The BJP-SS Government in Maharashtra has begun its tenure in the State on a negative note. The recently elected Maharashtra Assembly with the new government in power, passed the bill for reservation for the Marathas but neglected the plea for reservations for Muslims. The previous Congress-NCP had issued an ordinance last June—even though it too was a pre-poll sop for Muslim votebank—granting 5% reservation to Muslims and 16% reservation to Marathas who constitute the most dominant community in the State. This has been done despite the fact that the Bombay High Court had stayed the ordinance on reservation for Marathas while allowing 5% reservation for Muslims in educational institutions.
While it was not unexpected of a Government that now rules India’s most progressive state going by the antipathy of the ruling combination, it is patently antithetical of a Government that should have remained true to its slogan ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ (Support for everyone, development for all).
Socio-economic backwardness of Muslims in Maharashtra is a stark reality and has come to be endorsed by more than one source. A Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) report had put nearly one-third of the Muslims in annual income category of less than Rs. 10,000 and nearly one-fourth in Rs. 10,001 to 20,000 bracket. More significant were conclusion of the study by Dr. Vibhuti Patel of the SNDT University sponsored by the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission submitted in March 2013. It had noted that majority of the State’s Muslims in the urban areas lived in slums. Given the fact that 70 per cent of the State’s Muslim are living in urban areas—22% in Greater Mumbai area alone—this goes to prove that they are engaged in menial and low-wage work. Muslim children were walking out of schools one year earlier than general population and at least three years earlier than those from Christian and Buddhist minorities. Language too acted as a barrier in accessing better jobs and work opportunities in case of Muslims.
Economic deprivation was evident from the fact that their employment pattern is highly skewed towards lower level activities in the tertiary sector with hardly any occupational mobility. The access of Muslims to bank credit was found low and inadequate; the community had one of the lowest monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE), and lowest representation in the public sector employment.
A number of other panels such as Mehmoodur Rahman Committee appointed by Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh too had recommended ameliorative measures including reservation for Muslims in the State. A Government committed to the ‘development for all’ is duty bound to review its stand vis-à-vis affirmative action towards the deprived sections.