UP Assembly Elections – A Manifesto for Muslims

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Assembly Elections 2016 – No Cakewalk for Trinamool

Uttar Pradesh has the largest chunk of Muslim population in India. The community should press parties to include plans for their betterment in their manifesto for the 2017 elections.

By Syed Zafar Mahmood

It is ten years since Sachar Committee presented its Report on the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in India. It was appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2005 and presented its Report in November 2006. Its terms of reference mandated it to assess the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims and find out as to where they lagged behind other social components of population. It had pointed out that 38% Muslims in urban areas and 27% in rural areas were below the poverty line.
Statewise findings had pointed out that Muslims constituted 23.6% of those below poverty line in Uttar Pradesh where their share in the population was 18.5%. It was stated that the community’s representation in Police, Transport and Health Departments was 3.7% and among those who were recruited by the State Public Service Commission their share stood at mere 3.1% (p. 174). What it implies is that Muslims represented even less than one-fifth of what they legitimately deserved by dint of their share in population. Even more significantly, the Muslim representation among those called for interview for ‘A’ and ‘D’ grade services was 13.4% and 17.8% respectively.

Lagging Behind
It was plain that Muslims in Uttar Pradesh lagged far behind other religious communities in all sectors of development and Government welfare as well as development schemes were not benefitting them in due measure. Given the statistics available on the UP Government website, tremendous institutionalized effort would be necessary to raise the level of the community in proportion to its numbers.

West Bengal Situation
A similar exercise was undertaken in West Bengal in 2014 when 200 scholars fanned out in the State and carried out a detailed survey covering 97,017 Muslim families under the auspices of SNAP Guidance Guild. It was released by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen earlier this year. According to its findings, 19.52% of the Muslims are still illiterate and those holding post-graduate degrees among them constitute only 1.86%. Not a single individual was literate in as many as 19,419 families. A similar effort was mounted in Maharashtra which appointed the Mahmoodur Rahman Committee in 2013. It is now evident that the disease needs to be diagnosed before the treatment could begin.

Assessment Needed
Now it is imperative for the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh to press all the political parties to promise setting up a high-level committee to assess the situation of Muslims in the State in their election manifesto. And that it should present its report within a year of the Government assuming power in Lucknow. It should also recommend measures to elevate the status of those falling behind in matters of development indices. It should be given the same mandate as that of the Sachar Committee and should be headed by a retired judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court. The members should be drawn from among professionals in the field of Statistics, Sociology, Economics, and Administration. The new Government should start implementation of the recommendations within 15 months of its installation. Similarly, the action on recommendations of the Sachar Committee should also be relayed through the official website. Currently, copies of the State Chief Secretary’s letters advising action by various departments in 2009 are present on the official website. The Department heads had been advised to see that 20% of the benefits under all development schemes should reach the minorities. But there are no details with regard to implementation of these measures by the Departments between the intervening years of 2009 and 2016.

Blocks as Unit uder MsDP
In the backdrop of the progress so far, it would be incumbent upon the party taking over the reins of power in 2017 to ensure that special attention is given to uplift the Muslims in the State. For example, the Blocks should be made the unit to implement the civic improvement schemes rather than the district or division under the Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP). A Minority Welfare officer should be posted in all blocks of the State. BPL cards should be issued to all widows and poor families. Bank loan facilities should be extended to all the landless families. Free education facilities should be extended to their children till matriculation. High Schools and Industrial Training Institutes should be set up in all the blocks with a heavy concentration of Muslim minority.

Development Work
The development work should include setting up hospitals, school, banks, public toilets in Muslim concentration areas at ward levels. Water, power and sewage lines should be extended to these areas with road being laid to them. Housing units should be allotted to Muslims in proportion to their population in every block. Those who lose their land due to laying of civic infrastructure, should be compensated at the market rate with arrears being cleared at the same rate. Aligarh Muslim University has some land at Mahsi, a location 14 kms from Bahraich town. Some educational institutions should be set up there. It would be easily accessible for Muslims from Terai (foothills of Himalayan ranges), Awadh and Purvanchal.

Waqf and Madrassas
Arabic and Persian should be offered as an optional subject in all exams conducted by the UP Public Service Commission. Madrassa certificates should be accorded recognition for entry into Public Service Commission advertised jobs. Teachers for Maths, Sciences, English and Social Sciences should be sought for madrassas under Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrassas, a central government scheme. Every district should have study centres where career counselling and library facilities are available. Skill centres must be set up on district level and plans be drawn for promotion of skills. SHGs should be encouraged in all such centres. Waqf properties under Government occupation should be evacuated and entrusted to the Waqf Board or the Government should pay their rents at the market rate. Bank loans should be arranged for small businessmen.

No Place for Fatalism
Only such measures would enable the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh to get back their lost position. Defeatism and fatalism must be shunned. Only struggle for their right can bring a turnaround in their fortunes.
(The article originally appeared in Rashtriya Sahara, issue dt. August 11, 2016. English translation is an in-house job at Islamic Voice).