Equality and identity – Bihar’s Caste Survey and Its Implications | 6 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the Bihar's Caste Survey and its implications.


  • GS1: Society of India
  • GS2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections
  • Prelims


  • Bihar has conducted a caste survey and published a caste-wise count of its population.
  • The survey has shown that 63% of Bihar's population belongs to castes listed under the Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories.
  • The survey has significant implications for politics, judiciary, and society.


  • Methodology:
    • Bihar's exercise marks a precedent on how a caste count should be conducted.
    • The methodology included giving a code to each of the 214 castes in the State's lists of castes.
    • Sub-castes and sects were identified in advance and subsumed under a broader caste name.
    • This meant that the enumerators could assign a code to any caste name given by a respondent.
  • Implications: The caste survey has several implications for politics, judiciary, and society.
    • Politics:
      • The caste survey may open a new chapter in the traditional conflict between the political parties seeking to consolidate all sections of Hindus into one massive support base and other parties banking on different sections of the OBCs.
      • Influential social groups may now sense an opportunity to leverage their size to get their interests advanced by the political class.
    • Judiciary:
      • The numbers may be utilized to present the sort of 'quantifiable data' that the judiciary has been asking for to justify the levels of reservation obtaining in various States.
      • It may push the judicial discourse towards reconsidering the 50% legal ceiling on total reservation in education and government services.
    • Society:
      • While there are functional and practical advantages to knowing exact caste numbers, it is not to be forgotten that the larger goal of the Constitution remains the attainment of a casteless society.
      • Affirmative action indeed helps address inequities in society.
      • The state must also look for ways to ensure equality of opportunity and equitable distribution of resources without accentuating caste identity.

Way Forward:

  • Bihar's caste survey has significant implications for politics, judiciary, and society. While it provides a detailed picture of caste demographics, it also raises important questions about representation, social justice, and political strategies in Bihar and India as a whole.
  • The survey data not only presents a detailed picture of caste demographics but also highlights the presence of marginalized communities in the state. The distribution points to the persistent disparities and the need for targeted policies to uplift marginalized groups.

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