTI file)

He added that his party will fight on maximum seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday confirmed his party’s alliance with the INDIA bloc for the upcoming general elections in Uttar Pradesh. He said that there are no issues with the alliance.

“We will partner with Congress, there are no issues in the alliance,” Yadav told reporters, adding that, “Ant bhala toh sab bhala” (All’s well if the end’s well).

Exuding confidence, the SP chief said that the Bharatiya Janata Party “will be defeated”. He added that his party will fight on maximum seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

This comes a day after the Samajwadi Party released its third list of five candidates for the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. The party fielded senior leader Shivpal Yadav from Budaun parliamentary constituency.

Party president Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle, Shivpal Yadav, is an MLA from the Jaswantnagar assembly constituency in Etawah district.

On the same day, former national general secretary of the party Swami Prasad Maurya quit the party and resigned from the post of MLC.

“I got an opportunity to work with you. But after our talks on February 12 and my resignation (as national general secretary) on February 13, no initiative of any talks with me was taken due to which I am resigning from the primary membership of the party,” Maurya said in his resignation letter to party chief Akhilesh Yadav.

Meanwhile, during seat sharing talks with the Congress, SP offered 17 Lok Sabha seats in UP to the grand-old party. ““We have given a final offer of 17 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress. Akhilesh Yadav’s participation in the Nyay Yatra in Raebareli on Tuesday will depend on their acceptance,” Rajendra Chaudhary, the Samajwadi Party’s chief spokesperson said.

Earlier on Monday, Akhilesh Yadav had said that his party will not join Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in the state unless seat-sharing between the two parties is finalised.

“Right now talks are going on, lists have come from them, we have also given them the list. The moment, seat distribution is done, Samajwadi Party will join their Nyaya Yatra,” party’s chief spokesperson said.



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Poll Swaps: Congress’s Rahul Gandhi Flirts With Lost Bastion Amethi, BJP’s Bhupender Yadav Camps in Wayanad

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At a time when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra reached his former constituency, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Union Environment Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Bhupender Yadav is set to visit Gandhi’s present constituency — Wayanad in Kerala — and camp there for two days.

ALSO READ | Amethi-nk for Rahul Gandhi? Congress, Constituency & Cadre May Not Be Ready For it

On Tuesday, Yadav held a meeting at his ministry to “review the recent incidents of man-animal conflict at Pulpally in Wayanad district of Kerala”, saying he would “personally visit Wayanad” to “find solutions”. The trigger seems to be public protests that have erupted in Pulpally, after a 52-year-old ecotourism guide was killed in an elephant attack, the second human fatality in such an attack in the district within a week.

But there’s more to it than meets the eye.

TIMING IS KEY

Man-animal conflict is not new in Wayanad. At least 44 people has been killed and hundreds injured in wild animal attacks in Wayanad since 2014. Yadav has been heading the ministry since July 2021. Like the current protest, there have been numerous protests in the past. But the fact that he chose precisely this time to not only convene an urgent meeting, go to Wayanad and camp there for two days seems more than coincidental at a time when Wayanad MP Gandhi is making overtures in Amethi.

With a fleet of around 50 cars, Gandhi arrived in Amethi, where he lost by 55,000 votes to BJP’s Smriti Irani. Traversing across Kakwa Road, Sagra Tiraha, Raipur Phulawari, Gauriganj and Babuganj, Gandhi has been desperately trying to make a connection with the people of Amethi. “I have come to Amethi and you have welcomed me with love. Our relationship is long-standing, one of love. I thank you all from my heart,” he said.

Yadav, who was till not so long ago a powerful BJP General Secretary, continues to be a National Executive Member and the select Central Election Committee (CEC) of the party. He was in-charge of the BJP’s recently concluded Madhya Pradesh election and Gujarat election in 2022. Will this dent Gandhi’s fortune should Congress renominate him from Wayanad?

“Well, things aren’t looking so bright for Gandhi in Wayanad. You can’t be a tourist and expect to win,” BJP leader Tom Vadakkan, who has worked closely with Gandhi while in the Congress, told News18, “Mr Yadav is duty-bound to listen to the people of Wayanad and he is doing so. But so is Mr Gandhi. But where is he?”

A BJP source told News18, “With such a senior BJP leader camping in Wayanad, it is bound to unsettle Gandhi who isn’t getting great crowds in Uttar Pradesh anyway.” The source added, “Don’t be surprised if the yatra is preponed further.”

The yatra that was to culminate on March 20 will now end around March 10, giving Gandhi and the Congress machinery more time for the Lok Sabha campaign.

