By Ali Ashhar

A community which gave India its first education minister finds its member underrepresented not only in the terms of employment but also education. At 42.7% Muslims have the highest percentage of illiteracy in the country followed by 36.4% for Hindus and 32.5% for Sikhs. According to the 2001 Census, a 7% of the population aged 20 years or above are graduate while 4% among Muslim population does. The report also note that only 3% of Muslim children among the school going age go to Madrasas. Instead many Muslim children are engaged in Maktabs, which provides supplementary religious education in addition to enrollment in schools. The enrollment of Muslims are per All India Survey on Higher Education Reports, revealed that the enrollment of Muslims in higher education is even lower than SCs, STs and OBC.

According to the Sachar community’s report the percentage of Muslims in Indian Administrative Services, Indian Police Services and Indian Foreign Services is 3%, 4% and 1.8% respectively despite being the largest minority in India with a population of 14%. Apart from this the employment rate of Muslims in other Government sectors is relatively poor with the stats— 4.5% in Indian Railways, 6.5% in education department (state level), 7.3% in home department (state level), 6% in Police Constable, 4.5% in health departments, 6.5% in transport department and 7.8% in judiciary employment. The committee headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, submitted its report in 2006. According to report, the participation of Muslims in Central Government departments and agencies are abysmally low at all levels. There is not even one state in which the representation of Muslims in government departments matches their population share.

The most striking feature here is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self-employment activity. Poverty also plays a major role. According to NSSO data, 22.7% of total Indian population was poor in 2004-05 while the stat among Muslim was 31%. The report also stated that benefits meant for the backward class are yet to reach them. Study found out that about one third of small villages with high concentration of Muslims do not have any educational institute. About 40% of large areas with a substantial Muslim concentration do not have any medical facilities. In its interim report submitted to the Union Ministry for Minority Affairs, the ICSSR said lack of access to schools and educational institutions, inadequate number of educational institutions, low literacy rates among parents and poor implementation of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), besides poor participation of Muslims in the professional and managerial cadre, led to their backwardness.

Some of the recommendations made by the Sachar Committee to tackle this issue are as follows:

• Set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to look into grievances of deprived groups like minorities.

• Recognise degrees from madrasas for eligibility in defence, civil and banking examinations.

• Create a ‘nomination’ procedure to increase participation of minorities in public bodies.

• Provide hostel facilities at reasonable costs for students from minorities on a priority basis.

• Provide legal mechanism to address complaints of discrimination against minorities in matters of employment, housing, schooling and obtaining bank loans.

• Promote and enhancing access to Muslims in ‘Priority Sector Advances’.

• Include in teacher training components that introduce importance of diversity and plurality and sensitising teachers towards needs and aspirations of Muslims and other marginalized communities.

• Initiate and institutionalise a process of evaluating contents of textbooks to purge them of explicit and implicit material that may impart inappropriate social values, especially religious intolerance.

• Open high quality Urdu medium schools of wherever they are in demand and ensuring high quality textbooks for students in the Urdu language.

• Create a National Data Bank (NDB) where all relevant data for various socio-religious categories are maintained.

• Draw Muslims on relevant interview panels and boards

• Improve participation and share of minorities, particularly Muslims, in business of regular commercial banks.

• Set up an autonomous assessment and monitoring authority to evaluate the extent of development benefits.

• Set up a national Wakf development corporate with a revolving corpus fund of Rs 500 crore.

• Encourage the University Grants Commission to evolve a system where part of allocation to colleges and universities is linked to diversity in student population.

•Create new cadre to deal with specific wakf affairs.

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Ali Ashhar is a poet, author and freelance content writer

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