The Bihar Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a bill to increase caste-based reservations in education and government jobs from 50% to 65%, crossing the ceiling set by the Supreme Court.
The development came three days after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar proposed the hike after releasing a full report on the caste census in the Assembly.
Under the bill, Scheduled Castes will get a reservation of 20%, up from 16%, while the quota for Scheduled Tribes has been doubled from 1% to 2%. Other Backward Classes will get 15% reservations, up from 12%, PTI reported. For Extremely Backward Classes, the quota will raised from 18% to 25%
The government has explained that since another 10% Economically Weaker Sections quota is effective under a different Act, it will not be a part of the current bill. With the 10% reservations, the total quota limit in the state will increase to 75% now.
This is well past the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court in 1992 for total caste-based reservations.
Speaking after a debate on the bill, Kumar said that Bihar has done detailed work to know all the facts before deciding to expand reservations.
“Increase in quota will allow OBCs and EBCs to have a larger share in keeping with their population,” said the chief minister. “Those who say their caste numbers have come down or some castes have inflated figures are talking trash. This is the first caste survey after 1931. How do they know their numbers without any study?”
He was referring to a remark by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who said on Sunday that the Bihar caste survey has inflated the number of Muslims and Yadavs in the state and reduced the number of Extremely Backward Classes.
On Thursday, the Bharatiya Janata Party also extended its support to the decision to increase the quota.
“BJP gave its full support to the increase in reservation limits in Bihar,” said party state unit chief Samrat Chowdhary. “BJP has always extended support to any party when it is for reservation.”
Caste survey results
The caste survey report tabled by the chief minister on Tuesday showed that Bihar’s total population stood at a little over 13.07 crore. Of this, the Extremely Backward Classes, at 36%, were the largest social segment followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13%. The population of the Scheduled Castes stood at 19.7% and the Scheduled Tribes at 1.7%. Bihar’s general population accounted for the remaining 15.5%.
The Bihar government launched the caste survey in January after the Centre said it would not undertake such an exercise for communities other than the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as part of the decennial census.
The findings of this survey were released by the Bihar government on October 2. It said that the Other Backward Classes and the Extremely Backward Classes constitute over 63% of the state’s population.
The survey showed that 34.13% of families living in Bihar have a monthly income of Rs 6,000 or less. This means more than 94 lakh families of the state’s total 2.97 crore families have been categorised as “poor”.
It further said that about 29.61% of the households, or 81.91 lakh families, earned between Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000 per month. Only 18.06% of families have a monthly income of between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000 and 9.83% of households earn between Rs 20,000 and Rs 50,000 per month.