“Caste identity breaks the society, Bihari-ism unites.” Nitish had made this statement. Was it a political statement or the real wish of the Chief Minister? Should I expect ushering in of a bright beginning of political assistance in reducing the smell of the caste-bias in every response from the politicians and also sometimes the people of the region?
From the mails that I receive from the persons of Bihar’s origin living in different states of India and abroad, everyone is concerned about the developments in Bihar. They celebrate all the good news coming in media, but get morose with disturbing news too. And in most cases, the politicians as class are responsible for that.
The overwhelming caste-based approach in everything that happens in the state is shocking. For example, when the state president of the party of Chief Minister resigned, he was replaced by a person of the same caste, presumably to keep the people of the caste in good humour.
And as reported, leaders of the landed upper castes, cutting across the party lines, met in Patna on Wednesday to discuss the issues related to Bataidari (Sharecropping) Bill. They decided to organize a Kisan Mahapanchayat at Gandhi Maidan on May 2. I don’t understand if the bill will not trouble the landowners of other castes who are pretty big in numbers. So why didn’t the organizers call the representatives of landholders of all castes to participate?
Is it not unfortunate while the country is on fire in most of its corner, be it Kashmir, Manipur or Chattisgarh, some very senior cabinet ministers in New Delhi are debating and as I opine wasting their precious time on the issue of having a census on caste basis or not?
It is unfortunate but nothing can be done. I know many sections of the society are still very backward, and the reason for the same is only the lack of education. The leadership of the region over the last six decades has failed to understand the importance of education. Unfortunately, the so-called leaders of schedule castes or so called other backward class never understood nor attempted to bring about the revolution through education. Many a times, I and perhaps many hold a view that these leaders believed in the advantage in keeping the communities ignorant without education to keep their dominance in politics.
But my focus here is different. Let me emphasize that there is no difference between in other backward classes (OBC) and so called forward classes in the region, if one looks in depth in their quality of living, affluence level and even culture and values. I firmed up this view during my last visit to my village, when I happen to move around doing some research. Around my village that is predominantly of forward class, there are villages in which some are dominated by the forward class but in many, the people of other backward classes (OBC) are dominant. The dominance relates to the land holding of the village. In each of the village, the major landholding is with the families of different castes, and not necessarily forward classes. Let someone take an unbiased study of the living standard and style of the families. There is hardly much difference between those of the forward and OBC caste. Rather in many cases, on average OBC families may today be better off because of the traditional social taboos of restricting oneself to only the profession of the ancestors.
However, the families with no land holding, irrespective of castes but particularly dalits and mahadalits, need preferential treatment. Even the families of OBC and forward castes need government support as the financial conditions of a large number of them are miserable. With the abolition of the zamindari back in 1950s and breaking up of joint families in almost all castes and communities, the land holding on average is hardly between 2 to 5 acres. It is really difficult to make good living with that amount of land, particularly where the farming is totally dependent on the timely rain and monsoon.
Perpetuating the reservation or adding some more may be a political solution, but certainly not the best solution to bring about equity in society and improving the relationships between various classes and categories.
Instead of waiving off the loans, the government must work extensively on irrigation projects small and big conserving all the water and its use and for ensured rural electrification for every household who can afford for improving employability through individual entrepreneurships.
Every child must be ensured the traditional or job oriented (skill building) education to have employability.
The overall cost to the nation because of the dismal healthcare infrastructure is huge. The government and the private sector must pour huge investment. Many families even today spend everything in its possession to save life from deceases and remain in perpetual poverty.
But the most important is that all the actions must generate and improve the fellowship and brotherhood among the all people, and nothing should be done that is divisive, for example caste census.
Let few regional leaders not make mess of this great nation.
The views expressed by the author are personal.