Bengali Report - Bengalee Association Bihar

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Bengali Report - Bengalee Association Bihar

CONTENTS

ii

Page No.

List of Tables i

Section I : Introduction 1-4

Approach of the Survey 3

Structure of the Report 4

Section II : Socio-Economic Conditions of Bengali Population 5-26

Structure of Sample 5

Demographic Profile 6

Literacy Status 9

Employment Patterns 12

Economic Status 15

Housing Conditions 21

Section III : Bengali Refugees from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) 27-33

Domicile Status 27

Displacement and Rehabilitation 28

Caste Status 30

A.K. Biswas Report 33

Section IV : Conclusions 36-39

Appendix A : Questionnaire for Survey 40-41

Appendix B : A List of Scheduled Castes in Bihar and West Bengal 42

Appendix C : Report of A.K. Biswas 43-49

Appendix D : Office Order of Deputy Commissioner, East Champaran 50-51


Table 1 : Sample Size of Survey

LIST OF TABLES

Table 2 : Demographic Profile of Bengali Population

Table 3 : Percentage Distribution of Persons (Above 6 Years) by Education Status

Table 4 : Percentage Distribution of Households by the Highest Level of Literacy of

Members

Table 5 : Knowledge of Bengali among Bengali Population (About 6 Years)

Table 6 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Population (15 Years or above) by Occupation

(Male)

Table 7 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Population (15 Years or above) by Occupation

(Female)

Table 8 : Percentage Distribution of Households by Their Landholding

Table 9 : Leasing Out and Mortgaging of Land by Landowning Households

Table 10 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by the Monthly Income

Table 11 : Percentage of Bengali Households by Type of Their Ration Cards

Table 12 : Percentage of Bengali Households Benefited by Selected Government Welfare

Programmes

Table 13 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Type of Ownership of Their

House

Table 14 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Type of Roof and Floor of Their

Dwellings

Table 15 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Source of Drinking Water

Table 16 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Toilet Facilities at Their House

Table 17 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Availability of Electricity at Their

Houses

Table 18 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Their Domicile Status

Table 19 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Their Year of

Displacement

Table 20 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Their Year of

Rehabilitation

Table 21 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Land Allocated to

Them

Table 22 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Their Caste Category

According to the Bihar Caste List

Table 23 : Information on Mismatch between Caste Classification of Bengali Households

iii i


SECTION I

INTRODUCTION

The history of Bengali population in Bihar is very long. Because of their long stay in

Bihar, a majority of them are indeed as Bihari as any other, except for the distinction

that their mother tongue is Bengali, not Hindi. Broadly speaking, the Bengali

population in Bihar can be divided into a few broad categories. The first of these

covers those who have been original residents of Bihar in the districts adjacent to

West Bengal, particularly in the Purnea division in north-eastern region of the state.

In the second category, one may include those who have migrated to Bihar, once

the colonial administration had started spreading its wings from Bengal, its initial

seal. This stream of migration from Bengal had started sometime in the nineteenth

century and continued till the beginning of the next century; thereafter, the state's

own education system was able to produce enough number of qualified persons to

fill the posts in colonial administration, arresting the trend of migration of Bengalis

from Bengal to Bihar. The third category of Bengali population in Bihar includes

those who have migrated to the state on their own, either before or after

independence, mainly for employment opportunities. Finally, there is a large size of

Bengali population in Bihar who had come here as refugees from East Pakistan

(now Bangladesh), right after the partition of the country. As a part of the national

policy of rehabilitation for refugees from East Pakistan, these Bengalis were actually

brought to Bihar through state initiative, and they were gradually rehabilitated

mostly in the districts of West Champaran and East Champaran, but some families

were also rehabilitated in Purnea, Katihar and Bhagalpur. In view of this historical

trend, it is obvious that, an overwhelming proportion of Bengali population in Bihar

are permanent residents of the state, those residing here temporarily for reasons of

employment being a rather small fraction. Contrary to general impression, it should

be noted that a substantial section of the Bengali population in Bihar lives in rural

areas. These rural Bengali population includes those who are original residents of

1


the state and the substantial number of refugee population settled in West

Champaran and East Champaran.

According to 2001 census, the size of the Bengali population in Bihar was 4.43 lakh,

which is estimated to reach the figure of about 5.30 lakh in 2011. It is quite likely

that this is an underestimate of the size of the Bengali population in Bihar, since the

mother tongue of a large number of them might have been recorded as Hindi,

because of certain deficiencies in census operations. An alternative estimate by

knowledgeable sources puts the present size of Bengali population to be close to

12 lakhs. This is indeed a believable figure, since the official records show that the

number of refugee Bengalis settled in Bihar in the late fifties was close to 3.5 lakh.

By now, this part of the Bengali population itself must be accounting for about 7 lakh

Bengalis. Outside West Bengal and Tripura, the two states where Bengali is the

principal language, the size of the Bengali population in Bihar is the third highest,

only after Assam and Jharkhand. Unlike the Bengali population in some other states

of India where they are found mostly in the urban areas, those residing in Bihar are

found both in the rural and urban areas, as mentioned before.

Since about 12 lakh Bengalis constitute only a small fraction of the total population

of Bihar at 103.8 million, they are considered as a linguistic minority in the state.

Presently, only one out of every 100 Biharis is a Bengali-speaking person. As is the

case with minority population anywhere, the Bengali population in Bihar also suffers

from certain social and economic disadvantages. One obvious disadvantage arises

from the fact that they do not enjoy the opportunity of being educated in their

mother tongue, and this also often translates into cultural disadvantages for the

Bengalis. Next, the overall socio-economic status of the Bengali population is also

inferior to that of the general population and this has been substantiated by the

results of the present survey. Finally, those refugee Bengalis who had settled in

Bihar also face certain problems regarding their caste-status. This problem is rather

serious since, to avail the benefits of various state government welfare

2


programmes, it is now often necessary to produce a duly issued caste-certificate. In

the past, the refugee Bengali population also had to face the problem of citizenship

which, however, has since been solved.

In the past, the Bihar Bengali Association had repeatedly approached the

concerned officials of Government of Bihar to redress various difficulties faced by

the Bengali population, and the state government has already taken some positive

steps in that direction. However, to identify a comprehensive policy towards the

Bengali population, particularly the refugee population, the Honourable Chief

Minister had requested the Bihar Bengali Association to prepare a comprehensive

document on their socio-economic status and the specific problems that refugee

Bengali population is facing here. The Bihar Bengali Association, after agreeing to

the request, had requested the Bihar State Minorities Commission for necessary

help on this regard, since Bengalis form a linguistic minority in the state. The

Commission, in turn, had approached the Centre for Economic Policy and Public

Finance (CEPPF) at the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), Patna for

the survey, since the organisation had done a similar survey for the Muslim

population in Bihar. The purpose of the present survey is just the same, viz.,

creation of an information base on Bengali population in Bihar, based on some

primary data, collected from across the state.

Approach of the Survey

Taking into account the availability of resources, it was first decided that the sample

size for the present survey will be 10,000 households. One possible approach to

select the sample households was to divide it among those district where there

resides a sizeable Bengali population and distribute the total sample size among

those districts proportionally. One could prepare a list of such districts from the

2001 census data. But such an approach would have implied rather small sample

from many of the districts. It was, therefore, decided to restrict the number of

districts to only 5, each of which has a very large Bengali population. Two of these

3


districts are Purnea and Katihar where the Bengali population are largely original

inhabitants. The next two districts were West Champaran and East Champaran

where the refugees from East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) were rehabilitated

after independence, because of partition of Bengal. As mentioned before, knowing

about the socio-economic conditions of this refuge population is one of the specific

objectives of the survey. In all these 4 districts, the sample households were from

the rural areas. Finally, it was decided to include Bhagalpur as one of the sample

districts where the sample households were from Bhagalpur town, providing an

information base for urban Bengali population. It should be noted here that the

Bengali population in Bhagalpur town are generally old settlers.

