The Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party government in Bihar has told the Supreme Court that it supports the caste survey conducted in the state, reported Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

“The caste survey was carried out under the constitutional mandates and aimed to achieve equality enshrined under the Constitution,” the state government told the court in an affidavit on Monday. “The state had declared its aim and object for the survey and has now taken steps to achieve the same on the basis of facts appearing in the survey report.”

The caste survey in Bihar was initiated in January 2022 when the Mahagathbandhan coalition, comprising Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress were in power in the state.

Kumar has since quit the Mahagathbandhan coalition. On January 28, he took oath as Bihar’s chief minister once again, for the ninth time, with the support of the BJP.

After Kumar’s defection to the Hindutva party, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi claimed that the Bihar chief minister was feeling “trapped” after the completion of the caste survey, which was done under pressure from his Mahagathbandhan partners, and that the BJP had “provided him with a way out” of his predicament.

In its affidavit to the top court, Kumar’s government said it that is making plans for the welfare of Bihar’s residents based on data from the caste survey.

“The copy of the report on data released under the caste-based survey has already been sent to all the departments of the state government for framing plans and making schemes,” the affidavit said. “Different departments are working to provide the required welfare benefits to the people of Bihar.”

Caste census data

On October 2 last year, the Bihar government released the findings of its caste survey, revealing that the Other Backward Classes and the Extremely Backward Classes constituted more than 63% of the state’s population.

The survey also found that Bihar’s population was about 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 Scheduled Castes in Bihar stood at 19.7% and Scheduled Tribes at 1.7%. Bihar’s general population accounted for the remaining 15.5%.

Based on the findings of this survey, the Bihar Assembly in November 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.

Petition against caste census

Several petitions have been filed challenging Bihar’s caste census. Non-governmental organisations Youth For Equality and Ek Soch Ek Prayas have approached the Supreme Court against the Patna High Court’s decision to uphold the caste survey. They have argued that the survey is equivalent to a census exercise that only the Centre can carry out, according to the Constitution.

Besides them, a Nalanda resident named Akhilesh Kumar has contended that the notification issued by the state government for the census exercise is against its constitutional mandate.

The Supreme Court in February had set April 16 as the date for a final hearing on the batch of pleas challenging the Patna High Court’s order, reported PTI.

In January, the top court asked the Bihar government to release the caste survey’s findings to allow the public to challenge any inferences drawn from the data.

The Supreme Court in October last year refused to stop the Bihar government from acting on the findings of its caste survey.

Also read: How findings of the Bihar caste census push the BJP into a corner