Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

The Bihar caste survey and the social justice agenda


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level : social justice agenda

Bihar Caste Census Report:जातीय जनगणना की रिपोर्ट जारी, राज्य में 63%  ओबीसी, कई चौंकाने वाले आंकड़े सामने आए - Bihar Caste Census: Nitish Kumar  Bihar Government Declared Bihar Caste Survey ...

Central idea

Bihar’s caste census is a significant step, yet modernizing caste politics faces hurdles with global economic changes, an authoritative government, and assertive Hindutva ideology. To lead in this complexity, Bihar can pioneer a nuanced, coalition-based approach, reshaping caste politics for the 21st century.

Key Highlights:

  • Historic Steps: Bihar takes significant strides in social justice by conducting a caste census and revealing socio-economic data associated with different castes.
  • Leadership Challenge: The RJD-JD(U) coalition faces a critical juncture in utilizing caste survey data for an effective social justice agenda, beyond mere reservation expansions.
  • Global Economic Situation: Neoliberal policies demand innovative approaches for mass employment (decent work).
  • Authoritarian Regime: India experiences an authoritarian shift impacting constitutional norms and federal structures.
  • Upper-Caste Hegemony: A visible rise of aggressive north-Indian Hindu upper-caste dominance through Hindutva ideology.
  • Internal Differentiations: Complex internal variations within major caste groups challenge traditional one-dimensional caste politics.

Key Data for enhancing answer quality:

  • “Formal Sector Jobs”: Despite market-friendly policies, the formal sector of the Indian economy offers less than 8% of all jobs.
  • “Reservation Expansion”: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s announcement of expanding reservations to 65%.
  • “Resistance Against Hindutva”: Bihar’s historical role in resisting Hindutva politics, along with other states like Karnataka, Kerala, and Rajasthan.
  • “Erosion of Indian Federalism”: The resistance against the erosion of Indian federalism, with Bihar contributing to the assertion of State rights.

Key Terms for value addition:

  • Caste Census,
  • Neoliberal Policies,
  • Authoritarian Regime,
  • Hindutva Ideology,
  • Internal Caste Differentiations, 
  • Portrait vs. Proxy Model,
  • Evolution of Caste Politics, 
  • State Rights Assertion, 


  • Neoliberal Constraints: Limited formal sector jobs despite market-friendly policies pose a challenge for reducing caste inequalities.
  • Authoritarian Shift: Constitutional norms, checks and balances eroded by an authoritarian regime, altering the Indian state’s shape.
  • Hindutva Ideology: Overt and aggressive upper-caste dominance through Hindutva challenges secularism, creating a one-dimensional Hindu identity.
  • Internal Caste Differentiations: Diverse class interests within castes require a coalitional approach, potentially leading to unpredictable consequences.


  • Changing Caste Politics: The article highlights the need for evolving caste politics beyond automatic association with social justice, considering the complexities of the present context.
  • Role of Lower Castes: Lower caste politics can counter Hindutva, even when focused on community interests, offering resistance to the dominance of upper-caste neo-elites.
  • State Rights Assertion: Bihar’s resistance against Hindutva and the act of conducting a caste census assert State rights, contributing to the fight against the erosion of Indian federalism.
  • Portrait vs. Proxy Model: The caste survey raises questions about representation—whether elected representatives should resemble the population (portrait model) or act on their behalf (proxy model).

The Way Forward:

  • Innovative Social Justice: Bihar has the opportunity to pioneer a new form of caste politics, adapting to the present context, breaking from past habits while upholding the core of the social justice agenda.
  • Political Representation: The article questions the idea that sharing the same identity is sufficient for representation, emphasizing the need for effective action on behalf of the represented.
  • Balancing Identities: Despite the census favoring larger numbers, Bihar can demonstrate that shared identity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for political representation.
  • Championing Federalism: Bihar, along with other states, can lead the resistance against the erosion of Indian federalism, emphasizing the importance of locally-relevant policies.


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