The questionnaire for the household survey (Appendix A) had included a number of

enquiries, some on the individuals and others on the household. For the individuals,

the survey had collected data on their sex, age, marital status, educational

achievements, occupation, knowledge about their mother tongue Bengali, and

whether the adults among them were listed as voters. For the household level

information, the survey had tried to find out their economic status, living conditions,

problems encountered in caste-classification and, finally, how complete has been

the rehabilitation for the refugee households.

Structure of the Report

After this introductory section, Section 2 of the report presents an analysis of the

socio-economic conditions of the Bengali population along the characteristics that

were included in the survey questionnaire. Since the refugee Bengali population

faces a number of special problems regarding their rehabilitation process, Section 3

tries to identify these issues, and the extent of severity of these problems. Finally,

Section 4 summarises the main findings of the survey, and also records some

suggestions for the state government to ameliorate the conditions of the Bengali

population.

4


SECTION II

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OF BENGALI POPULATION

For historical reasons, the Bengalis in Bihar constitute a rather heterogeneous

population in terms of their socio-economic status. The differences are observed

not only between the rural and urban areas, but among the various regions or

districts as well. At one end, the households vary first in terms of their domicile

status (whether original residents or came to Bihar as immigrants), and secondly,

with respect to the economic opportunities that are available to them in their

respective regions. This section is focused on the socio-economic status of the

overall Bengali population, as well as some differences that are observed across

different districts. Wherever possible, the socio-economic conditions of the Bengali

population has been compared with that the general population in Bihar.

Structure of Sample

The sample for the present survey, as mentioned before, was selected from 5

districts of Bihar — Purnea, Katihar, West Champaran, East Champaran and

Bhagalpur. Two of these 5 districts (Purnea and Katihar) were choosen to obtain

information largely on the Bengalis who are original residents of the state; data from

the next two districts (West Champaran and East Champaran) was expected to

provide knowledge about the refugee Bengali population in Bihar; and finally,

Bhagalpur was choosen to obtain required information on the urban Bengalis, most

of whom have settled in Bihar long ago.

In place of 10,000 households that was originally planned as the sample size for the

survey, the Field Investigators had finally collected data from 10,536 household, the

distribution of which among the 5 districts in presented in Table 1. It would have

been better if the overall sample size was even more spread out among

the 4 districts (Purnea, Katihar, East Champaran and Bhagalpur), at the cost of

5


Districts

Table 1 : Sample Size of Survey

Households Persons

Number Percentage Number Percentage

Purnea 2192 20.8 10979 21.9

Katihar 1383 13.1 5569 11.1

West Champaran 4994 47.4 24517 48.8

East Champaran 1642 15.6 7502 14.9

Bhagalpur 325 3.1 1671 3.3

All Districts 10536 100.0 50238 100.0

West Champaran where the sample size was very large. But this limitation of the

survey would not really affect its results, since absolute size of the sample in each

district is fairly large.

Demographic Profile

To begin with, it is first noted from Table 2 that the average household size for the

Bengali population in 4.8 persons, compared to 5.5 persons for general population

in Bihar, as per the 2001 census. There could be two reasons for this demographic

difference — first, the proportion of nuclear households is higher among the Bengali

population than among the general population and, second, the fertility rate for the

Bengali population is lower compared to the general population. One should also

note here that the average size of the household varies considerably among the

districts, from only 4.0 persons in Katihar to 5.1 persons in Bhagalpur. That the

average size of household is the highest in Bhagalpur is, of course, somewhat

surprising in view of the fact that they represent the urban Bengalis.

6


Districts

Table 2 : Demographic Profile of Bengali Population

Average

Househo

ld Size

All Ages

Sex Ratio Percentage

of

0-6

Years

7

population

above 60

years

Literacy Rate

Male Female Person

Purnea 5.0 920 951 6.3 78.1 68.3 73.5

Katihar 4.0 932 940 5.9 91.3 76.8 79.5

West Champaran 4.9 918 947 5.4 65.2 47.6 56.9

East Champaran 4.6 949 945 5.4 65.7 44.4 55.9

Bhagalpur 5.1 971 975 9.2 93.9 93.7 93.8

All Districts 4.8 938 948 5.8 78.8 66.2 71.9

Bihar 5.5 916 933 6.8 73.4 53.3 63.8

The demographic profile of the Bengali population in Bihar also appears to be better

than that of its general population in terms of yet another characteristics — sex ratio

(Table 2). In contrast to a sex ratio of 916 females per 1000 males (for all ages) for

the general population, it is a little higher at 938 females for the Bengali population.

One also observes considerable inter-district variations here, Purnea recording the

lowest sex ratio of 920 and Bhagalpur recording the highest sex ratio at 971. When

one moves to the sex-ratio for the children in the age-group 0-6 years, it registers

an improvement, both for the Bengali population (938 to 948) and the general

population (916 to 933). This obviously indicates that the unfortunate

social practice of gender discrimination is diminishing in Bihar, across all sections of

the society.

In the absence of any detailed information on the health status of the population,

the present survey has found out the 'percentage of population above 60 years' as

a broad indicator of its health condition (Table 2). A higher percentage figure

obviously indicates higher longevity of the population and, thereby, implies relatively

better health conditions for them.


According to the present survey, only 5.8 percent of the total Bengali population

were above 60 years of age, the comparable figure for the general population being

slightly higher at 6.8 percent, as per the 2001 census. In other words, the average

8


health status of the Bengali population is probably inferior to that of the general

population. It is quite possible that the urban population enjoys a relatively better

health status vis-à-vis their rural counterparts, both for the Bengali and general

population. At least among the Bengali urban population in Bhagalpur, the

percentage of population above 66 years was substantially higher at 9.2 percent.

Literacy Status

In spite of the fact that a major portion of the sample households in the present

survey is from rural areas where the literacy rates are usually lower, it is interesting

to note that the recorded literacy rate for the surveyed Bengali population was 71.9

percent, a clear 8.1 percentage point more than the literacy rate for the general

population in Bihar (63.8 percent), as per 2011 census (Table 2). There were only

two districts where the literacy rate of the Bengali population was found to be low —

West Champaran (56.9 percent) and East Champaran (55.9 percent). As

mentioned before, Bengali population residing in these two districts are generally

refugees and they are indeed socially disadvantaged in many respects. It is also

interesting to know that the literacy rate for the urban Bengalis is very high (93.8

percent), as observed for the sample households in Bhagalpur.

Apart from recording a higher literacy rate, the gender disparity in literacy rate is

also noticeably lower among the Bengali population than among the general

population in Bihar (Table 2). Among the Bengalis, the female literacy rate (66.2

percent) is 84 percent of the male literacy rate (78.8 percent); however, among the

general population, the female literacy rate (53.3 percent) is only 73 percent of the

male literacy rate (73.4 percent). This lower gender disparity with respect to literacy

rate is observed in all the districts, particularly in Bhagalpur where the two gender-

specific literacy rates are nearly equal (93.7 and 93.9 percent, for females and

males respectively).

