State of Muslims in India
K V Priya
Business & Politics
Renewed focus fails to deliver inclusive growth
Constituting nearly 14 percent of the population, Muslims in India have lagged behind the national averages in most aspects of human development, including education, employment, economic prosperity, land holding etc. Proportinately, Muslims also account for a much larger percentage of the prison population in India. The situation of the Muslims continues to be bad, despite several attempts by the government and voluntary organisations to improve the condition of the largest minority in the country.
In 2005, less than a year after taking over, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted a committee headed by a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to prepare a report on the latest social, economic, and educational conditions of the Muslim community.
TheRajinderSachar committee submitted itsreport in just over 18 months on November 30, 2006, its 403-page report was tabled in the Parliament.
The Report pointed out a range of challenges faced by the community.
*It placed Indian Muslims below the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in backwardness.
* There was a huge mismatch between the percentage of Muslims in the population and in decision-making positions.
* It pointed out the poor representation of the community in the bureaucracy and police.
* It drew attention to the low levels of education in the community.
* It revealed the lack of access to finance.
More than a decade since, little has improved for the Muslim community. The Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee (PSEC), headed by Prof Amitabh Kundu was set up in August 2013. The PSEC presented its final report to Dr Najma Heptullah, the Union Minister for Minority Affairs, in October 2014.
The Kundu Committee that evaluated the developments in social, educational and economic spheres, focussing on the period since the submission and acceptance of the Justice Sachar Committee Report (JSCR) in 2006, proposedthe adoption of an incentive system based on such an index since there is definite evidence that community-based discrimination and deprivation have not gone down in many of the social spheres in the country.
Another significant recommendation of this committee was the identification of most deprived social groups among the Muslim population, who should be given the benefits of affirmative action at identical levels, currently being bestowed only on the SC and ST population. A few of the castes within the Hindu OBCs would also qualify for benefitting from such an affirmative action. This would not entail extending reservation to the Muslim community, in general, in the country.
KhorrumAnis Omer, Nation Secretary of the Indian Union of Muslim League, points out that even10 yearsafter the Sachar Committee, there are far too opportunities for Muslims in the country. “We expect least from the current government. Even during the UPA government nothing much happened”.
While the Congress Party, that led UPA-I and UPA-II governments,was accused of appeasement politics, the current BJP-led NDA government totally rejects all the committees that promote identity-based development.
So much so that Omer points out how Prime Minister NarendraModi has repeatedly said his party does not need Muslim votes at all. “Certain sections view Muslim minorities as either terrorists or good for nothing for this country. First this perception has to change”, laments Omer.
Prof RakeshSinha, director-Indian Policy Foundation, a think tank set up in 2008, points out that it is a shame for any secular democracy if any community is left to stagnate. Drawing a parallel to the William Wilson Hunter Committee (set up in 1882 to find out the reasons behind the resentment among Muslims against the British government) Sinha dismisses the Sachar Committee findings.
“It (Hunter Commission) began the religious identity-based politics in development. We should forget religion and identity-based development. In its place, geography-based development should be given priority.”He feels it is the lack of social and religious reforms that has contributed to the backwardness of Muslims.
Other experts see the problem rooted in discrimination in political participation and governance.Dr Amir Ullah Khan, a development economist who was member of the Kundu Committee, points out that the Ministry of Minority Affairs, which acted as a ‘post office’ during the UPA regime has become negligent in the present dispensation.
Yet, he believes that scholarships for Muslim girls have improved drastically, while they continue to dropout. However, the worrying feature is that they lag behind in secondary and higher education.
Dr Syed ZafarMehmood, president of the Zakat Foundation, a leading civil society organisation working for the upliftment of Muslims in education and the health sector,opinesthat the main reason of Muslim backwardness is the community’s gross under-representation in the LokSabha (lower house of Parliament) and state assemblies as well as the judiciary and the bureaucracy.
“The presidential order of 1950 denies to Muslims (14 per cent of total Indian population), access to 14 per cent seats in every legislature, judiciary and the civil service.The Presidential Order, 1950 was amended by the Parliament in 1956 to include Dalit Sikhs and in 1990 to include Dalit Buddhists. Given the fact that Muslims make up 14 per cent of the total Indian population, the community should have 77 seats in the LokSabha. But, so far, on an average we have had only 25 Members of Parliament since the first LokSabha was constituted,” he regrets.
Addressing a recent seminar on ‘Ten years of Sachar Committee Report’, JamiatUlema-e-Hind leader,MaulanaMahmoodMadani, said the condition of Muslims in India has worsened during the past 10 years.
Referring to global terrorism, Madani said that the Muslims are being accused of crimes they have not committed and urged the Muslim youth to concentrate on education for their all-round development.
With a federal polity in place, states in India need not wait for the Central Government’s action. As recommended by the Sachar Committee Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) can be set up to prevent discrimination against minorities in the private sectors like housing and employment.
But the question is whether there is enough political will and commitment for the welfare of Minority Muslims. Somehow, that seems to be totally absent.