Why has the Bihar caste census got everyone up in arms?

DailyBiteOct 03, 2023 | 13:27

Why has the Bihar caste census got everyone up in arms?

With OBCs and EBCs constituting a majority of Bihar's population, they are poised to play a central role in shaping the state's politics. (Photo: Getty Images/dailyO)

In a significant move ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Bihar government has released the results of its caste-based survey, providing new insights into the state's population composition.

This survey showcases that the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) make up a significant 63% of Bihar's population, while Scheduled Castes account for over 19%, Scheduled Tribes at 1.68%, and the upper castes ('savarnas') at 15.52%.


These findings offer a peek into Bihar's diverse demographics, holding implications for politics within the state and potentially at the national level.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called for an all-party meeting on Tuesday (October 3) to share the details of the Bihar caste census report and discuss what steps needed to be taken further regarding it.

What the census reveals

Diving into the details, the Bihar Jaati Adharit Ganana, or caste-based survey, paints a more intricate picture of the state's caste dynamics.

It shows that the backward classes constitute 27% of the population, while the extremely backward classes (EBCs) make up a substantial 36%. Together, they form the numerically influential Other Backward Classes (OBCs), a group that has wielded significant political influence in Bihar.

The upper castes, or 'savarnas', form 15.52% of the state's population.


Key figures: Spotlight on OBCs and EBCs

Taking a closer look at the data, the survey reveals specific OBC and EBC communities.

  • Among the OBCs, the Yadavs lead with 14.26%, followed by Kushwahas at 4.27%, Kurmis at 2.87%, Dhanuks at 2.70%, and Telis at 2.24%.
  • Within the EBC category, Musahars account for 3%, Bhuiyas for 2.57%, Chamars for 2.41%, Dusadhs for 2.29%, and Dhobis for 2.22%.
  • While Bhumihars constitute 2.86 per cent of the population, Brahmins comprise 3.66 per cent.


Why is it so controversial?

The Bihar caste census has sparked controversy for several reasons:

Constitutionality: Some individuals argue that the Bihar government lacks the constitutional authority to conduct a caste census, contending that this falls within the jurisdiction of the central government.

Accuracy: Concerns have also been raised regarding the accuracy of the caste census data. Critics argue that collecting precise caste data is challenging and that the information may be susceptible to political manipulation.

Social division: Critics further assert that the caste census could exacerbate divisions within Indian society along caste lines. They propose that focusing on policies promoting social equality and economic development may be a more effective approach.

Political motivation: Some individuals have accused the Bihar government of pursuing the caste census for political motives, suggesting that it aims to consolidate support among OBC and EBC voters.

The Bihar government, in response, defends the caste census as essential to ensure adequate representation of all social groups in government and society. Additionally, they state that the collected data will inform the development of policies and programs aimed at benefiting all social groups.


Political implications: Shaping Bihar and beyond

These findings carry substantial political implications, both within Bihar and potentially on the national stage. With OBCs and EBCs constituting a majority of Bihar's population, they are poised to play a central role in shaping the state's politics.

The results could usher in shifts and recalibrations in Bihar's caste-based political landscape, possibly impacting parties and alliances.

Moreover, they may give more momentum to the opposition's call for a nationwide caste census, making it a significant national issue.

What lies ahead: Implications for Bihar and India

As Bihar's caste census results take center stage, they offer valuable insights into the complex web of caste affiliations within the state. These insights could have significant consequences for Bihar's political landscape, potentially impacting policies and governance to better serve the diverse population.

The results also raise essential questions about fairness and emphasising the importance of representation and equitable distribution of resources in a diverse society.

Last updated: October 03, 2023 | 13:27
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