Since a person is generally defined to be literate using a very liberal criterion in

most socio-economic surveys in India (including the present survey), the literacy

9


ate of a population is often an insufficient indicator of its educational status. For a

comprehensive idea of about the educational status of a population, one should

really consider the distribution of the population in various categories of educational

levels and Table 3 presents such a distribution for the Bengali population of Bihar. It

is immediately observed there that a large percentage of the literate Bengalis have

only marginal educational achievements, i.e., below matriculation. One cannot

expect such people to derive much advantage of education through either skill

formation, or wider income opportunities, or higher levels of awareness on social

issues. Among the Bengali population, only 16.2 percent of the persons are seen to

have passed matriculation or any other higher examinations. This is indeed a low

figure, pointing to the educational disadvantaged of the Bengalis, in spite of bare

literacy skills that many of them posess. As before, the educational status is the

worst for the Bengali population in West Champaran and East Champaran, followed

by the two north-eastern districts of Purnea and Katihar; the educational status is, of

course, the best in Bhagalpur since it represents the urban Bengali population.

Table 3 : Percentage Distribution of Persons (Above 6 Years) by Education Status

Districts

Illiterate

Just

Literate

Percentage of Persons

Literate,

but below

Matric

10

Matric, but

below

Graduation

Graduate

and

above

Total

Purnea 18.5 43.4 18.3 14.4 5.5 100.0

Katihar 15.3 46.6 15.6 17.6 5.0 100.0

West Champaran 35.3 31.0 23.8 8.7 1.1 100.0

East Champaran 36.8 28.4 23.6 9.5 1.6 100.0

Bhagalpur 3.3 12.4 8.2 31.6 44.4 100.0

All Districts 28.1 34.2 21.0 12.0 4.2 100.0

As a supplementary information on the educational status of Bengali population in

Bihar, Table 4 presents the percentage distribution of households by the highest


level of education of any of its members. The rationale for this information lies in the

fact that it gives an estimate of 'first generation learners' in a population which, as

has been underlined by many researchers, is an important challenge for the spread

of literacy and education. Assuming that it is necessary for at least one member of

the household to have primary education so that next generation learners can have

at-home learning inputs, it is observed that only about half the Bengali households

(50.2 percent) have this advantage. If one considers matriculation as the minimum

level of education required to provide at-home learning inputs to young children, the

proportion of households with at least one matriculate person is found to be only

33.0 percent among the Bengali households. It is quite likely that, for the general

population in Bihar, this advantage is even narrower, implying a larger proportion of

first generation learners.

Table 4 : Percentage Distribution of Households by the Highest Level of Literacy of

Members

Districts

Illiterate

Percentage of Households with highest level of literacy at

Below

Primary

Above

Primary,

Below

Matric

11

Above

Matric,

Below

Graduate

Graduate

and

Above

Total

Purnea 5.2 42.5 11.6 13.1 27.6 100.0

Katihar 6.7 41.9 10.9 15.4 25.1 100.0

West

Champaran

12.1 39.5 23.4 14.4 10.6 100.0

East Champaran 10.5 46.7 14.0 18.6 10.2 100.0

Bhagalpur 0.3 5.2 1.2 6.2 87.1 100.0

All Districts 9.3 40.5 17.2 14.7 18.3 100.0

By virtue of residing in Bihar, either as an original resident or as an immigrant, one

special problem for the Bengali population in Bihar is an insufficient knowledge of

Bengali language, their mother tongue. It is quite common to come across Bengalis

who are literate, but their knowledge of Bengali language is very limited. This


happens because they do not have the opportunity of receiving their elementary

education in Bengali; they attend schools imparting education either in Hindi, the

local language, or in a limited number of cases, in English. The present survey had,

therefore, tried to find out the percentage of Bengalis who can read and write

Bengali language. It is obviously assumed that they all can at least speak Bengali

and it is a reasonable assumption. The pitiable condition of the Bengali population

in this regard is presented in Table 5. As regards reading abilities, only one-third of

the Bengalis are reported to be able to read the Bengali script, either with difficulty

or easily. A similar situation is also observed with respect to their abilities for writing

Bengali script. Among the 5 districts, the situation is the worst in West Champaran

and East Champaran, it is slightly better in Purnea and Katihar, and rather

satisfactory is Bhagalpur. Residing as they do in a Hind-speaking state, such

absence of knowledge about their mother tongue may not be an economic

disadvantage for the Bengali population, but it certainly implies a cultural

deprivation for them.

Table 5 : Knowledge of Bengali among Bengali Population (Above 6 Years)

Districts

Can't

Read

Reading Writing

Percentage of persons who Percentage of persons who

Read

with

difficulty

Read

easily

12

All

Can't

write

Write

with

difficulty

Write

easily

Purnea 44.8 9.2 46.0 100.0 45.2 9.0 45.8 100.0

Katihar 27.2 31.6 41.2 100.0 28.4 31.4 40.1 100.0

West Champaran 81.5 8.8 9.6 100.0 81.8 8.0 9.4 100.0

East Champaran 83.3 6.6 10.1 100.0 83.2 6.6 10.1 100.0

Bhagalpur 11.0 6.4 82.6 100.0 15.1 10.5 74.5 100.0

All Districts 64.7 11.2 24.1 100.0 65.1 11.3 23.6 100.0

Employment Patterns

Towards knowing the employment patterns of the Bengali population of Bihar, the

present survey had collected two pieces of information — work participation ratio for

All


the adult population, and occupational distribution of those who are employed. Two

tables present this information, separately for males (Table 6) and females

(Table 7).

Table 6 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Population (15 Years or above)

by Occupation (Male)

Districts

Work

Participation

Ratio

Selfemployment

(Agr.)

Percentage of Population having the occupation of

Selfemployment

(Non-

Agr.)

13

Wage

Labour

(Irregular)

Service

(Informal

Sector)

Service

(Formal

Sector)

Service

(Formal

Government

Sector)

Total

Purnea 54.1 25.0 30.2 35.1 4.0 3.5 2.1 100.0

Katihar 55.1 15.0 30.4 38.6 2.9 5.3 7.8 100.0

West Champaran 45.6 36.7 10.9 50.1 0.7 0.4 1.2 100.0

East Champaran 50.8 28.8 12.2 53.7 2.8 0.8 1.7 100.0

Bhagalpur 62.1 0.4 49.0 1.3 6.1 23.6 32.4 100.0

All Districts 49.9 28.6 19.4 43.7 2.3 2.7 3.3 100.0

Table 7 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Population (15 Years or above) by Occupation

(Female)

Districts

Work

Participation

Ratio

Selfemploy

ment

(Agr.)

Percentage of Population having the occupation of

Selfemployment

(Non-

Agr.)

Wage

Labour

(Irregula

r)

Service

(Informal

Sector)

Service

(Formal

Sector)

Service

(Formal

Government

Sector)

Total

Purnea 10.0 49.3 13.9 27.1 1.4 1.8 6.7 100.0

Katihar 10.9 6.0 25.2 29.5 5.0 11.1 23.2 100.0

West Champaran 5.2 30.6 10.8 49.2 2.5 1.7 6.3 100.0

East Champaran 8.9 8.1 41.6 41.3 1.3 0.3 7.4 100.0

Bhagalpur 12.8 1.0 35.3 3.8 9.5 19.0 32.4 100.0

All Districts 7.7 26.3 20.0 35.9 2.8 4.0 10.9 100.0


The overall work participation rate for the male Bengali population is found to be

49.9 percent, which is slightly lower than the rate for the general population in Bihar

(47.4 percent), as per the 2001 census (Table 6). The work participation rates,

however, display wide variation across the districts, ranging from only 45.6 percent

in West Champaran to 62.1 percent in Bhagalpur. These differences in the work

participation rates are largely attributable to the educational achievements of the

adult members of the population. However, the poor economic conditions of the

Bengali population is indeed reflected by the next piece of information, viz., the

distribution of workers by their occupational categories. Among the 6 categories

presented in the table, the most disadvantageous category is the 'irregular wage

labour' and this accounts for nearly half (43.7 percent) of the male workers. From

the survey, it also emerges that the second most important occupational category is

self-employment in agriculture (28.6 percent). However, in view of the limited

endowment of land for the Bengali households (as discussed later), even this

category of occupation is not an advantageous one. In other words, only a small

portion of the male Bengali workers are engaged in occupations that ensures

reasonable levels of income. It is, however, interesting to note that only 3.3 percent

of the male Bengali workers are employed in the government sector, by far the most

advantageous occupation category.

