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The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

India has recently been gripped by a new Census, not the national one, but a cast census from the state of Bihar. This census is exactly what it sounds like the population data was collected based on 17 indicators, one of them being caste. The headline result is that 2 groups make up 63% of the state’s population: the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and EBCs (Extremely Backward Classes).

The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

Why Conduct a Caste Census?

A census is not conducted for the love of numbers, but to make Policy. The policy goal here is more Reservation and more Welfare schemes. It has become a political lightning rod, with opposition parties wanting a nationwide cast census in India, while the ruling party is not interested.

The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

The History of Caste Census and Reservation in India

Caste, a system of social hierarchy, has always been a reality of life in India. When the British came, they formalized it for governance purposes. The British wanted to neatly divide India’s Hindus into 4 categories, but they were in for a surprise. In Banaras in 1834, there were 107 castes of Brahmans. Despite this, they pushed on, and from the 1880s, the official Census began collecting Caste data. This practice continued until 1941, which is the Last Census where Caste data was collected in India.

Reservation in India

Reservation existed during this time in some places. The princely state of Mysore was among the first to do it in 1921, reserving seats for backward communities. Soon, Madras and Bombay followed. In the 1930s, it extended to the Government. In 1932, the British had proposed Separate Electorates for backward communities. This decision pitted Mahatma Gandhi against Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. To convince Ambedkar, Gandhi began a fast unto death. Eventually, Ambedkar relented, agreeing to Reserved seats instead of Separate Electorates. This would continue even after Independence.

The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

The Current State of Reservation in India

Today, India’s Reservation pile looks like this:

15% for Scheduled Casts (SC),

7.5% for Scheduled Tribes (ST), and

27% for OBCs.

The total comes to 49.5%. However, the Supreme Court intervened in 1992, stating that Quotas cannot exceed 50%. Things have changed though, with a new Verdict saying the 50% limit is flexible. The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

The Impact of Reservation

Reservation has made significant contributions to Social Justice but it hasn’t solved the root problem. At the same time, a new problem has emerged: Everyone wants a Quota. Dominant communities had initially rejected the idea of reservation, but now they want their own quota. Examples of this can be seen across India, with the Patel community in Gujarat, the Marathas in Maharashtra, the Lingayats in Karnataka, and the Jats in Haryana all demanding quotas.

The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

The Future of Caste Census and Reservation

The Supreme Court had some interesting takes on reservation last year, stating that the 50% cap on quota is flexible.

One judge said, “At the end of 75 years of our independence, we need to revisit the system of reservation in the larger interest of the society as a whole”.

Another judge said, “Reservation is not an End but a means, a means to secure Social and Economic Justice. Reservation should not be allowed to become a vested interest”.

The Caste Census in Bihar: A Deep Dive

In conclusion, while reservation has helped in India, it has not solved the root problem. The Goal is to create a Casteless Society, yet our policy is to define and reserve based on caste. The caste census figures in this conversation as numbers drive policy. The demand is to collect OBC data, as we already collect SC and ST data every 10 years. The previous Congress [UPA] government did so in 2011, but that information was never published. The current government says the data is unusable, hence the demand for a new set.

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