The survey will also have its reflection on the country’s political landscape in the current scenario
We have known it for long. But now we know it for certain, because it is backed by data.
The caste survey in Bihar, the results of which were released on Gandhi Jayanti, gives all a chance to look at the hard facts about the socioeconomics of one of the most backward states in India. The key finding is that over 84 per cent of the state’s population of nearly 13.07 crores are backward. The breakup — 36 per cent Extremely Backward Classes, 27.13 per cent Other Backward Classes, 19.65 per cent Scheduled Castes and 1.68 per cent Scheduled Tribes.
The champions of social justice thus indeed get a shot in the arm with this survey, conducted early this year, but it is for the whole society to sit up and take note and go for a realistic assessment of the plans and policies it has set for itself. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has said the government will consult all political parties to decide the next course of action based on the data.
As the nation moves towards Amrit Kaal, the golden years of India’s Independence, the survey calls for taking a relook at various important aspects of our social and economic development. The question of allocation of resources in a democracy, whether political or economic, must ideally be recalibrated at regular intervals as guided by data. The immediate impact of this survey will, therefore, be the demand for raising the quantum of reservation for jobs and admissions in educational institutions as well as introducing the same measure in legislatures so that they reflect the demographic distribution.
At present, reservation in the country in any sphere is limited to 50 per cent as per the 1992 Indra Sawhney case order of the Supreme Court of India. Questions will now be raised on whether this ceiling is realistic, and society will have to sit down to ponder over the matter.
There is an increasing clamour for conducting a national caste census which can throw up data similar to that in Bihar. The constitutional provision for reservations has had a run of about seven decades, so it is also time we assessed its impact and then decide the future course.
It may be remembered that Bihar, despite its large population, fertile land and abundant Central help in terms of funds, remains at the bottom in most parameters of human development. It must also be noted that the state has had governments run by people who swear by social justice and socialism during at least 40 of the 75 years of our freedom. The backwardness of the state cannot be left at the doors of lack of data or resources alone; the survey calls into question the commitment quotient of the political class.
The survey will also have its reflection on the country’s political landscape in the current scenario, with the BJP-led NDA, which supported the caste-based survey in Bihar, most likely to try and portray it as an attempt to divide society and the INDIA bloc boarding the social justice bandwagon. What remains to be seen is whether or not its intended beneficiaries get to enjoy the fruits of the exercise.