In contrast to the pattern for men, the work participation ratio of adult women

Bengali population (7.7 percent) is much lower than that for the general population

(18.8 percent) (Table 7). Unlike for males, the female work participation rate in

regions like Bihar is dependent on several factors including land endowment,

educational standards, and caste background of the individuals. In case of Bengali

women, their educational standards were a little higher compared to that of general

women population, but their land endowment was less, and they also belonged to

such castes whose women folk do not generally join workforce. As such, it is not

surprising that their work participation rate is lower than that of general women

population of Bihar. Among the 5 districts, the work participation rate for women

14


Bengalis was found to be the highest in Bhagalpur, where they were all from the

urban areas. It was the lowest in West Champaran (5.2 percent).

It is also interesting to note from Table 7 that, although the work participation rate

was rather low for Bengali women, those who did join the workforce are spread

across several sectors, including irregular wage labour which accounted for about

one-third (35.9 percent) of the Bengali women workers. Secondly, one may also

note from the table that no less than 10.9 percent of the Bengali women workers

are employed in formal government sector. This, as mentioned before, is a

preferred occupation category. These women workers in formal government sector

are concentrated in the two districts of Katihar (23.2 percent) and Bhagalpur (32.4

percent). This is a rather high share and it appears that they are employed mostly

as teachers, or ASHA (Accredited Social Health Associates) workers or Anganwadi

Sevikas. This is likely in view of the relatively higher literacy rates among the

Bengali women.

Economic Status

It is true that a substantial number of Bengalis in Bihar live in urban areas and they

are generally well educated and are engaged in activities that bring them decent

income. But, this economic image of the Bengali population is rather misleading, as

a large section of the Bengalis in Bihar reside in rural areas and many of them are

economically disadvantaged.

Since land is the most important source of livelihood in the rural areas, it is of

interest to know the land endowment of the Bengali households (Table 8). For the

overall sample, it is found that nearly half of the Bengali households (49.4 percent)

are landless. This landlessness is a much wider phenomenon is Purnea (85.1

percent) and Katihar (72.9 percent), although a majority of the Bengali population

there are original residents of Bihar; one would have expected most of these

households to posess some amount of land. In case of Bengali households in West

15


Champaran and East Champaran, they are relatively better off in terms of land

endowment since, as a part of the rehabilitation policy of the state government,

most of the refugee households were provided with some land for their livelihood.

However, over the years, there must have been fragmentation of the initial holdings

and, as such, the proportion of households presently having at least 2 acres of land

does not exceed 10 percent in either of the districts. In other words, even among

the Bengali agricultural households with some land, the majority of them are either

marginal or small farmers. In any case, it is obvious that the land endowment

pattern of the Bengali households are quite different in two eastern districts of

Purnea and Katihar at one hand, and two western districts of West Champaran and

East Champaran on the other.

Districts

Table 8 : Percentage Distribution of Households by Their Landholding

Landless 0.1-1.0

acre

Percentage of Households having land

1.1-2.0

acre

16

2.1-4.0

acre

4.1-6.0

acre

More

than 6.0

acre

Purnea 85.1 8.6 3.6 1.6 0.2 0.9 100.0

Katihar 72.9 15.9 2.8 5.8 0.8 1.8 100.0

West Champaran 31.0 41.9 17.4 5.5 2.9 1.3 100.0

East Champaran 27.6 49.7 16.1 3.8 2.6 0.1 100.0

All Districts 49.4 31.5 11.9 4.3 1.9 1.1 100.0

Note : Bhagalpur is excluded from the table, since it had all urban households

The difference between the two regions, however, is not just restricted to land

endowment; one can also observe certain difference between the two regions with

respect to management of land as well by the households (Table 9). In Purnea and

Katihar, because of limited land availability and long domicile status of the Bengali

households, the practice of leasing out land by the landowners is very limited (less

All


than 3 percent) and so is their tendency to mortgage land for obtaining loans (less

than 4 percent). In contrast, the practice of leasing out land is much wider in both

West Champaran (19.4 percent) and East Champaran (38.0 percent). It was also

found out during the field work that these leasing practices are generally within the

Bengali population. It appears that Bengali households in these two districts with

relatively more amount of land lease out part of their holdings to other Bengali

households which are either landless or have very limited amount of land for self-

cultivation. It is not the usual type of tenancy where households with large account

of land lease out part of their holdings to small or medium farmers. It also appears

that, for various reasons, the income from agriculture for the Bengali households is

rather limited and, consequently, they often have to mortgage their land for

obtaining loans. The proportion of households mortgaging land was as high as 23.5

percent in West Champaran; in East Champaran it was lower at 9.6 percent.

Table 9 : Leasing Out and Mortgaging of Land by Landowning Households

Districts

Percentage of

Landowning Households

Leasing

out land

17

Mortgaging

land

Purnea 1.2 3.7

Katihar 2.7 0.1

West Champaran 19.4 23.5

East Champaran 38.0 9.6

All Districts 21.8 17.5

Note : Bhagalpur is excluded from the table, since it had all urban households

Taking into account all the sources of income, either agricultural or non-agricultural,

the overall economic status of the Bengali households seems to be rather low

(Table 10). More than half (56.6 percent) of the Bengali households had reported


their monthly income to be Rs. 3000 or less, which undoubtedly puts them into the

category of below poverty level (BPL) households. Unfortunately, the rehabilitated

refugee Bengali population in West Champaran and East Champaran are worst off

in terms of income levels, in spite of their relatively better land endowments. It

appears that, because of their social disadvantages in terms of literacy or caste

status, they are yet to acquire enough knowledge and skill, enabling them to

undertake high income occupations outside the rural economy. In analysing these

income figures for Bengali households, it is pertinent to remember that the poor

households usually understate their income; as such, the actual economic

conditions of many of these households may be a little better. But even after making

some premium for the understated income figures, it will still be rational to maintain

that the overall economic status of the Bengali population in Bihar is rather low.

However, as mentioned before, this economic disadvantage is limited to those

Bengali households who reside in rural areas. For those Bengalis living in urban

areas, the income levels are often decent, as indicated by the income figures for the

sample households in Bhagalpur.

Table 10 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Monthly Income

Districts

Less

than

3000

Percentage of Households with monthly income of (Rs.)

