In Bihar census, caste code for ‘third gender’ community triggers row

The second phase of the survey will be conducted from April 15 to May 15

April 07, 2023 08:16 pm | Updated April 08, 2023 12:33 am IST - Patna

Enumerators collect information from residents during the first phase of the caste-based census in Bihar.

Enumerators collect information from residents during the first phase of the caste-based census in Bihar. | Photo Credit: PTI

In Bihar, where the second phase of the caste survey will be done from April 15 to May 15, the caste code for ‘third gender’ has been numerically allotted as 22, whereas, for Brahmins it is 126, Bhumihars 142 and for Rajputs 169. The members of the ‘third gender’ community are fuming over the caste code given to them in the survey, asking how transgender people can be considered a caste.

When the Central government said it could not hold a caste census for some reasons, the Bihar government on its own had launched a caste-based headcount in the State from January 7, 2023, which was over by January 21, in which the trained surveyors counted houses. Now, in the second phase, which will be kicked off on April 15, the surveyors will have to fill a form with 17 columns with details obtained from the people living in those houses, and physical forms will be matched with app forms through unique barcodes. The second phase will end on May 15 and by the month-end, all formalities of the caste-based survey is likely to be completed.

The State government had allotted ₹500 crore for conducting the exercise. The decision to conduct a caste survey was taken by the Bihar Cabinet on June 2, 2022. The survey will be conducted on an estimated population of 12.70 crore in around 2.58 crore households in all 38 districts, comprising 534 blocks and 261 urban local bodies.

In all, 215 codes

In the survey form, 215 codes have been allotted to different castes. However, the survey stirred a controversy for allotting a caste code for the ‘third gender’ community. Members of the transgender community have been allotted numerical caste code in the form as no. 22. The upper caste Brahmins will have the number 126, but no separate number has been given for its sub-castes such as Kanyakubj, Shandilya or Maithil Brahmins. Similarly, the code for the Rajput caste is 169 and Bhumihars is 142 and Kayastha 21. The codes have also been given to religions, offspring out of inter-religious wedlock, and even to professions such as doctors and lawyers.

“How can gender be considered as a caste? Can members belonging to the transgender community be of any particular caste? Can a male or female be considered as caste,” said Reshma Prasad, a transgender person and former secretary of a Patna-based organisation for the transgender community — Dostana Safar.

“It’s a criminal act by the government, it is against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, which talks about the prevention of discrimination of transgender persons,” she said. Ms. Prasad also demanded that the Social Welfare Department of the State government intervene and “rectify the column identifying the members of third generation’ as a caste in the survey form. “I would like to speak to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as well on this,” she said.

According to the 2011 Census, the total population of transgender persons in the State is 40,827. Earlier, in 2014, in a judgment, the Supreme Court had pronounced that transgender persons be treated as ‘third gender’ for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under part III of the Constitution, as well as the laws made by Parliament and the State legislatures.

Bihar’s Social Welfare Minister Madan Sahni has said, “if they [members of the third gender] have any issues, they must contact the department concerned and discuss their grievances with senior officials there”. “The government, though, has taken several welfare measures for improving their [transgender community] social-economic condition. The General Administration Department (GAD) of the State government is the nodal authority for the caste-based headcount survey in the State.

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