The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Monday released findings of its much-awaited caste survey which revealed that OBCs and EBCs constitute a whopping 63 per cent of the state’s total population, reports PTI.
According to the data released here by Development Commissioner Vivek Singh, the state’s total population stood at a little over 13.07 crore, out of which the Extremely Backward Classes (36 per cent) were the largest social segment followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13 per cent.
The survey also stated that Yadavs, the OBC group to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs, were the largest in terms of the population, accounting for 14.27 per cent of the total.
Dalits, also known as the Scheduled Castes, accounted for 19.65 per cent of the total population in the state, which is also home to nearly 22 lakh (1.68 per cent) people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.
Those belonging to the “unreserved” category, which denotes the proverbial “upper castes” who dominated politics till the Mandal wave of 1990s, comprise 15.52 per cent of the total population.
The survey also establishes that the state’s population is overwhelmingly Hindu, with the majority community comprising 81.99 per cent of the total population, followed by Muslims (17.70 per cent).
Christians, Sikhs, Jains and those following other religions as also the non-believers have a miniscule presence, together making up for less than one per cent of the total population.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar came out with a statement lauding the teams of government officials who undertook the gigantic exercise.
He also said, "A meeting will soon be convened of all the nine political parties with an electoral presence in the state legislature and the facts and figures will be shared with them." RJD president Lalu Prasad, who is Kumar’s ally as well as the father of his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, also issued a statement, declaring that the exercise will set the tone for “a nationwide caste census which will be undertaken when we form the next government at the Centre”.
Both Prasad and Kumar have played an instrumental role in the formation of the INDIA coalition, which affirmed its commitment to holding a caste census at a meeting it held in Bengaluru recently.
Notably, the survey was ordered last year after the Narendra Modi government at the Centre made it clear that it would not be able to undertake a headcount of castes other than SCs and STs as part of the census.
The last time, a headcount of all castes was undertaken, was way back in 1931. Those calling for a fresh caste survey insist that a new estimate was required mainly for the weaker sections of the society which, with improved life expectancy in the post-Independence era, must have seen a rise in their proportion of the population.
The state cabinet gave its nod to hold a caste survey on June 2 last year when it also allocated an amount of Rs 500 crore for the mammoth exercise.
The survey briefly ran into rough weather when it was stayed by the Patna High Court which was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the exercise.
However, the deadline it then set, of February 2023, was overshot and the survey itself could take off no sooner than January 7 this year.
Leaders of the ruling Mahagathbandhan in the state have been alleging that those filing petitions were “BJP supporters”, a charge denied by the saffron party which underscores that it was in the government when the cabinet nod was given for the survey.