3001 to

5000

18

5000 to

10000

10000 to

10000

More

than

15000

Total

Purnea 48.9 31.1 16.6 2.7 0.8 100.0

Katihar 50.6 26.7 18.0 3.2 1.5 100.0

West Champaran 66.6 21.0 11.5 0.6 0.3 100.0

East Champaran 52.6 33.1 13.0 0.6 0.5 100.0

Bhagalpur 2.2 39.7 24.0 16.3 17.8 100.0

All Districts 56.6 26.0 14.3 1.9 1.1 100.0


The most substantive welfare programme of the state government for helping the

economically disadvantaged population is the Public Distribution System (PDS) for

foodgrains and a few other essential items of consumption. Although it is a

universal programme, the real beneficiaries are those who hold a ration card which

is either red (BPL household), or white (annapurna programme) or yellow (antodaya

programme). The households living above poverty line (APL) are given a blue card.

The distribution of ration cards of various types by the administration is beset with a

number of problems in Bihar, and the situation is no different for Bengali

households. In spite of wide prevalence of poverty, the proportion of Bengali

households holding a red, yellow or white card is less than 40 percent (Table 11).

Since the poverty level among the Bengali population is relatively higher in West

Champaran and East Champaran, one also finds relatively more red/white/yellow

cards in those districts. Yet another problem for the Bengali households vis-à-vis

public distribution system is that 30.4 percent of them do not have any ration card. It

is quite possible that some of these excluded households probably did not care to

19


obtain a ration card, as they are high income (above poverty line or APL)

households, but it is almost certain that a majority of these excluded households

could not obtain a ration card of proper kind due to administrative lapses. Leaving

aside Bhagalpur where BPL households are very limited, the above administrative

lapse was more prominent in West Champaran and East Champaran, the two

districts where poverty levels are relatively higher.

Table 11 : Percentage of Bengali Households by Type of Their Ration Cards

Districts

APL

Card

(Blue)

BPL

Card

(Red)

Percentage of Households with

Annapurna

Card

(White)

20

Antodaya

Card

(Yellow)

No Card Total

Purnea 56.8 27.8 0.3 2.5 12.6 100.0

Katihar 40.8 25.4 0.6 4.1 29.1 100.0

West Champaran 23.6 34.7 0.1 5.9 35.7 100.0

East Champaran 12.8 47.3 0.1 5.1 34.8 100.0

Bhagalpur 46.2 0.6 0.0 0.1 52.9 100.0

All Districts 31.8 33.0 0.2 4.7 30.4 100.0

The state government runs a number of other welfare programmes for the poor

households, besides the public distribution system for foodgrains. Four of these

additional welfare programmes are — Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Subsidy for Toilet,

Old Age Pension, and Widow Pension. Unfortunately, the reach of all these welfare

programmes among the Bengali households is very limited, as revealed by the

figures in Table 12. Only under the IAY programme, a small proportion of Bengali

households (6.4 percent) has been benefited; for the remaining three welfare

programmes, their reach among the Bengali population is abysmally low. And this

phenomenon of exclusion is observed in all the districts.


Table 12 : Percentage of Bengali Households Benefited by Selected Government Welfare

Programmes

Districts

Indira

Awas

Yojana

Percentage of Households Benefited from

Subsidy

for Toilet

21

Old Age

Pension

Widow

Pension

Kisan

Credit

Card

Purnea 6.2 0.6 1.3 0.1 32.6

Katihar 9.9 0.1 0.0 0.5 0.0

West Champaran 3.0 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.0

East Champaran 15.4 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.0

All Districts 6.4 0.2 0.3 0.1 6.8

Since agriculture happens to be the livelihood of many Bengali households in rural

areas, the availability of institutional credit for farm operations is very important for

them. This is not a welfare programme of the kind mentioned above, but the welfare

implication of institutional credit for agricultural households is obvious. The Kisan

Credit Card (KCC) is meant for such institutional credit for agriculture.

Unfortunately, the coverage of KCC is extremely limited for the Bengali agricultural

households. It may, however, be noted here that such limited coverage of KCC is a

general phenomenon in most districts of Bihar, and it may not be related to any

social background of the agricultural households. The only exception to this overall

trend is the district of Purnea where no less than 32.6 percent of the households

had the benefit of institutional credit through KCC.

Housing Conditions

From the information on landholding, monthly income, and a few other related

characteristics of the Bengali population in Bihar, as discussed before, it is quite

apparent that their overall economic conditions is far from comfortable. This


conclusion gets further reiterated when one looks at the housing conditions of the

Bengali households. It is true that most Bengali households (94.4 percent) own their

own house across all the 5 districts (Table 13), but the condition of those houses

are indeed poor in terms of type of roof material, type of floor material, sources of

drinking water, toilet facilities, and availability of electricity.

Table 13 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Type of Ownership of Their

House

Districts

Own House

Percentage of Households Living in

Rented

House

22

Government

Quarters

Other

Types

Total

Purnea 94.9 4.2 0.3 0.6 100.0

Katihar 75.2 13.8 8.0 3.0 100.0

West Champaran 98.5 1.1 0.0 0.3 100.0

East Champaran 99.2 0.5 0.1 0.2 100.0

Bhagalpur 83.4 15.1 1.2 0.3 100.0

All Districts 94.4 3.8 1.2 0.7 100.0

Bihar 96.8 2.1 neg. 1.1 100.0


As regards type of roof material, about half the Bengali households (46.1 percent)

live in houses with thatched roofs, a cemented roof being available for only 15.2

percent of the households (Table 14). In contrast, as per the 2001 census data, for

the general population of Bihar, the proportion of households living in houses with

thatched roof is only one-third (32.2 percent), and those with cemented roofs

account for no less than 38.1 percent of the households. This clearly indicates that

the economic condition of the Bengali population is inferior to that a general

population of Bihar. Among the Bengali households, the housing pattern varies

considerably among the 5 districts. The pattern in Bhagalpur is different because it

represents an urban area and, as such, housing conditions are better there. For the

remaining 4 districts, the housing conditions are much worse in the districts of West

Champaran and East Champaran, compared to that in Purnea and Katihar. In terms

of material for the floor, the proportion of Bengali households living in houses with

Katcha floor is 81.5 percent, nearly the same for the general population in Bihar

(81.5 percent).

Table 14 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Type of Roof and Floor of

Their Dwellings

Districts

Percentage of Households Having Roof

Thatched

Tiles/

Iron

Sheets

23

Percentage of Households

Having Floor

Cemented Total Katcha Pucca Total

Purnea 31.6 55.3 13.1 100.0 71.8 28.2 100.0

Katihar 24.4 46.6 29.0 100.0 54.9 45.1 100.0

West Champaran 58.7 31.9 9.4 100.0 93.6 6.4 100.0

East Champaran 53.8 35.7 10.5 100.0 94.0 6.0 100.0

Bhagalpur 2.2 14.2 83.7 100.0 11.4 88.6 100.0

All Districts 46.1 38.7 15.2 100.0 81.5 18.5 100.0

Bihar 32.2 29.7 38.1 100.0 80.5 19.5 100.0


As regards the source of drinking water for the households, the pattern varies

considerably across the districts; this is very expected due to the varying

hydrological conditions prevailing in different districts. In the absence of supply of

piped water (available generally in urban areas), the most preferred source of

drinking water in rural areas is ‘own hand pump’ and this facility is available to 67.4

percent of the Bengali households (Table 15). For the other three sources of

drinking water, the coverages are — common hand pump (23.2 percent), well (6.7

percent), and piped water (2.7 percent). For the general population of Bihar, the

sources of drinking water display a similar pattern. It may be noted here that,

compared to many other regions in India, the availability of safe drinking water is

relatively wider in Bihar, because the state is part of the Gangetic plane where

ground water is abundant and its level is also rather high.

