Bihar releases caste survey data, says EBC 36.01% of population
Opposition parties have backed the demand for caste survey across India hoping that an enumeration of castes will be a game-changer in reversing the BJP’s inroads
The Bihar government on Monday released the caste survey data over a month after the Supreme Court said that it cannot restrain it from publishing the cumulative findings of the exercise unless there is a prima facie case to show the violation of any constitutional right or lack of competence.
The survey found Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) comprise 36.01% of the population, Backward Classes 27.12%, Upper Castes 15.52%, Scheduled Castes 19.65%, and Scheduled Tribes 1.68%. Among the Backward Classes, Yadavs constitute 14.26% of the population while Kushwaha and Kurmi are 4.27% and 2.87%.
The ruling Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal led the demand in Bihar for the survey last year as part of attempts to push for more reservation for backward classes on the grounds that current quotas are not proportionate with the share of these communities in the population.
Parties including the Congress have since backed the demand across India hoping that an enumeration of castes will be a game-changer in reversing the Bharatiya Janata Patry (BJP)’s deep inroads into the backward groups and countering religious polarisation ahead of the 2024 national polls.
The survey was conducted in two phases between January 7 and 21 and April and August. It covered socio-economic indicators, caste, employment, education, marital status, land holdings, and property ownership.
In August, chief minister Nitish Kumar said that data was being analysed following the completion of the survey to present a true picture of the socio-economic conditions of different castes. He underlined there was no reason to stall the process and that they conducted the survey as it was not done at the national level.
The Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) has been demanding that the survey should be done nationally. INDIA constituents in Bihar attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Union government’s intervention in the hearing of pleas against the Patna high court’s go-ahead for the survey.
In August, the Union government told the Supreme Court that the survey has some “ramifications” even as the BJP maintained it has favoured the survey and that Bihar’s previous National Democratic Alliance government approved it before Kumar ended Janata Dal (United)’s alliance with the BJP last year.
The Supreme Court in August ruled out any interim order or stay on the high court verdict until it is prima facie convinced that the survey was erroneous.
The petitioners against the survey argued it was conducted like a census which only the Union government can undertake. They also maintained details sought about caste, religion, and profession for the survey violated the right to privacy and that there was no mechanism to protect this data.
The high court said the census falls solely within the prerogative of the Union government but state governments are not prohibited from collecting data for welfare schemes and affirmative action.
Kumar cited the socio-economic survey conducted in 2011 along with the census and said they unsuccessfully asked for the data to be made public. He added census has been discontinued. Kumar said all parties unanimously decided to conduct the caste survey. He has pitched the exercise as essential and imperative to further the cause of social justice.
The NGO Youth For Equality argued the Bihar government’s survey was conducted in breach of the Supreme Court’s nine-judge bench verdict in the Puttaswamy case, which held that it is only through a law that a state can carry out an exercise that can impact a person’s privacy. It argued the state government conducted the whole exercise through an executive order.