People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVII

No. 04

January 27, 2013

 

 

Indian Muslims after the Sachar Committee Report

 

Archana Prasad

 

IN 2006 the Rajender Sachar committee report highlighted the poor socio-economic conditions of the Indian Muslims. It showed that the Muslim minorities were lagging behind even the scheduled castes and tribes in terms of their access to basic amenities, and this was impacting their overall social and economic conditions. The report further highlighted the segmented nature of the Muslim population, with special focus on the Muslim OBCs who needed special care if the lot of the Muslim minorities as a whole was to improve.

 

SITUATION NOT

MUCH IMPROVED

Soon thereafter, debate and discussion on the report forced the prime minister to announce a 15 point programme for the development these social groups. The UPA government also initiated a flagship programme, the Multisectoral District Development Programme, for minority concentration districts. Initially the project was implemented in 90 districts and then extended to 121 districts in order to undertake the overall development of these groups. Apart from this, the prime ministerís 15 point programme declared its intention to ensure public sector employment for the minorities as well as to control communal disharmony and violence.

 

However, the situation is far from improved after the first six years of the implementation of these programmes, as shown by the analysis of a report prepared by a team of researchers led by Abusaleh Shariff. This experience of the post-Sachar experience also reveals the deep rooted systemic biases that prevail against the minorities.

 

MINORITIES

AND EDUCATION

The prime ministerís 15 point programme clearly identifies enhancing opportunities for education as one of the main strategies for minority welfare. It states that the government will work towards providing pre- and post-matric scholarships, increasing access to school and technical education and improving pre school education.

 

However, the data between 2005 and 2010 show that despite these measures, the Indian Muslims still lagged behind in terms of educational attainment. Though their literacy levels have improved considerably, the rate of rise has been slowest amongst the Muslim OBCs. In overall terms, the level of improvement in literacy among the scheduled tribes and scheduled castes was significantly higher than that among the Muslims. The data show that this pattern and the gap get only more accentuated at the higher levels of education. For example, the improvement at the level of matriculation for the scheduled tribes has been 13 per cent in urban and 10 per cent in rural areas. For the scheduled castes, these have been 11 per cent in urban and 7 per cent in rural areas. But for the Muslims these have been 5 per cent in urban and 7 per cent in rural areas. This not only shows them at a level that is lower than any other social group, but also shows that the improvement in their access is not taking place at a desired pace, despite a focussed programme.

 

At the level of higher education, the situation is still worse. While the Muslim OBCs recorded a mere two per cent increase in their participation in higher education institutions between 2005 and 2010, the Muslims of the general category recorded a net decline of 1.5 per cent in the same period. This trend is alarming because all other marginalised social groups --- like the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as well as other minorities --- recorded significant increases in the proportion of people within the ambit of higher education.

 

EMPLOYMENT

AND ECONOMY

This lag in educational attainment has had an impact on the patterns of employment among the Muslims. The data for 2009-2010 show that most of the formal sector employment is dominated by upper caste Hindus and the minorities other than the Muslims. The scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and the Muslims fare quite badly as far as the formal sector is concerned.

 

For instance, the share of all Muslims in formal sector employment is only 11.6 per cent, compared to a combined 20.7 per cent amongst the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Of this, only 5.6 per cent are employed in the public sector in urban areas where as 83.4 per cent are employed in the private sector. In the rural areas, only 2.6 of the Muslims are employed in the public sector. They also have only three per cent of all job cards in a flagship scheme like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, thus revealing that this scheme is not catering to the needs of the poorest amongst the marginalised.

 

Thus the fact is that the Muslims, with their high concentration in urban areas, are largely self-employed or concentrated in the service sector comprising community, personal and social services. Thus 33 per cent of all the Muslim urban workers are employed in the traditional services sector. In contrast, only six per cent of them work in new and modern services such as banking, information technology, insurance and other fast growing sectors. This figure is even more significant in the wake of the fact that the proportion of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the modern service sector is 32 and 27 per cent respectively. This is directly related to their improvement in the education sector as well as in regard to the constitutional guarantees that have been implemented for them.

 

A large section of the Muslims are self-employed and are concentrated in artisanal occupations which have slow growth rates and also lack investment. As the government disinvests in social and economic infrastructure, the access to financial credit is crucial for any small self-employed enterprise. However, most minorities, and especially the Muslims, remain financially excluded. A committee of top bankers found that both public and private sector banks failed to provide credit support to the poor minorities. In its own review, the Reserve Bank of India states that though 20.3 per cent of all accounts were held by the minorities, they accounted for only 11.6 per cent of all loans.

 

In the years 2009-2011, the monitoring of 121 minority concentration districts under the multisectoral development programme suggested that the per capita availability of advance from banks increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs one lakh for all Muslim account holders between 2008 and 2011. For the same years, however, the scheduled tribes found themselves in a much better situation where the per capita advance made by banks increased from Rs 2,30,000 to Rs 2,70,000 per year.

 

Thus the disparity amongst the minorities themselves and between the Muslims and other targeted social groups like the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes seems to be growing despite the claims of the Ministry of Finance that the share of the Muslims in priority sector loans increased from 8.08 per cent to 13 per cent between 2005 and 2011.

 

NEED TO INTENSIFY THE FIGHT

AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

The discussion above shows a growing gap between the Muslims and other social groups in so far as their overall development is concerned. The report on the evaluation of the post-Sachar minority development programmes attributes this lag and the gap to the misdirected and inefficiently implemented programmes. For example, the multisectoral district development scheme in the minority concentration districts does not cover the urban areas --- thereby affecting the access of the Muslims, 40 per cent of whom form a part of the urban poor.

 

This explanation, however, is only a part of the truth as the exclusion of the Muslims is also structured by majoritarian attitudes and discriminatory practices. The targeting of the Muslim youth and the lack of constitutional guarantees has only accentuated these processes and led to further deprivation for the Muslim minority.

 

Thus the fight for the legitimate rights and access of the Muslim minority has to be fought at two levels --- for their better access to the basic services and amenities, on the one had, and against the communal attitudes and for basic human rights, on the other hand.

 

Further, the democratic movement needs to intensify the struggle that links this fight to the larger struggle against the neo-liberal policies by sensitising the mass organisations to the special circumstances and needs of the Indian Muslims. To this end, it must have to work towards building a political consensus on constitutional guarantees to bring women, dalits and OBCs within the Muslim minority in the ambit of affirmative action.

 

Moreover, special developmental programmes and subsidies need to be provided for upgrading the artisanal sector that has a concentration of the Muslim minority. This will strengthen the forces of social reform and enable the oppressed sections within the Muslims to organise themselves and fight against the right wing fundamentalism within their own communities. Such a fight is essential not for the Muslims alone but also for preserving the democratic fabric and countering the influence of the advancing right wing forces within the nation.