Table 15 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Source of Drinking Water

Districts

Percentage of Households getting drinking water from

Well

Common

Hand

Pump

24

Own

Hand

Pump

Piped

Water

Total

Purnea 2.7 11.9 83.9 1.5 100.0

Katihar 11.3 35.9 48.1 4.7 100.0

West Champaran 7.6 19.5 71.6 1.3 100.0

East Champaran 1.4 41.8 56.2 0.6 100.0

Bhagalpur 25.8 8.9 30.2 35.1 100.0

All Districts 6.7 23.2 67.4 2.7 100.0

Bihar 6.0 21.6 68.0 4.4 100.0

The toilet facilities available to the members of a household is another important

indicator of living conditions and, as is well known, this facility is largely lacking in


most areas of Bihar, including some of the urban areas. According to 2001 census,

no less than 75.8 percent of the households in Bihar used open space for toilet

purposes, a private toilet being available to only 22.6 percent of the households. For

the Bengali households in Bihar, the situation is seen to be better, but only slightly

so (Table 16). The proportion of Bengali households using open space for toilet

purposes is 61.1 percent, a high figure by any standard; similarly, the proportion of

Bengali households who are fortunate to have a private toilet is only 30.2 percent,

again a low figure by any standard. Thus, one may conclude that, although the

availability of private toilets among the Bengali households is a little higher

compared to the general population in Bihar, the proportion of Bengali households

without a private toilet is still very high, indicating their poor living conditions.

Table 16 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Toilet Facilities at Their

House

Districts

Open

Space

Common

Toilet

(Dry)

Percentage of Households using

25

Common

Toilet

(Flush)

Own

Toilet

(Dry)

Own

Toilet

(Flush)

Purnea 47.2 3.6 2.8 26.9 19.5 100.0

Katihar 27.9 13.4 9.9 13.3 35.5 100.0

West Champaran 79.3 3.5 1.1 11.8 4.2 100.0

East Champaran 69.7 4.0 0.8 21.7 3.9 100.0

Bhagalpur 3.4 6.8 4.6 19.4 64.3 100.0

All Districts 61.1 5.0 2.7 16.9 13.3 100.0

Bihar 75.8 1.1 0.5 2.5 20.1 100.0

Finally, it also emerges from the present survey that only 28.7 percent of the

Bengali households in Bihar are fortunate to have electric connection in their

All


houses (Table 17). Among the remaining households, there are some who reside in

areas where electricity has not reached at all (30.6 percent), and the rest reside is

areas where electricity has reached, but distribution lines (poles) are not there to

connect the households to the power supply (40.7 percent). According to 2001

census, the proportion of households having electric connection was only 16.4

percent for the general population in Bihar and it may, thus, appear that the Bengali

households are probably better off in terms availability of electricity at home; but it is

quite possible that the present penetration of power distribution lines in Bihar is

much deeper than what it was more than a decade ago. One can thus only

conclude that the availability of electricity to the households is rather limited in Bihar

and it affects equally both the general and the Bengali population.

Table 17 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Availability of Electricity at

Their Houses

Districts

No electricity

(No pole

nearby)

Percentage of households with

No electricity

(other

reasons)

26

Electric

connection

Purnea 14.4 17.9 67.7 100.0

Katihar 46.3 13.7 40.1 100.0

West Champaran 48.8 43.1 8.1 100.0

East Champaran 53.3 29.3 17.4 100.0

Bhagalpur 4.9 4.0 91.1 100.0

All Districts 40.7 30.6 28.7 100.0

Bihar 83.6 16.4 100.0

All


SECTION III

BENGALI REFUGEES FROM EAST PAKISTAN (BANGLADESH)

At the time of independence in 1947, India was divided into two countries, Pakistan

being carved out of it. In the process, two provinces, Punjab and Bengal, were also

divided, Hindu-dominated areas falling in India, and those dominated by Muslims

forming part of Pakistan. The process was particularly painful, since it implied

displacement of a large number of families in both Punjab and Bengal. For those

Hindu Bengalis who had to leave East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the government

had to undertake a massive rehabilitation programme. Since not all of them could

be accommodated in West Bengal, they were moved to areas like Bihar, Madhya

Pradesh, Andaman-Nicobar Islands, etc. In Bihar, they were settled mostly in old

Champaran district (now dividend into two districts), but some of them were also

settled in north-eastern districts of Purnea and Katihar. Unaware as they were of

local conditions and local language, the process of rehabilitation was a long one for

many of them, and even now these refugee Bengali population face some serious

problems. This section is focused on this refugee Bengali population settled in

Bihar.

Domicile Status

Earlier, it was mentioned that the Bengali population in Bihar is largely a

heterogeneous category, comprising several sub-categories, based largely on their

mode and time of arrival in Bihar. Broadly speaking, these sub-categories are— (a)

original domicile of Bihar, (b) those who came as refugees and were rehabilitated

by the government, (c) those who came as refugees, but were not rehabilitated, and

(d) those who migrated to Bihgar on their own, either before or after independence.

The distribution of the sample households among these four important groups is

presented in Table 18. Since the survey had a large sample from West Champaran,

no less then two-thirds (67.7 percent) of the households are refugee Bengali

27


households, rehabilitated in Bihar. Indeed, in West Champaran and East

Champaran, nearly the entire sample consists of such households. The next

important sub-category of households comprise those who had migrated on their

own (17.2 percent) and they are to be found mostly in Purnea and Katihar. The

remaining two sub-categories — original domicile of Bihar and unrehabilitated

refugee households — are of relatively smaller in size in the sample, but they are

not altogether absent in Bihar. It is also noted from Table 18 that original resident

Bengali households in Bihar are concentrated in Purnea, Katihar and Bhagalpur.

The remaining tables in this section is restricted to only the refugee Bengali

households, whether rehabilitated or not.

Table 18 : Percentage Distribution of Bengali Households by Their Domicile Status

Districts

Original

Domicile

of Bihar

Percentage of Households

Came as

Refugee,

and

Rehabilitated

Came as

Refugee,

but not

Rehabilitated

28

Migrated

to Bihar

on Their

Own

All

Households

Percenta

ge of

persons

(18+

years)

Listed as

Voters

Purnea 3.7 16.8 20.8 58.7 100.0 86.4

Katihar 36.2 24.0 10.0 29.9 100.0 72.5

West Champaran 0.4 96.3 1.4 1.9 100.0 82.0

East Champaran 0.0 98.8 0.9 0.2 100.0 80.3

Bhagalpur 95.7 0.6 0.0 3.7 100.0 90.5

All Districts 8.6 67.7 6.4 17.2 100.0 81.8

Displacement and Rehabilitation

To begin with, Table 19 presents the distribution of refugee Bengali households by

their year of displacement. It is observed from the table that the process of

displacement was most intense during the years 1956-60, when no less than 69.6

percent of the households were displaced. But it also emerges from the table that

the process had started earlier, right after the partition in 1947, and had also


continued for some years after 1960. Among the districts, the refugee Bengali

households in West Champaran and East Champaran had largely arrived in late

fifties; for similar households in Purnea and Katihar, however, their year of

displacement had ranged from late forties to early sixties. Thanks to the sensitive

response of the state government, these refugee Bengali households were

rehabilied rather quickly. The official records indicate that about 3.5 lakh Bengalis

from East Pakistan were rehabilitated in Bihar and, as shown by figures in Table 20,

this huge task was completed within a period of barely 2-3 years.