THE MAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT

Public protests have erupted in Wayanad after a radio-collared wild elephant strayed into the residential area in Pulpally town on February 10 and trampled over a 47-year-old farmer. “We remain committed to do everything it takes to protect human lives and maintain ecological balance. We will visit Wayanad on Wednesday to review the situation and find solutions,” he tweeted.

Human-elephant conflict has been a major conservation issue in all forest divisions of Kerala, especially in the northern, and mitigation measures have been just partially effective. Wayanad alone has lost about 44 people in such human-animal conflicts in the past 10 years. Of late, the issue has become graver with increasing cases of such conflict due to habitat loss and fragmentation, say officials.

The environment ministry had earlier also issued detailed advisory followed by guidelines to all states and UTs to deal with human-wildlife conflict situations. It included setting up rapid response teams, as well as provision of adequate funds for a suitable portion of ex-gratia relief to be paid within 24 hours to the affected persons in case of death and injury to persons.

While the states/union territories pay compensation as per their norms, the environment ministry also releases funds under its Centrally Sponsored Schemes to curb human-wildlife conflict. It had recently increased the ex-gratia payment in case of human-widlife conflict to Rs 10 lakh. As per the government data, around Rs 921 crore was released to Kerala in the current financial year under the scheme.





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Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Lucknow: Rahul Gandhi Targets BJP on ‘Unemployment’, ‘Hate’, Repeats Caste Census Vow

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Rahul said he was overwhelmed by the love and support the people of Lucknow showered on him. Pic/News18

The yatra that started from Manipur’s Thoubal on January 14 will conclude in Mumbai on March 20, covering over 6,700 kilometres and traversing through 110 districts

Riding a bright red open-air jeep on the 38th day of his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his entourage reached Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow on Tuesday. It was the yatra’s fifth day in the state.

Hundreds of people gathered along the roads to catch a glimpse of the Congress MP. The yatra that started from Manipur’s Thoubal on January 14 will conclude in Mumbai on March 20, covering over 6,700 kilometres and traversing through 110 districts. Prior to addressing a rally at Lucknow’s Ghanta Ghar, the old city area of the state capital, Rahul’s cavalcade stopped at several points where people greeted him in large numbers.

“Nafrat ke bazar mein mohabbat ki dukaan kholne nikle hain,” said the Congress leader, reiterating the aim behind the yatra while addressing the gathering at Lucknow’s Ghanta Ghar area late on Tuesday evening.

Rahul said he was overwhelmed by the love and support the people of Lucknow showered on him. “India is the country of love and peace. Last year we covered around 4,000 km from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to unite the country and to spread communal harmony. Though our yatra was much appreciated, some people pointed out that I should also visit UP, Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, and other states that I missed. So we embarked upon another yatra – Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra – covering Manipur to Maharashtra,” the Congress leader said.

While recounting his experiences from the first yatra, the Congress MP said he asked many “the reason behind the hatred being spread in the country”. “The answer was one–in this country people from the downtrodden groups can’t get justice, it is only meant for the higher class. The biggest injustice is financial injustice, which is being done to eradicate small traders,” he said.

The Congress leader pointed to incidents of exam question paper leak in UP, which he said were spoiling the future of many youths from the disadvantaged sections of society. He also highlighted the problem of unemployment, which he said is a major issue in the state, and also criticised the new Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces.

Rahul Gandhi said that if his party comes to power after the soon-to-be-held Lok Sabha elections, it would swiftly carry out the caste census, which is the only way to find out the social status of people belonging to the backward sections.

“It’s been six years since we last got paid. Rahul Gandhi ji is our only hope and it is the sole reason why we all are here to extend our support to him,” said Pankaj Mishra, a madarsa teacher, who had come from UP’s Shravasti district to meet Rahul Gandhi at KKC, a place where his yatra halted for a while after entering Lucknow. It paused again at Telibagh Crossing when a youngster requested the Congress leader for a selfie.

On Monday, the Congress leader reached Amethi with his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, where he addressed a rally and took potshots at the BJP government on several burning issues, including caste discrimination, unemployment, etc.

Rahul Gandhi, who received a warm response from Congress cadres and the common people at several places in Amethi, also reiterated the promises of guaranteed MSP for farmers and caste census.

Amethi was a Congress stronghold in Uttar Pradesh until Rahul Gandhi lost the Lok Sabha seat to BJP leader and union minister Smriti Irani by a margin of around 55,000 votes in the 2019 elections.



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