Patna: The Bihar Assembly on Thursday, passed a bill to raise reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Extremely Backward Classes in state jobs and educational institutions to 65 percent, exceeding the Supreme Court’s 50 percent limit. The revised bill awaits Governor Rajendra Arlekar’s signature to become law, following its passage.
These amendments faced disruptions both inside and outside the Bihar Assembly, triggered by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s recent comments on women’s education and population control.
The revised quotas specify a 20 percent reservation for Scheduled Caste candidates, 18 percent for candidates from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and 25 percent for Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs). This represents a substantial increase from the previous collective reservation of 30 percent. Moreover, there is a proposed two percent reservation for Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates.
As of now, there is an 18 percent reservation for EBCs, 12 percent for Backward Classes, 16 percent for Scheduled Castes, and one percent for Scheduled Tribes.
The previous three percent reservation for women from backward classes has been eliminated.
The revised bill omits the central government’s obligatory 10 percent reservation for individuals from Economically Weaker Sections, bringing the total quotas to 75 percent.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar put forward the amendment on Tuesday, shortly after his government presented the comprehensive report of the controversial statewide caste survey. According to the report, 36 percent of Bihar’s 13.1 crore people belong to Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs), and 27.1 percent are from Backward Classes.
Around 19.7 percent of the remaining population in Bihar belongs to Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes make up 1.7 percent. The General Category constitutes 15.5 percent of the population, as revealed by the report.
This implies that over 60 percent of Bihar’s population is from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) or Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs).
The survey data was presented amid BJP’s claims of manipulation in information about the population of the Yadav community, to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs, and Muslim communities. The Yadav community, set to benefit from the 18 percent reservation for OBC groups, is the largest sub-group, representing 14.27 percent of the category.
The report points out that 42 percent of all Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families in Bihar live in poverty, and 34 percent of all families survive on less than Rs 6,000 per month. Additionally, less than six percent of individuals from Scheduled Castes have completed their schooling, i.e., cleared Class 11 and Class 12.
Initially criticized by the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded strongly, accusing the opposition of “trying to divide the country in the name of caste” shortly after the data release. This data, preceding next year’s Lok Sabha poll, highlights the electoral significance of OBCs and marginalized communities for both the BJP, opposing calls for a national caste census, and the opposition, increasingly vocal on the subject.