Table 19 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Their Year of

Displacement

Districts

Year of Displacement

Upto 1950 1951-1955 1956-1960 After 1960 Total

Purnea 72.2 15.2 4.0 8.7 100.0

Katihar 25.6 0.0 7.9 66.7 100.0

West Champaran 10.0 3.6 78.2 8.2 100.0

East Champaran 0.9 0.9 94.9 3.2 100.0

Bhagalpur 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.0

All Districts 15.6 4.1 69.6 10.8 100.0

Table 20 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Their Year of

Rehabilitation

Districts

Year of Rehabilitation

Upto 1950 1951-1955 1956-1960 After 1960 Total

Purnea 70.8 16.1 4.4 8.7 100.0

Katihar 25.1 0.0 0.2 74.7 100.0

West Champaran 9.6 0.3 75.3 14.9 100.0

East Champaran 0.8 0.2 89.6 9.4 100.0

Bhagalpur 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.0

All Districts 14.1 1.9 69.3 14.7 100.0

29


The process of rehabilitation of the refugee Bengali households had displayed two

different patterns (Table 21). In West Champaran and East Champaran, nearly all

the refugee households were provided with at least 3 acres of land, which is

generally considered to be adequate for efficient agricultural operations. In Purnea

and Katihar, however, only some refugee Bengali households had received land

from the state government, and the average amount of allocated land was much

smaller than in West Champaran and East Champaran. Unfortunately, due to

several social disadvantages, the refugee Bengali population in West Champaran

and East Champaran has not been able to make best use of their land endowments

and their present socio-economic status, as discussed in the previous section, is

rather poor.

Table 21 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Land Allocated to

Them

Districts

No

Land

Upto

1.00

Land Allocated (acres)

1.01 –

2.00

30

2.01 –

3.00

3.00 –

5.00

Above

5.00

Total

Purnea 80.9 2.8 3.8 1.8 4.0 6.7 100.0

Katihar 63.0 20.4 6.4 3.6 6.6 0.0 100.0

West Champaran 10.6 6.7 3.1 0.9 71.6 7.1 100.0

East Champaran 1.5 0.1 0.3 0.1 88.4 9.6 100.0

Bhagalpur 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.0

All Districts 19.3 5.7 2.8 1.0 64.1 7.2 100.0

Caste Status

One of the social disadvantage of the refugee Bengali population is that they are

generally from among the lower caste categories, some of them belonging to

scheduled castes. Table 22 presents the distribution of refugee Bengali households

by their caste category, according to the caste list of the Bihar government. For the


overall sample, it is observed that most of them (64.8 percent) belong to the

category of 'extremely backward castes'. If one adds to that other socially

disadvantaged categories like backward castes (12.6 percent) and scheduled

castes (4.4 percent), then one can hardly find households which are generally

considered to be forward castes among the refugee Bengali households. The

preponderance of extremely backward or scheduled caste households is even more

in the two districts of West Champaran and East Champaran. It is only in Bhagalpur

where the sample comprises only urban households that one notices wide presence

of forward caste households.

Table 22 : Percentage Distribution of Refugee Bengali Households by Their Caste

Category According to the Bihar Caste List

Caste Category

Purnea Katihar

31

Percentage of Households

West

Champaran

East

Champaran Bhagalpur

All

Districts

General Castes 15.1 36.9 7.5 6.2 97.7 16.7

Backward Castes 48.0 17.6 4.4 2.0 1.7 12.8

Extremely Back. Castes 34.0 44.0 82.2 86.6 0.3 66.0

Scheduled Castes 2.9 1.5 5.9 5.2 0.3 4.5

Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

The distribution of the refugee Bengali population by their caste categories, as

presented in Table 22, is according to the caste list of the Bihar government.

Unfortunately, although there are a number castes whose names appear in the list

of both Bihar government and West Bengal government, the two lists are not

identical. This is evident from the official list of scheduled castes in Bihar and West

Bengal (Appendix B). At one hand, there are castes in West Bengal which are not

to be found in Bihar; similarly, there are also castes which are categorised as

scheduled caste in West Bengal, but not in Bihar, and vice versa. In this

background, it is not surprising that the caste classification of the refugee Bengali


households as per the Bihar government list is not accepted by them. From the

survey, it was found that, only for 63.8 percent of the refugee Bengali households,

their caste names appear in the Bihar government list (Table 23). This obviously

meant that 36.2 percent of the households belonged to castes which are present in

West Bengal, but not in Bihar. This problem of missing caste names was of serious

proportion in 4 districts, Bhagalpur being the sole exception.

Table 23 : Information on Mismatch between Caste Classification of Bengali Households

Information on

Mismatch

Percentage of Bengali

Households whose

caste name appears in

the caste list of

Government of Bihar

Percentage of Bengali

Households who do

not agree to their caste

classification by the

officials

Percentage share of

scheduled caste

households among

those who do not

agree to their caste

classification by the

officials

Purnea Katihar

West

Champaran

32

East

Champaran Bhagalpur

All

Districts

52.6 72.1 64.1 65.5 89.2 63.8

22.1 0.3 38.4 49.1 12.9 34.7

99.4 25.0 100.0 93.8 0.0 97.1

Due to the problems relating to varying caste lists in Bihar and West Bengal, it is

very expected that many refugee Bengali households in Bihar will not be satisfied

with their caste classification by the state government officials. From the survey, it

emerged that the proportion of such unsatisfied household was 34.7 percent (Table

23). The problem of was rather limited in Katihar and Bhagalpur, but elsewhere it

was rather serious — Purnea (22.1 percent), West Champaran (38.4 percent) and

East Champaran (49.1 percent).


Finally, the present survey had tried to find out the caste background of those

households who were not agreeable to their caste classification by he caste list of

the Bihar Government. As expected, it turned out that the majority of these

unsatisfied households (97.1 percent) were from among the scheduled castes. It is

thus almost certain that a large number of Bengali refugees who belong to

scheduled castes as per the West Bengal government list are actually recorded as

extremely backward castes as per the Bihar government list. In the resulting

scenario, these households are not able to obtain a caste certificate from the local

officials which designate them as scheduled castes. This is indeed a serious

disadvantage for those refugee Bengali households.

A.K. Biswas Report

On June 24, 1993, Shree Lalu Prasad, the then Chief Minister of Bihar, had gone to

visit Areraj in East Champaran district. On behalf of the East Bengal Refugee

Association of the district, a delegation had met the Chief Minister and appraised

him about their serious problems. In response, the Chief Minister had requested

Shree A K Biswas, the then Commissioner of Tirhut Division, to prepare a report on

the refugee Bengali population of the area. This report (Appendix C) is a valuable

document on the issue. While a copy of the Report is appended to this present

survey report, the main observations of the Report are noted below with respect to

the specific problems that the Bengali refugees had brought to the notice of the

Chief Minister :

(a) Nearly 90 percent of the refugee Bengali population in Bihar belong to the

scheduled castes. Broadly speaking, about 60 percent of them were

‘Namashudra’ and 25 percent ‘Kaibarta’. The remaining households

belonged to other scheduled castes — Jalia, Mam Idu, Suri, Dabgar,

Bhumali, Sutradhar, Pod, Mochi (Chamar) and a few others. None of these

scheduled caste people are given proper caste certificate, since these

scheduled caste names do not appear in the list of scheduled castes of the

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Bihar government. In contrast to the practice in Bihar, the scheduled caste

Bengali refugees settled in other Indian states (Odisha, Assam, Meghalay,

Mizoram or Tripura) have been awarded the proper caste certificate, taking

into account the scheduled caste list in West Bengal.

(b) Most of the refugee Bengali population were provided with land for their

livelihood. But in spite of specific government order, many of these

households have not been given the ‘parcha’ for their land. Consequently, in

many villages, some of the local strongmen have illegally captured the land

of the refugee Bengalis.

