National Consultation on Sachar Committee Report
The national consultation on Sachar Committee Report held here on March 24, 25 favoured reservation for OBC and SC communities within Muslims rather than an omnibus reservation for the community. It was organiased by the NGO Sanchetana which has completed 25 years of voluntary work in the fields of education, health and womenís empowerment. The consultation that drew participants from all across the country felt that it will not be feasible to have reservation for the community as a whole. Here are excerpts from several participants:
Dr. Abusaleh Sahrief
Member-Secretary, Prime Ministerís High Level Committee on socio-economic and education status of Muslims
Nearly all the Muslims in Kerala are listed under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) while in West Bengal where Muslims represent nearly a quarter of the stateís population, there are no OBC Muslims. While 22 per cent of the Hindu population was below poverty line (BPL), the percentage of BPL Muslims was 31 per cent countrywide. He said in urban areas, the proportion of BPL Muslims was two percentage points more than the Dalits.
Sharief said there was no political influence in the compilation of the report as was being suspected by some quarters. He said it was for the first time that an authentic report had been presented by a Government appointed committee in the country. Earlier to this, the 55th round of the National Sample Survey Organisation had presented some patchy data about the status of the Muslims.
The Committee had not recommended reservation for Muslims in the Govt jobs as was being demanded by some quarters. The Committee had taken in-depth view of the various existing mechanisms in the administration and governance of the country to address grievances harboured by any community. These included Article 30 of the Constitution, national and state minorities commissions, financial development corporations at the two levels, provisions for maintenance and development of awqaf. Similarly, general institutional mechanism for transparency like the Right to Information Act 2005, provision to lodge FIR, National Legal Aid authority, Consumer courts, were also available to the minorities as they were to other sections of the people.
Sharief expressed concern at the educational backwardness of the community and said the report points out that 8 to 9 per cent of Muslim children are never enrolled, and 60 per cent of those enrolled drop out too early to be called Ďeducatedí. The literacy was increasing at a much higher rate among the Dalits. Only four per cent of the enrolled Muslim students were going to madrassas and the madrassa modernization programme was not likely to benefit Muslims.
Among the population aged 20 plus, 16 per cent of the uppercastes were graduates, 8 per cent among Dalits were so while only 4 per cent among the Muslims had attained graduation degree. The proportion of Muslim employees in the Indian Railways was 4.5 per cent, commercial banks and the Reserve Bank of India 2.2 per cent, postal services 5 per cent, universities 4.7 per cent, central public sector units 3.3 per cent, state public sector units 10.8 per cent, (all PSUs 7.2 per cent), and state level government departments 6.3 per cent.
While the Muslims account holders enjoyed a parity with national average of account holders, but the outstanding amounts in deposits of the Muslims account holders was only 3-4 per cent of the entire deposits.
The Committee had found inherent bias in providing civic amenities in Muslim inhabited areas in matters of education, health, bus facilities.
He said the recommendations from the Committee include instituting an Equal Opportunities Commission and reassurance from the government that discriminations against underprivileged classes would be dealt with expeditiously. It had also recommended setting up a national data bank for socio-religious communities. This repository of data should be available to all.
Dr. Hanif Lakdawala
It has become imperative for us to review the situation of Muslims in India and especially in Gujarat after presentation of the Sachar Committee report. A lot of noises have been heard regarding reservation for the community. But social complexion of the community deserves deeper observation. The report is an opportunity to do something.
Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed
I do not understand the logic that Muslims should be everywhere in the proportion they have in population. We should look at equity rather than proportionality. Gaps have always persisted. The report had hiked the expectation of Muslims. In the beginning it was presumed that the Government had appointed the committee as a prelude to reservation for the community. However, in my opinion we should not look at the report from reservation point of view. Reservation is not a poverty alleviation programme. We should not demand general reservation. It will not benefit us. It will be difficult to build a consensus. There are SC communities among Muslims. For example, Muslim scavengers are known as Mehtar, Halalkhor in UP and Bihar respectively and Sheikhah in Jammu and Kashmir.
The report is deficient on sociology aspect. The discrimination factor has been dealt in very cautious language. The report deals with only equity aspect. But security and identity aspects too are very critical for Muslims and should have been taken up with equal emphasis. There is need to look at the political under representation of Muslims. Their representation in legislatures is not even half of what their numbers deserve.
Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
Several stereotypes are propagated about the communities. For instance, there is this canard that purdah is a stumbling block in promotion of education among Muslims. A survey by Nehru Memorial Museum recently reveals that 67 per cent Muslim women in India are illiterate. But only 1.4 per cent of them cited purdah as an obstacle. Community specific cultural initiatives help in popularity of programmes. NGO Lok Jumbish improved the literacy among Muslims by adopting Urdu medium during its campaign in Mewat in Haryana.
Sense of insecurity is deep among Muslims. Only Muslims suffer during riots and yet they are the only ones who are arrested. When terrorists indulge in terror activities, harassment campaign is let loose in the Muslim habitations. Security agencies conduct searches, seizures and raids in Muslim areas thereby rendering the entire Muslim areas suspect in the eyes of the people. Now a Muslim woman in Gujarat or Mumbai is afraid of complaining of domestic violence against her husband, because the police acts immediately and uses this opportunity to punish a Muslim man, not an offender.
voluntary agency worker
Muslim women carry layers of identity like religion, and region besides being females. They have been kept under constant barrage of attacks by the media. Shah Bano controversy besmirched her identity. Later the issue of child brides from Hyderabad came up. Three talaq is another one. Their socio-economic status is declining. They are engaged in such work which is only subcontracted to them which fetch low wages. There is need for dialogue about their problems with media, politicians, and bureaucracy.
There are five lakh waqf properties in India comprising six lakh acres of land. But they yield an income of only Rs. 1.63 crore. In the undivided Bengal, one-fourth of the land was waqf land for charitable purposes. Between 1810 and 1817, the Wakf was put under the Revenue Commissioner. From 1857 onwards, the Muslims were slowly deprived of the property. Government freely encroaches upon the Waqf land. Former prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi had written a letter to the state chief ministers on March 26, 1971 asking them to vacate the waqf land occupied by the Government offices and used by the agencies.
No survey commissioner is appointed. Even if the commissioner is appointed, no subordinate staff is given.
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Karnataka has set the precedent of dargah collection being used for educational upliftment of the community. Dargah of Khaja Bandenawaz runs as many as two dozen institutions. So also the Dargah of Hazrat Madani at Ullal. A private Waqf Development Corporation too has been set up in Bangalore. Some shopping complexes on waqf estates are yielding income for beneficial work. But the Weclom Groupís Windsor Manor Hotel on Shirazi Estate pays only Rs. Six lakh month for use of 4.5 acre of prime land in the heart of Bangalore. This could become possible only after years of litigation. It was paying Rs. 6000 for 30 years. It is time Muslims are made aware of the waqf potential and people of integrity are appointed at the helm.
Author and social activist, Ahmedabad
Muslims of Gujarat are divided in 87 different communities. Twenty eight of them are included among the 138 OBC communities of the state. Muslims of Saurashtra speak a language between Kachchi and Sindhi. These communities are Baghel and Machhimar. They face difficulty in procuring caste certificate. There should be effort to include at least 58 Muslim communities in the OBC list as they have been classified as OBC by the People of India series published by the Anthropological Survey of India
There will be no use in asking for reservation for all Muslims. Therefore the task of claiming the entitlement occupies the priority in Gujarat. Proper case must be built before the Backward Classes Commission.
Muslims have tradition of seeking knowledge. When Gaekwad Maharaja of Baroda introduced compulsory education of children, it were the Muslim teachers who were appointed to teach in Dalit villages as no uppercaste would go there.
We should not unnecessarily interrelate the three elements of security, identity and equity.
A. U. Saiyed
Dalit Muslims should be included in the SC list through a presidential order. Affiliation is not granted to Muslim institutions. No Objection Certificate is invariably denied in Gujarat. The Gujarat government has adopted a twisted logic and says that minority rights should not be operated in a way that it infringes upon Article 14 i.e., Equality before law. The Surat University rejected the plea for starting a Unani Medical College on the basis that Urdu was language that only pertained to minorities.
Prof. A. T. Sindhi
We should be guided by ground realities rather than mere rhetoric and emotional slogans.
lecturer, Third World Academy,
Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
Caste is a fact of Muslim existence. Earlier it was suggested that Muslims are homegenous whole. But now the realization is dawning that caste has an important role to play even among Muslims in the Gangetic basin. This may be a little unpalatable to muslim leadership which ignores realities. So if reservation is accorded to OBC Muslims, it will tell upon the future of Muslim politics. Muslims in the south realized it very early and it is why 98 per cent of Kerala Muslims are categorized under OBC while in West Bengal no Muslim community is under OBC.