Bihar seeks to raise quota to 65% after tabling caste survey

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar says quotas need to be hiked to align with the population share of various castes; he proposes 20% quota for SCs, 2% for STs, and 43% for OBCs and EBCs together

November 07, 2023 05:28 pm | Updated November 08, 2023 02:26 am IST - PATNA

File photo of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

File photo of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Bihar Cabinet has approved a proposal to increase reservations in the State for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) to 65%, from the current 50% quota, crossing the ceiling set by the Supreme Court. A Bill to implement the hike will be introduced on November 9, during the ongoing Winter Session of the State Assembly.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar proposed the hike hours after the caste survey report was tabled in the State Assembly. “In view of the caste survey report, quotas for Other Backward Classes & Extremely Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes need to be raised... The reservation quota for caste groups could be increased as per their population,” the Chief Minister said, following a debate in the Assembly after the report was tabled. “We’ll do the needful after due consultations. It is our intent to effect these changes in the current session,” he added.

Quota hikes

He proposed that SCs, who make up 19.7% of the population, according to the survey, should get a quota of 20%, higher than the current 16%. STs, who have a 1.7% share in the population, should see their reservation doubled from 1% to 2%, he said. OBCs make up 27% of the population and get a quota of 12%, while EBCs make up 36% of the population and get a quota of 18%; Mr. Kumar proposed that both communities together should get a quota of 43%.

These proposed hikes exclude the 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). Together with the EWS quota, Bihar’s proposed reservation will go up to 75%, well past the 50% ceiling on reservations set by the Supreme Court.

The detailed report on the caste survey tabled in the House included social and economic data, showing that 34% of households in the state earn ₹6,000 or less each month. Among the upper castes, who make up about 15.4% of the population, the Bhumihars (2.9%) are poorer than others; similarly, the Yadavs (14.3%) are poorer than other OBCs, who make up about 27% of the population. Overall, the State has 94 lakh poor families. The State’s literacy rate has increased from 61.8% in 2011 to 79.7% now.

‘Yadav, Muslim numbers inflated’

The report was tabled amid claims by the Opposition BJP legislators that the ruling coalition, which includes the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, had inflated the population numbers of Yadavs and Muslims in order to suit their own vote banks.

Terming their claim as “bogus”, Mr Kumar said, “I wonder how can one say that figures for certain caste or religious group have been inflated when there was no caste survey done in the country ever... When all this [caste survey] process was started in 1930, the British were ruling the country. Later, caste survey was stopped and we’ve been demanding for holding a nationwide caste census but it was not done.” He reminded the Opposition BJP legislators that initially, there had been consensus in the House regarding the caste survey. “You all should remember that we, all nine political parties, had mutually agreed that it should happen and we had gone to meet the Prime Minister with our demand,” he said.

Poll impact

Political analyst Ajay Kumar told The Hindu that the CM’s proposal to increase reservations based on the caste survey ahead of the Lok Sabha poll “appears to be his last effort to return to power”. He added, “Mr. Kumar will use it [the caste survey report and quota hike proposal] in the upcoming Lok Sabha poll next year and the State Assembly elections in 2025 for his advantage. It will be interesting to see how the Opposition BJP will counter this clever move of Nitish Kumar in the State.”

However, poll strategist-turned-political activist Prashant Kishor was not sure if that the move would help the CM electorally. “This caste survey will boomerang against Mr. Kumar in the poll. Let the time come,” said Mr. Kishor, who is touring the State with his Jan Suraaj campaign.

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