With the Bihar Assembly approving bills to increase caste-based reservations in educational institutions and government jobs from 50% to 65%, caste politics in the country has started with a bang. This follows the caste census released by the Bihar government last month.
The 50% to 65% reservation which goes well past the Supreme Court cap can be a political game changer for the Bihar government and will also have a direct impact on the national elections next year. Beyond its political dimension, the move aims to provide a more equitable representation for various marginalized communities. One of the primary highlights of these bills is the doubling of the reservation quota for Scheduled Tribes from one percent to two percent. Similarly, the Scheduled Castes will see their reservation quota increase from 16% to 20%, offering a more substantial platform for their advancement. The Extremely Backward Classes, who have long been underrepresented in educational and employment sectors, will now enjoy a reservation of 25%, up from the previous 18%. The Other Backward Classes, constituting a significant proportion of Bihar’s population, will also benefit from an increased quota of 15%, up from the previous 12%. This is certain to make a redeeming difference to the representation of the marginalized communities in the government. And in the process, it will transform the state’s political map and, in turn, it also threatens to alter the political map of the country..
With the Bihar government setting the precedent by first releasing the caste census and now offering reservations, the UP is unlikely to remain unaffected. Much like a polarizing, religion-based politics, the pull of the caste can be irresistible. More so, in a society rife with a deep caste-based injustice and the consequent resentment and grievance. The demand for the caste census by the parties in the INDIA Alliance is bringing the old Mandal politics back to the foreground. And this time, Congress is at the forefront championing the cause of social justice. It remains to be seen whether the states ruled by the Congress and the other opposition parties will follow suit. While reservations for the weaker sections of the society are good, the temptation to use this for politics should be restrained. Reservations should serve the purpose they were essentially envisaged for in the first place: the social upliftment of the communities who have suffered discrimination and injustice over centuries.
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