In a much-anticipated development, the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has unveiled the findings of its comprehensive caste survey, shedding light on the intricate demographic makeup of the state. The survey, which has been eagerly awaited, reveals that Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) together constitute a significant 63 percent of Bihar’s total population.
According to data presented by Development Commissioner Vivek Singh, Bihar’s population has surpassed 13.07 crore, with the largest social segment being the Extremely Backward Classes, accounting for a substantial 36 percent. The Other Backward Classes make up the second-largest segment at 27.13 percent.
Furthermore, the survey discloses that Yadavs, an OBC group to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs, represent the largest subgroup, comprising 14.27 percent of the state’s total population. Dalits, also known as the Scheduled Castes, account for 19.65 percent, while Scheduled Tribes make up 1.68 percent, totaling nearly 22 lakh people.
The “unreserved” category, historically representing the “upper castes,” now comprises 15.52 percent of Bihar’s population. In terms of religion, the survey underscores that the majority of the population (81.99 percent) in the state practices Hinduism, followed by Muslims (17.70 percent). Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and followers of other religions, as well as non-believers, constitute less than one percent of the total population.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar praised the government officials who carried out this monumental exercise and announced plans to convene a meeting with all nine political parties having a legislative presence in the state. The objective is to share the facts and figures with them.
RJD president Lalu Prasad, a key ally of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the father of Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, expressed his view that this exercise will pave the way for a nationwide caste census, which he envisions when they form the next government at the Center. Both leaders have been influential in the formation of the INDIA coalition, which has expressed its commitment to conducting a caste census.
It’s worth noting that the survey was initiated last year after the central government, led by Narendra Modi, clarified that it would not include a headcount of castes other than Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the census. The last comprehensive caste headcount was conducted in 1931.
Advocates for a fresh caste survey argue that it’s essential, especially for the weaker sections of society, as demographic changes in the post-Independence era may have altered their proportion of the population. The Bihar state cabinet approved the caste survey in June of the previous year, allocating Rs 500 crore for this monumental undertaking.
Despite facing legal challenges, the survey eventually commenced on January 7 this year, overshooting its initial deadline of February 2023. Ruling coalition leaders in Bihar have accused those filing petitions against the survey of being “BJP supporters,” a claim refuted by the BJP, highlighting that the survey was approved when they were part of the government.