Bihar was the first laboratory of positive discrimination in the Hindi belt. The crucible of India’s version of socialism, it initiated ambitious reservation policies as early as the 1970s under Karpoori Thakur.
Another socialist, Lalu Prasad, who joined politics in the context of the JP Movement, governed Bihar for 15 years, directly or indirectly and — according to his upper-caste critics — “mandalised” the state. Did he? And has Nitish Kumar, another OBC leader, continued in the same vein?
In the opinion of Christophe Jaffrelot, a senior research fellow at CERI- Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, “in Bihar political power is with lower castes while economic surplus and bureaucratic rule remain decisively with upper castes”.
Bihar was certainly the epicentre of the post-1990 “silent revolution” that resulted, across the Hindi belt, in the transfer of power from upper castes to OBCs. In the 1995 elections, OBCs were 44 per cent of the MLAs (including 26 per cent Yadavs), more than twice the proportion of the upper castes, who had always had more MLAs until then. In 2000, in Rabri Devi’s government, OBC ministers represented almost 50 per cent of the total, whereas there were not more than 13 per cent upper castes.
Similarly, OBCs have benefited from job quotas. After Brahmins and other upper castes, Yadavs did better than any other caste group in jobs according to the Indian Human Development Survey of 2011-12. Ten per cent of them had salaried jobs and Kurmis were not lagging as 9 per cent of them had a salaried job. The achievement was a tad more than that of the Dalits, for whom affirmative action policies have been designed 40 years before: In Bihar, 8.9 per cent of Paswans and 7.7 per cent of Jatavs had salaried jobs
“If OBCs have benefited from the so-called “mandalisation” of Bihar in terms of political power and salaried jobs, they have not earned much in other domains. Upper castes continue to compensate for their numerical weakness by their ritual and socio-economic status,” states Jaffrelot. 📣 Click to follow Express Explained on Telegram
According to the last round of IHDS, Brahmins topped in average per capita income with Rs 28,093, followed by other upper castes (Rs 20,655), while Kushwahas and Kurmis earned Rs 18,811and Rs 17,835 respectively. In contrast, Yadavs’ income is one of the lowest among OBCs at Rs 12,314, which is slightly less than the rest of OBCs (Rs 12,617) and not much more than the Jatavs (Rs 12,016).
“Upper castes still have decisive control of state power. While Yadavs have made progress in terms of access to salaried jobs, the bureaucracy in Bihar is still controlled by upper castes,” writes Jaffrelot.
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