In a politically sensitive move, the special cabinet led by chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi approved a proposal including the Paswan (Dusadh) caste in the Mahadalit category, ensuring they are now eligible for welfare schemes meant for scheduled castes.
Until now, the Paswans were the only SC section to be left out of the Mahadalit ambit – a grouping created by the Nitish Kumar regime – and therefore, were excluded from availing the welfare schemes implemented by the State Mahadalit Commission (SMC).
Established in 2007, the SMC had recommended the inclusion of 18 extremely weak castes as Mahadalits. The Paswans were left out of the list, angering LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan who had claimed that this move would divide the Dalits.
Manjhi’s move would now bridge the divide between the Dalits and Mahadalits. Combined, the Dalit might in Bihar now stands at 23% of the total population, which is a huge electoral segment. By combining the Dalits and Mahadalits, Manjhi has built a stronger case for himself as he takes on Nitish Kumar to lay claim for the chief ministerial position.
This latest measure comes on the back of several significant decisions taken by the Manjhi-led government in recent weeks providing greater welfare schemes for the backward.
His cabinet recently gave its nod for free education to girl students up till they finish their post graduation. On Tuesday, a proposal was cleared giving preference to SCs/STs in government contracts worth up to Rs 70 lakh. He has also relaxed the 75% attendance stipulation to 55% for SC/ST students for the entitlement of school uniforms.