While Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan is busy railing against the Nitish Kumar government’s move to include Ravidas in the list of Maha Dalit castes, the State Administration insists that there are no political machinations behind the move, it is only aimed at economic uplift of the most backward classes.
“It is not a political stunt as alleged by the Opposition,” said K. P. Ramaiah, Secretary of the Maha Dalit Commission.
Speaking to The Hindu, he said the Bihar government was “merely providing an economic package for the benefit of the socially, educationally and cultural backward castes in the State”.
“We have decided not to follow the policy of bifurcating the castes as done in States like Punjab, Haryana and in the case of the Mallas and Madigas in Andhra Pradesh,” said Mr. Ramaiah.
“The Commission first tackled the smaller castes which totalled 18 in number. Then Pasi and Dhobi, who had no numeric representation and no colonies of their own, were added to this list,” said Mr. Ramaiah, adding that “the Pasi and Dhobi castes were scattered and spread out in nature, with only 3-4 people living in a village at times”.
“We decided to include the most populous of them – that is, the Chamars (Ravidas) as they themselves had demanded to be included in this list on grounds of benefits being provided to the Dhobis and Pasis,” he said.
“In Bihar, the majority of the Scheduled Castes are marginalised within the social fabric and their economic conditions are more or less the same. So the purpose of this package is that where there are no schools, we plan to set up one, where there are no hospitals, we endeavour to open one,” revealed Mr. Ramaiah.
According to him, the government’s first mission is to give land to the homeless.
“To purchase 3 to 5 decimals of land, we calculated that each family would need more than Rs.30,000. The total package cost for this is Rs.600 crore, while we have earmarked Rs.360 crore for the implementation in the first phase,” he said adding that the State government had come forward and taken the initiative to buy land for the Maha Dalit families.
The government also plans to give a radio to each of the 3 lakh-odd Maha Dalit families.
“It is vital that every family have a radio for news to reach them. Else how will they be aware of any impending calamities? Moreover, it would also help them in making informed decisions,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Paswan warned the Nitish Kumar government of dire consequences of including the Ravidas caste in its Maha Dalit quota.
“The Paswans have not written either for inclusion. All they have repeatedly said is that they object to the use of the word ‘Maha Dalit’ as they deem it to be unconstitutional; they cannot quite understand what to do,” said Mr. Ramaiah, while commenting that even so, the Commission would be studying the Paswan caste.
Speaking to The Hindu, LJP spokesperson Shailendra Pratap Singh said, “We have written to the Governor saying that the use of the word Maha Dalit is unconstitutional. Initially the Commission was set up to study the condition of the Musahars. But now, after JD (U)’s disastrous performance in the by-elections, Mr. Nitish Kumar is intent on securing the votes of the Ravidas caste,” dubbing the government’s schemes to uplift the status of the Scheduled Castes as windy promises.
After last week’s decision, the Paswan community remains the only one not to be included among the 22-caste ‘Maha Dalit’ list. In protest, the LJP plans to stage a ‘Dalit Unity’ procession in front of the State Assembly on December 17.