Patna, Nov 9: The Bihar Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a bill to increase reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Extremely Backward Classes in state jobs and educational institutions to 65 per cent. This is well past the Supreme Court's 50 per cent cap.
The amended bill will now have to be signed off by Governor Rajendra Arlekar before it is law.
The amendments were passed amid ruckus inside and outside the Bihar Assembly - over Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's remark this week on women's education and population control.
Under the revised quotas, Scheduled Caste candidates will have 20 per cent reservation, while those from OBCs and EBCs will get 18 and 25 per cent - a significant increase from the earlier (combined) 30 per cent. Reservation of two per cent has been proposed for ST candidates.
At present there is 18 per cent reservation for EBCs and 12 per cent for Backward Classes, 16 per cent for Scheduled Castes, and one per cent for Scheduled Tribes.
The existing three per cent reservation for women from backward classes has been scrapped.
The amended bill excludes the central government's mandatory 10 per cent reservation for individuals from Economically Weaker Sections, and will take total quotas to 75 per cent.
Nitish Kumar had proposed the amendment on Tuesday, hours after his government tabled the full report of the contentious state-wide caste survey. The report said 36 per cent of the Bihar's 13.1 crore people are from EBCs and 27.1 per cent are from Backward Classes.
Of the rest, 19.7 per cent are from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes make up 1.7 per cent of the population. The General Category accounts for 15.5 per cent of the population, the report said.
This means that over 60 per cent of Bihar hails from OBCs or EBCs.
Data from the survey was presented amid BJP claims that data about population of the Yadav - to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs - and Muslim communities was manipulated.
The Yadav community, which will benefit from 18 per cent reservation for OBC groups, is the largest sub-group, accounting for 14.27 per cent of the category.
The report also said that 42 per cent of all Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families live in poverty, and that 34 per cent of all families in the state survive on less than ₹ 6,000 per month.
Also according to the data, less than six per cent of individuals from Scheduled Castes had finished their schooling; i.e., cleared Class 11 and Class 12.
The report was initially criticised by the BJP; in a sharp response hours after data was released, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the opposition of "trying to divide the country in the name of caste".
Last week, though, Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared the BJP remains open to the idea of a nation-wide caste census, so long as due diligence is done.
The data - coming months before next year's Lok Sabha poll - underlines the electoral importance of OBCs and marginalised communities - both for the BJP, which has opposed calls for a national caste census, and the opposition, which has been increasingly more and more vocal on the subject.