Eight years after the Sachar committee report on the condition of Muslims and creation of a Ministry of Minority Affairs, a post-Sachar evaluation committee, headed by former JNU professor Amitabh Kundu, has concluded that though a start has been made in addressing development deficits of the community, government interventions have not quite matched in scale the large numbers of the marginalised.
Poverty levels among Muslims, the committee found, remained higher than the national average between 2004-05 and 2011-12. In terms of consumption expenditure, Muslims are third from the bottom — after the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
Set up in August 2013 by the UPA government for an evaluation of the status of Muslims after the Sachar committee findings, the Kundu committee was given an extension by the NDA government. It submitted its report to the Ministry of Minority Affairs nearly two months ago but there has been no movement thereafter. Nor have contents of the report been made public.
While Najma Heptulla, Union Minister of Minority Affairs, was not available for comment on the Kundu committee findings, Minister of State of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “Bigger than the issue of discrimination is the issue of political exploitation. The so-called champions of secularism exploited Muslims, brutally and badly, all these years. That is why socio-economic and educational uplift has lagged. Votebank politics took precedence. That is why we are working very keenly towards achieving both goals. We will make on-the-ground assessments of the implementation.”
This is a summary of the Kundu committee report:
* The committee recommends enactment of an anti-discrimination legislation to prohibit discrimination based on disability, sex, caste, religion to move away from quotas and quota politics. This is in line with “a paradigm shift in India’s approach to equality. Moving beyond reservations, they use diversity promotion and anti-discrimination to achieve social justice. Reservations are only one of several tools to address widespread, systematic discrimination in a society. Diversity index and anti-discrimination legislation together can help build a more equitable society and a deeper and more widespread notion of equality that go beyond group-specific quotas and accompanying quota politics.”
* It chronicles the phenomenon of “exclusionary urbanisation” with a decline in the share of Muslims in the rural-urban migration that was first noted in the 1990s and continues unabated. The percentage increase of Muslims in the urban population is low and the community is particularly under-represented in smaller urban centres where social factors and discrimination restrict mobility. The share of minorities in government employment remains low – less than half of the share of their total population in the country. The committee has recommended “government-led planned and targeted recruitment drives in a time-bound manner.”
* The committee notes that the natural advantage which Muslims have in initial health indicators like sex ratio, higher life-expectancy at birth, better child survival, are squandered away because of lack of equal health care access and amenities. “Inadequacy of health care infrastructure in Muslim areas, as highlighted in the Sachar Committee report, has not been addressed despite initiating specific schemes.”
* Schemes under the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme are plagued by lack of funds. Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) asked for Rs 58,000 crore under the 12th Five-Year-Plan but the actual outlay was fixed at only Rs 17,323 crore. The committee recommends expansion of the 15-point programme to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
* Of the 37 government ministries and departments whose employment data was analysed, the minorities, on an average, constituted 7.5% of new recruitment in Group A services between 2006-07 and 2012-13, 9.1% in Group B Services, 8.6% each in Group C and D services.
* Priority sector lending to Muslims remains an issue. The committee notes: “MoMA reports that the share of PSL to minorities has increased to 16.09% in 2013-14 of total PSL by banks in the country. However, Muslims could get only 44.31%, while Sikh had 24.58%, Christian 21.87%, Buddhists 2.06%, Parsis 2.23% and Jains 4.96%… This shows that except Muslims and Buddhists, the two most deprived minorities, other minorities are able to corner larger share in PSL. This distortion needs to be corrected at the earliest.”
* Despite lower levels of literacy among Muslims than Hindus, Muslims have lower gender disparity in terms of education. Outcome indicators for Muslims at all levels of education are closer to the ST community. Though enrolment of Muslim children in primary schools is high, there is also a very high dropout rate so the community, irrespective of gender or rural-urban residence, is less likely to attain secondary and higher secondary education.
But there is some cheer. The scholarship schemes run by the Ministry of Minority Affairs have done very well. The target for pre-matric scholarships has risen from 3 lakh in 2008-09 to 40 lakh each in 2012-13 and 2013-14 with a percentage achievement ranging from 115-221% with Muslims as main beneficiaries. This means that in some years, more than twice the scholarship targets were achieved.
Post-matric scholarships to minorities have increased from 75,000 in 2008-09 to 5 lakh each in the last three years with achievements of 121-178%. Despite such high achievement in terms of physical targets, the pre-matric scholarship could utilise only 94.81% of the total allocation of Rs 1,400 crore in the 11th FYP. Post-matric scholarships used 71.38% of the allocation, and merit-cum-means scholarship 71.23% of the allocation.