Bihar cabinet clears quota hike to 75%, Bill likely today
Chief minister Nitish Kumar told the state assembly that his government would bring a Bill in the ongoing winter session of the legislature to effect the quota hike
At a special meeting held on Tuesday evening, the Bihar cabinet approved a proposal to increase the reservations in government jobs and educational institutions from the existing 60% (including 10% for economically weaker section among the upper castes) to 75%, hours after chief minister Nitish Kumar told the state assembly that his government would bring a Bill in the ongoing winter session of the legislature to effect the quota hike for backward classes in accordance with their share in the state’s population, as reflected in the findings of the caste survey held in the state.
The Bill, which provisions for 18% quota for other backward classes (OBCs), 25% for extremely backward classes (EBCs), 20% for scheduled castes (SCs) and 2% for scheduled tribes (STs), could be placed before the House on Wednesday or Thursday, said an official.
The five-day session of the bicameral Bihar legislature, which began Monday, is due to end on Friday.
According to the first set of caste survey findings released by the Bihar government on October 2 this year, backward classes, comprising other backward classes (OBCs) and extremely backward classes (EBCs), constitute 64% of the state’s population.
According to the socio-economic data from the caste survey report that was tabled in the legislature on Tuesday, 34% of Bihar’s population are “poor”, which means their monthly income is below ₹6,000.
Speaking after the debate on the caste survey report with socio-economic data, Kumar said the decision to hike quota would be possible because of unanimous decisions taken on the caste survey by all parties. “Bihar has done detailed work to bring all the facts before everyone. After 75% quota, there will be 25% free seats. Increase in quota will allow OBCs and EBCs to have a larger share in keeping with their population. Those who say their caste numbers have come down or some castes have inflated figures are talking trash. This is the first caste survey after 1931. How do they know their numbers without any study?” he asked.
Kumar said Bihar has 95 lakh families (34.3% of its population) living in poverty across all sections and having no employment, adding that he has a lot of things in mind to help the poor with financial assistance for self-employment and land for to the landless. It would cost the exchequer ₹250,000 crore to be spread across five years, with ₹50,000 crore every year.
“If the Centre gives special status to Bihar, the time period may come down to two to three years. We plan to give one-time assistance of ₹2 lakh to each of the poor families so that they could start their own venture. Besides, 63,850 families have been found to be homeless. We have a policy to give them ₹60,000 for land, which be increased to ₹1 lakh so that they could purchase land. There is already a policy for ₹1.20 lakh assistance for building house. We will launch a campaign to cover all of them,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Vijay Kumar Sinha, of the BJP, intervened to ask if he was making poll announcements.
On this, Kumar said things had come this far due to the cooperation of all the parties from the very beginning and history has been scripted. “I will urge the Centre to see how we have conducted caste survey and extend the exercise across the country. It will benefit the poor in the real sense. We will share all our data with the Centre and apprise it of the steps we would take to tackle poverty. We will bring a Bill in the current session only,” he said.
Kumar also reminded the House that the demand for caste census was very old and he had first been apprised of its importance by former President Gyani Jail Singh and later he discussed the matter with senior socialist leaders like Madhu Limaye, Madhu Dandavate and former Prime Minister (late) VP Singh.
“In 2019 and 2020, both Houses of the Bihar Legislature unanimously passed the resolution for caste-based count and later an all-party delegation also met the Prime Minister in this regard. There, it emerged that the Centre would not oblige, but the states could hold the exercise and we moved ahead. Though efforts were made to prevent it through courts, which delayed the process, ultimately both High Court and Supreme Court clearly said there was nothing wrong with it. But I always say that the Centre should do caste census. Now census is overdue and with the next census, they could do it. It will have only benefits,” he said.
Earlier, parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary said the legitimacy of the exercise was amply reflected through the Patna HC order, which found the action of the state to be “perfectly valid and initiated with due competence, with the legitimate aim of providing ‘development with justice”.
Meanwhile, the opposition BJP in the state extended its support to the decision to increase the quota. “BJP gave its full support to the increase in reservation limits in Bihar. The 16% reservation to SCs should be increased to 20%. We requested that the 1% reservation for the STs should be increased to 2%. BJP has always extended support to any party when it is for reservation,” said state BJP president Samrat Chowdhary.