Bihar Caste Survey: Why is it challenged?

6 Oct 2023  Read 2171 Views

India's long and rich history is interwoven with its caste system, a social hierarchy that has persisted for centuries. Understanding caste dynamics is crucial for policymakers to implement effective policies that promote social justice and equitable development.

In this blog, we will look into the recent Bihar caste survey in India, the Key findings of the survey, and how it will pose new challenges, changing the political dynamics of India. 

Bihar's Caste Survey Findings

The Bihar caste survey data has revealed a significant shift in the demographic landscape of the state. Notably, the survey reveals that Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) together constitute a staggering 63% of the total population, presenting a formidable political force. This revelation is expected to have several repercussions on the state's political dynamics. let’s understand several key aspects of Bihar caste survey findings.

1. The survey results have the potential to change the political dynamics of backward class mobilization, which has historically played a crucial role in the politics of states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Parties like Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and Lalu Prasad's RJD have dominated these states by championing the cause of backward classes. The survey data could provide these parties with fresh ammunition to mobilize and consolidate their support base among OBCs and EBCs.

2. The findings of the Bihar caste survey may intensify the demand for a nationwide caste census. The Opposition INDIA alliance could leverage the survey results to put pressure on the ruling BJP to conduct a comprehensive caste census at the national level. This could have far-reaching implications for understanding India's social demographics and could guide future policy decisions.

3. The survey results are expected to amplify calls for expanding the reservation quota for OBCs beyond the existing 27%. Additionally, there may be increased advocacy for a sub-quota (quota within quota) for Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs), recognizing their distinct socio-economic challenges.

4. The findings may reignite discussions around the sub-categorization of OBCs, a subject that the Justice Rohini Commission has been examining since 2017. The recommendations of this commission once made public, will likely come under increased scrutiny, with the Bihar survey results potentially influencing the discourse on how OBC quotas should be divided among various sub-groups.

5. The survey data could reopen the long-standing debate over the 50% ceiling on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney v Union of India (1992) case. The survey's revelations may prompt discussions on whether this ceiling should be reconsidered to accommodate the evolving social and economic landscape.

Tell us in the comment section below, what you guys think of caste-based reservation still prevalent in India.

Changing Political Dynamics

  1. Demand for Greater Representation: With OBCs and EBCs constituting a substantial portion of the population, political parties are likely to face increased pressure to allocate a more significant share of party tickets to candidates from these communities. This could result in a transformation of leadership within these parties.

  2. Reservation Quota Debates: The survey data is expected to fuel demands for an increase in the reservation quota for government jobs and admission to higher education courses. As these communities seek greater social and economic empowerment, this may lead to policy changes and adjustments.

  3. Challenges for BJP: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has traditionally relied on the support of upper-caste voters, may face growing challenges in the wake of this survey. The party's strategy may need to evolve to accommodate the shifting demographics.

  4. RJD's Strategy: The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a party with a stronghold among Yadav-Muslim voters, may need to change its political approach to appeal to the changing demographics and secure its voter base.

  5. JDU's Advantage: The Janata Dal (United) or JDU, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, may find itself in a relatively comfortable position. Nitish Kumar's efforts in creating an EBC constituency have positioned the party favorably, especially as none of the major political parties have their state president from this group.

Did you know, that India conducted its last nationwide census in 2011, and the census of 2021 was postponed? Read our blog on the Census of India: Why is the government delaying the 2021 Census?

Recent updates 

The recent decision by the Patna High Court to uphold the Bihar government's caste-based survey marks a significant legal development. Let's discuss the grounds of challenge and the judgment precisely.

Grounds of Challenge

1. Violation of Privacy: The caste survey was challenged on the grounds that it violated a citizen's fundamental right to privacy. The survey included questions about religion, caste, and monthly income, raising concerns about the infringement of privacy.

2. Lack of State Power: Another ground of challenge was that the state lacked the authority to conduct such a caste-based survey. It was argued that the state had overstepped its jurisdiction in conducting the survey.

The petitioners argued that the survey posed a threat to the right to privacy, a facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In response, the court referred to the triple-requirement test laid down in the Justice KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India case in 2017. This test allows permissible restrictions on fundamental rights if they serve the state's legitimate interests, are proportional, and are reasonable.

The Bihar government countered these arguments by pointing out that a similar caste census was conducted by the Center in 2011, and the details were not disclosed. They cited Article 73 of the Constitution, which extends the Center's powers to matters on which Parliament has the authority to make laws. 

Court's Ruling

Ultimately, the Patna High Court, after initially staying the caste survey, upheld its validity. The court declared that the state's actions in conducting the survey were perfectly valid, initiated with due competence, and aimed at providing "Development with Justice." The court found that the survey did not involve coercion to disclose personal details and passed the test of proportionality. It was considered not to have violated individual privacy rights, as it was in furtherance of a compelling public interest, which aligns with the legitimate state interest.

Conclusion

The debate surrounding the caste survey in India remains as complex as the country's diverse social fabric. While some argue for its necessity to address social inequities and implement policies effectively, others emphasize the challenges and the potential threats it may bring. In the end, The court's decision supported the Bihar government's authority to conduct the caste-based survey and deemed it to be in the public interest, emphasizing that it did not infringe upon individual privacy rights. Let’s see how the Indian Political Scenario evolves after the Bihar Caste Survey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What was the primary demand behind the Bihar caste survey, and who were the main proponents of this demand?

  • The primary demand behind the Bihar caste survey was for a comprehensive census of castes in the state. This demand was primarily championed by marginalized sections of society, including Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and other deprived communities.

2. What were the grounds for the challenge against the Bihar caste survey?

  • The Bihar caste survey faced legal challenges on two main grounds: violation of the right to privacy and the state's authority to conduct such a survey. Initially, the Patna High Court had stayed the survey, citing concerns over its legality. However, it later upheld the survey, ruling that it was perfectly valid and conducted with due competence, in the public interest.

3. What does the Bihar caste survey reveal about the demographics of the state?

  • The Bihar caste survey findings indicate that OBCs and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) together constitute a significant 63% of the total population in Bihar. This demographic shift has significant political and social implications.

4. How might the Bihar caste survey impact the political landscape in Bihar and beyond?

  • The survey results are expected to influence political strategies, especially in Bihar, where parties may need to adapt to the changing demographics to secure votes. It may also lead to increased demands for reservation quota adjustments and sub-categorization of OBCs.

5. What are the potential national implications of the Bihar caste survey, and how might it affect the debate on caste-based reservations and quotas?

  • The survey's findings could fuel demands for a nationwide caste census and may lead to discussions on revisiting the 50% reservation ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court. The survey's influence may extend beyond Bihar, impacting policy debates and political strategies on a national scale.

About the Author: Devansh Dixit | 35 Post(s)

Devansh is a 4th-year law student from Amity Law School Noida (Uttar Pradesh), currently interning at Finology Legal. He is specialising in business and commercial laws. 

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