New Delhi- The Reservation Amendment Bill has been passed unanimously by the Bihar Assembly on Thursday raising the reservation quota to 75 percent in jobs and educational institutions. The Cabinet had passed the proposal to raise the quota for SCs, STs, Other Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes, and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) to a total of 75 per cent from the existing 50 per cent.
The proposal was made on Tuesday in the state assembly after the government released the socioeconomic data collected as part of the caste survey. Backward is a broader term that refers to the significant marginalized caste groups like OBC, SC, ST, and minorities.
The survey, conducted in 2019-20, revealed that the other backward classes constitute 27.13% of the population, while the extremely backward classes constitute 36.01%. The general category makes up 15.52% of the total population of Bihar. The scheduled castes in Bihar are 19.7%, and the scheduled tribes are 1.7%.
According to the proposed revised quotas, the scheduled castes will get 20%, the scheduled tribes will get 2%, and the other backward classes and the highly backward classes will get 43%. The proposal also includes the central government's 10% quota for the economically weaker sections, increasing the total reservation to 75%. The remaining 25% will be open to all.
The chief minister said that the proposal was based on the principle of social justice and the need to uplift the marginalized sections of society. He said that the government would do the necessary consultations and try to effect the changes in the current session.
The survey also revealed the economic condition of the people in Bihar. It found that 34% of the families in Bihar survive on less than ₹ 6,000 per month, and 42% of the scheduled castes and tribes households live in poverty. It also found that 29.61% survive on ₹ 10,000 or less, and only 3.8% earn over ₹ 50,000 per month.
Some of the critics of the proposal to increase the caste quota to 75% in Bihar are saying that the proposed reservation violates the 50% ceiling set by the Supreme Court for reservations in government jobs and education institutions.
The dissenters say it is a political move to appease the backward classes and the scheduled castes and tribes, who form the core vote bank of the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
They further say that it will not address the root causes of the socioeconomic backwardness of the people, such as poverty, illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, and corruption.
About 94 lakh families, 34.13% of the total 2.97 crore families in Bihar are economically poor and earn less than Rs 6,000 monthly. The poverty rate is higher among the scheduled castes (42.92%) and the scheduled tribes (38.76%) than the other backward classes (33.08%) and the general category (25.67%)³.
The literacy rate in Bihar is 70.9%, which is lower than the national average of 77.7%. The literacy rate is the weakest among the scheduled tribes (59.1%) and the highest among the general category (81.7%).
The unemployment rate in Bihar is 9.8%, which is higher than the national average of 6.1%. The state government has announced a slew of welfare benefits for low-income families in the state, such as Rs 2 lakh assistance for the marriage of daughters, Rs 25,000 for the construction of toilets, and Rs 10,000 for the purchase of smartphones.
The chief minister said that the survey was a comprehensive and scientific exercise that would help the government plan and implement various welfare schemes and policies for the people of Bihar. He also said the survey was a unique initiative and the first in the country.
(Dr Sandeep Yadav is a political analyst and social activist who teaches at the Delhi University. Prof Naval Kishore is the national spokesperson of RJD, and a Professor of Political Science.)