Editorial with Sujit Nair: Is Caste Census: Good or Bad for our Society?

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In this editorial episode, Mr. Sujit Nair discusses the recent caste-based census conducted in Bihar. Bihar has become the first state to release data from this survey, revealing some significant findings. According to the report, 36 percent of the population belongs to Extremely Backward Classes, 27.1 percent are from Backward Classes, 19.7 percent are from Scheduled Castes, and 1.7 percent are from Scheduled Tribes, while the general population comprises 15.5 percent. The total population of the state is over 13.1 crore. The survey also highlights that the Yadav community, to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs, is the largest sub-group, constituting 14.27 percent of all OBC categories. The release of this report is likely to spark a political controversy, with calls for an increase in quotas for OBCs, currently capped at 27 percent. The data, which comes just months before the 2024 Lok Sabha election, reveals that backward classes make up nearly two-thirds of the population, totaling 63.1 percent. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar welcomed the data’s release on X (formerly Twitter) on Gandhi Jayanti (Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary) and announced a meeting of nine parties in the Bihar Assembly to discuss the caste-based census. Tejashwi Yadav termed the report a “”watershed”” moment and the result of decades of struggle, expressing hope that government policies and intentions would now be guided by this data. His father and party leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav, also commended the release of the caste-based survey. However, the BJP reacted critically, with Union Minister Giriraj Singh dismissing the report as “”eyewash.”” In August, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had emphasized the survey’s potential benefits for all sections of society, including the deprived, and its role in identifying areas in need of development. He also mentioned that the survey had received support from all state parties, including the BJP. The release of this data coincides with the Supreme Court’s ongoing hearings on petitions challenging a Patna High Court judgment that paved the way for this controversial “”caste-based headcount.”” The court declined to issue an interim stay unless critics could establish a prima facie case. The decision to conduct the caste survey was made by the Bihar government in June of the previous year. The Chief Minister clarified that it is not a full census, as initially stated by the central government, but rather a collection of data on economic status and caste for targeted development initiatives.

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