The Bihar government has recently released the much-awaited caste-based census data. The data reveals a diverse demographic composition of the state, with the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) and Other Backward Class (OBC) comprising 63 per cent of the state’s 13 crore population.
According to the data, the EBCs account for 36.01% of the total population, while the OBCs make up 27.13%. The Scheduled Castes (SCs) constitute slightly more than 19.65%, and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) make up 1.68%. The upper castes, or ‘Savarnas’, represent 15.52% of the population.
The caste survey also revealed that the Yadav community is the largest sub-group, accounting for 14.27% of all OBC categories. Other significant caste groups include Bhumihars (2.86%), Brahmins (3.66%), Kurmis (2.87%), and Musahars (3%).
|Extremely Backward Classes|
|Chamar/ Mochi/ Ravidas/ Charmkar||5.25%|
|Dusadh/ Dhari/ Darahi||5.31%|
|The percentages given here are with respect to the total population of Bihar.|
The release of this data is significant as it can potentially influence future government initiatives and provide valuable insights for academics, policy makers, and social scientists studying the social structure and dynamics of Bihar. It also has implications for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
However, the release of the caste census data has also sparked debates and controversies. While some see it as a necessary step towards upliftment of all sections of society, others have criticized it as an ‘eye wash’ or politically motivated.
caste census since 2022
The caste census holds significant political significance. It is a crucial element of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s political strategy, aimed at maintaining relevance in state politics and taking a prominent role in the national opposition to the BJP.
Nitish Kumar has been closely aligning his politics with the caste census since 2022. While the BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign may center around issues like the Uniform Civil Code and the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Nitish is expected to use the census data to champion the causes of “social justice” and “development with justice.”
A senior JD(U) leader mentioned that Nitish might utilize the caste survey as a “Mandal 3.0” response to the BJP’s Hindutva or ‘kamandal’ politics. This reference underscores the political landscape, including the implementation of the Mandal report recommendations in 1990 (Mandal 1.0) and Nitish’s focus on developmental politics during his first full term as CM in 2005 (Mandal 2.0).
The caste census enjoys support from all political parties in Bihar, including the state BJP, which has repeatedly endorsed the proposal for conducting the caste census. The state BJP unit has actively advocated for it, even though it faces challenges explaining why the leadership at the Union government has been hesitant about the census.
In contrast, Union Minister Giriraj Singh remarked, “The Caste Census will do nothing more than create confusion among the poverty and the public of the state. Instead, they should have provided a report card indicating that Nitish Kumar led the state for 18 years and Lalu Yadav ruled for 15 years, yet failed to bring progress. The Caste Census report is merely a superficial exercise.”
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