(c) In spite of the fact that there is a large Bengali-speaking population in East

Champaran, the schools in the district do not have Bengali teachers. The

number of sanctioned pots for Bengali teachers is itself very inadequate and,

secondly, even those sanctioned posts remain vacant.

(d) The refugee Bengali population in Champaran, engaged in cultivation also

face wide discrimination when it comes to receiving several state government

benefits for fertilizer, seed, credit and irrigation. Such discrimination is indeed

practiced by the local administration.

(e) In case of other state government benefits like Old Age Pension, Social

Security Benefits, assistance for flood-affected households, etc., the refugee

Bengali population again faces wide discrimination. In some case, these

households have not received any compensations (either land or cash) for

the land acquired from them for Gandak canal or roads. Many of the colonies

of the refugee Bengali population are in remote areas where the police

presence is rather limited, resulting in wide prevalence of theft and dacoity.

The reach of electricity is also very limited in the areas.

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This official report, at one hand, confirms the findings of the present survey

regarding the problem of appropriate caste categorisation of the scheduled

caste refugee Bengali population and, secondly, it also indicates that this

problem has been brought to the notice of the state administration long ago

and possibly repeatedly. In as early as 1991, the then Deputy Commissioner

of East Champaran, had issued an office order directing the local officials

(District Welfare Officer, Sub-Divisional Officer, Block Development Officers

and Circle Officers) to provide ‘parcha’ to the refugee Bengali households

and also issue them caste certificates, taking into consideration the official list

of scheduled castes of the Government of West Bengal (Appendix D). The

said order, however, has not been followed by the local administration). It

appears that without an intervention from the highest echelons of the state

government, it may not be possible for the local administration to redress this

genuine grievance of the refugee Bengali population in Bihar.

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SECTION IV

CONCLUSIONS

The size of the Bengali population in Bihar, according to 2001 census, was 4.43

lakhs, which is estimated to reach the figure of 5.30 lakhs in 2011. It is quite likely

that this is an underestimate of the size of the Bengali population in Bihar, and

some knowledgeable sources put the figure to be around 12 lakhs. The history of

Bengali population in Bihar is very long and, because of their long stay in the state,

a majority of them are as much a Bihari as any other, except that their mother

tongue is Bengali, not Hindi. Contrary to the general impression, a substantial

portion of the Bengali population lives in rural areas of the state. These rural

Bengali population includes those who are original residents of the state, as well as

a substantial number of refugee or Bengali population, settled mostly in West

Champaran and East Champaran.

The Bengali population in Bihar constitutes a linguistic minority in the state and face

a number of social and economic problems. In the past, the Bihar Bengali

Association had repeatedly approached the state government to redress various

difficulties faced by them, and the state government have already taken some

positive steps in that direction. However, to identify a comprehensive policy towards

the Bengali population, particularly the refugee population, the Hon’ble Chief

Minister had requested the Bihar Bengali Association to prepare a comprehensive

document on their socio-economic status and the specific problems faced by them.

The Bihar Bengali Association had then requested the Bihar State Minorities

Commission to undertake the task. The Commission, in turn, had requested the

Centre for Economic Policy and Public Finance (CEPPF) at the Asian Development

Research Institute (ADRI) to prepare the required document, in view of their past

experience for similar assignments. The purpose of the present study is just the

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same, viz., creation of an information base on Bengali population in Bihar, based on

some primary data, collected from across the state.

In this background, a sample survey was conducted in 5 districts of the state —

Purnea, Katihar, West Champaran, East Champaran and Bhagalpur. In all, 10,536

households were surveyed in those districts, using a questionnaire that included

information on both households and individuals.

From a comparison of the demographic profile of Bengali population and general

population in Bihar, it emerges that the former enjoys certain advantages like

smaller household size, better sex ratio and also higher literacy rates for both males

and females. The literacy advantage of the Bengali population is, however, very

marginal. If, instead of basic literacy, one takes into account a decent level of

literacy achievement (say, matriculation or above) to be the criterion for literacy,

only about one-third of the Bengali population is found to reach that level. Further,

one should also note that the knowledge of their mother tongue Bengali (reading

and writing) is rather limited for the Bengalis in Bihar. This is a serious cultural

disadvantage for them.

In spite of certain demographic advantages, the economic condition of the Bengali

population in Bihar is rather poor. Only a very small proportion of the male Bengali

workers is engaged in occupations that ensure reasonable levels of income. If one

considers a monthly households income of Rs. 3000 to be the poverty line (this will

be close to the Planning Commission definition), the percentage of Bengali

households living below the poverty line is found to be 57 percent. This is indeed a

high figure. For the refugee Bengali population in West Champaran district, the

poverty estimate stands at an even higher level of 67 percent. In view of such

widespread poverty, it is not surprising that the overall health condition of the

Bengali population in Bihar is inferior to that of the general population. It is also

disturbing to find that, in spite o f a poverty estimate of about 57 percent, only about

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40 percent of the Bengali households in Bihar have a BPL or Annapurna or

Antodaya card. As regards the housing conditions, the Bengali households were

found to have inferior dwellings in terms of both roof and floor material; however, for

other facilities like source of drinking water, type of toilet and availability of

electricity, the conditions were nearly the same for the Bengali and general

population in Bihar.

A substantial portion of the Bengali population in Bihar are refugees from East

Pakistan (now Bangladesh) who were rehabilitated here, thanks to a policy of the

Indian government. They were rehabilitated mostly in the districts of East

Champaran and West Champaran, during the late fifties. In addition, there were

some households who were also refugees, but they were not officially rehabilitated

and they had managed to rehabilitate themselves. Taking both these categories

together, such households constituted about 70 percent of the respondents in the

present survey.

A large part of the refugee Bengali households were given about 3 acres of land as

part of the rehabilitation package. This land endowment was reasonable, but due to

several social and economic constraints, their present economic condition is very

poor. A report by the then Commissioner of Tirhut Division had detailed some of

these constraints which include non-receipt of ‘parcha’ for their land, discrimination

by local level officials regarding government benefits, non-receipt of compensation

amount for land acquired by the state government for canal/road construction,

absence of Bengali teachers in schools, and problem related to caste certificates.

The present survey had indeed substantiated most of the findings of that report

through primary data. In particular, the present survey has established that, due to

varying lists of Scheduled Castes in Bihar and West Bengal, many refugee Bengali

households in Bihar are not able to obtain a proper caste certificate for them. About

two-thirds of the Bengali households do not agree to the caste classification, made

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y the local officials. More than 90 percent of such households belong to the

Scheduled Caste group, as per the list of West Bengal.

Towards identifying a proper policy for the Bengali population in general and the

refugee Bengali population in particular

(a) the state government should prepare a revised list of scheduled castes in Bihar

which includes the names of scheduled castes found in the adjacent state of

West Bengal, so that the local officials can issue proper certificates to those

refugee Bengali households. This will enable this socially unprivileged group to

enjoy the facilities given by the government for the scheduled castes and Dalit

of this state;

(b) secondly, in view of the substantial number of Bengali population in many

blocks/towns, the state government should ensure the facility of teaching of

Bengali by appointing Bengali teachers, failing which this linguistic minority will

loose their contact with their mother tongue, loose their culture, and ultimately

loose their social identity;

(c) finally, the local administration should be sensitised not to practice any

discrimination against the Bengali population in implementation of various

welfare programmes of the state government so that equal opportunities are

available to every citizen of Bihar.

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