The Bihar Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed bills to amend the reservation laws and increase the total caste quotas in government jobs and education to 65 per cent from 50 per cent.
Bihar has now moved a step closer towards implementing 75 per cent reservation — 65 per cent for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Extremely Backward Castes (EBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) — and 10 per cent for the economically weaker sections among the general category castes.
The Legislative Council will take up the bills for passage on Friday and then send them to the governor for his assent. Once ratified, the bills will be published in the state gazette and become acts.
The quota hike bill comes against the backdrop of the recently released caste-based survey’s report. It counted the castes under 215 heads, pegging Bihar’s population at 13.07 crore of which 36.02 per cent were EBCs, 27.13 per cent OBCs, 19.65 per cent SCs, 15.52 per cent general category castes and 1.68 per cent STs.
Parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary introduced the two bills — the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (For Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Bihar (Admission in Educational Institutions) Reservation (Amendment) Bill 2023, in the Lower House.
Members representing various parties in the Assembly passed the bill in a united manner after a symbolic discussion.
BJP MLA Arun Shankar Prasad pointed out that the bill did not mention the 10 per cent quota for the EWS category and put the open merit percentage cut-off for jobs and educational institutions at 35.
Prasad wanted to move an amendment but withdrew it after Choudhary clarified that the bill was to amend the reservation law for the SCs, STs and the OBCs, while another law governed the 10 per cent quota for the EWS.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar said: “We conducted the caste-based survey with the consent of all the nine parties represented in the Assembly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned down our request to get it conducted by the Centre. The quota for SCs, STs, EBCs and OBCs is being increased from 50 per cent to 65 per cent. We would try to implement it immediately.”
He added: “I request the Centre for a caste census and increase the reservation accordingly, if needed. We will also work for the progress of the economically backward people. The state will need Rs 2.5 lakh crore for the steps we are
planning. They will be implemented in a phased manner with a Rs 50,000 lakh crore annual expenditure."
The chief minister asserted that things would become easier and Bihar would progress further if the Centre accorded it special category status. He asked the BJP legislators to accompany him to raise the demand with the Centre.
Assembly Speaker Awadh Bihari Chaudhary called it a “historic day”.
The tabling of the quota bills coincided with RJD leader and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav’s 34th birthday.
Earlier, veteran BJP leader and former minister Nand Kishore Yadav put forth his party’s stand on the bills by professing “whole-hearted, unanimous support” because “we have always been in favour of the progress of people who are lagging behind”.
“The BJP was a part of the government at the Centre when reservation for OBCs was implemented in the country,” he added.
Nand Kishore pointed out that the BJP was a part of the Bihar government when reservation was given to the EBCs in the local bodies and in solitary vacancies. He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government gave constitutional status to the OBC Commission, which empowers states to notify backward castes.