Nobel and other Prizes

Socialist icon Karpoori Thakur awarded Bharat Ratna


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Karpoori Thakur

Mains level: NA

Karpoori Thakur


  • On January 23, the Indian government made a significant announcement, posthumously awarding the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, to Karpoori Thakur, the former chief minister of Bihar.
  • Thakur, affectionately known as ‘Jannayak’ or the leader of the people, leaves behind a legacy of enduring policy decisions that continue to shape Bihar and the nation.

Karpoori Thakur: Life and Career

  • A Leader of Contrasts: Thakur, born on January 24, 1924, in Bihar, emerged as the foremost backward caste leader in the state, despite hailing from the minority nai (barber) caste.
  • Political Activism: He actively participated in the freedom struggle, enduring imprisonment for his convictions.
  • Decades of Public Service: Thakur served as an MLA from 1952 until his passing in 1988, except for a brief period when he became an MP in 1977.
  • Respected Clean Image: Despite holding public office for three decades, Thakur maintained a clean image and refrained from personal enrichment through government resources.

Landmark Policy Decisions

  • Education Reform: Removed English as a compulsory subject for matriculation examinations, aiming to make education more accessible.
  • Prohibition of Alcohol: Enforced a ban on alcohol consumption to address societal issues stemming from alcohol abuse.
  • Job Opportunities for Engineers: Introduced preferential treatment for unemployed engineers in government contracts, leading to employment for approximately 8,000 engineers.
  • Layered Reservation System: Implemented the ‘Karpoori Thakur Formula’ in June 1970, providing 26% reservation, including 12% for OBCs, 8% for economically backward OBCs, 3% for women, and 3% for economically disadvantaged individuals from upper castes.

Challenges and Consequences

  • Immediate Opposition: Thakur’s reservation policy faced significant opposition, especially from upper castes, and his government fell due to its implementation.
  • Polarization and Derogatory Remarks: His caste background led to derogatory slogans and polarization in society, despite his clean governance record.
  • Political Fallout: Thakur’s decision to prioritize the reservation policy was perceived by some as hasty, unlike leaders who consolidated their positions before introducing similar policies.

Karpoori Thakur’s Enduring Legacy

  • Mandal-Kamandal Politics: Thakur’s legacy remains influential in the ongoing Mandal-Kamandal political landscape.
  • Recognition by Leaders: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, himself from a numerically small EBC community, has closely associated himself with Thakur’s legacy.
  • Political Continuation: Thakur’s policies continue to shape the agendas of political parties in Bihar, highlighting the lasting impact of his commitment to social justice.

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