Ministry of Human Resource Development05-December, 2006 17:44 IST

The report of the High Level Committee on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India, chaired by Justice Rajindar Sachar, has been tabled in the Parliament.  According to reports, the Sachar Committee has found that the Muslim community is lagging behind other religious groups of India in most development indicators. The community is relatively poor, more illiterate, has lower access to education, lower representation in public and private sector jobs, and lower availability of bank credit for self-employment. In urban areas, the community mostly lives in slums characterized by poor municipal infrastructure. “In fact, by and large, Muslims rank somewhat above SCs/STs but below Hindu OBC.s, other minorities and Hindu general (mostly upper) castes in all indicators considered”, the Report states. However, there is considerable variation in the condition of the Muslim community across states and regions.

Addressing Backwardness

The Committee has stressed the need for formulation of appropriate programmes to address the educational and economic backwardness of the community.  The Committee has made wide-ranging suggestions including the creation of an Equal Opportunity Commission, modeled on the U.K. Race Relations Act, 1976, to look into the grievances of religious minorities.

            The Sachar Committee Report is expected to be widely discussed and debated upon by the honourable representatives of the people.  The database provided by the Report may help the Government to prepare a roadmap for its implementation.  While the new roadmap is expected to take shape in the coming days, it may be worthwhile to take stocks of current government programmes, including proposed programmes, which have addressed these issues.

While the Sachar Committee has now provided a clearer database regarding the status of Muslims in various spheres of society, the policy makers in the government has acted upon the data available from earlier studies.  For example, the 2001 Census shows that whereas the all India literacy rate is 65.6%, the all India Muslim literacy rate is 59.1%.  Major States which have Muslim literacy rates below State literacy rates are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.  The differentials are highest in West Bengal, Assam and Delhi.  However, several States particularly, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have Muslim literacy rates higher than the State literacy rate.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) or “Education for All Programme”, a national flagship programme to provide quality elementary education to all children in the 6 – 14 years age group through a time bound approach.  Based on the data obtained from Census as well as District Information System for Education (DISE), SRI-IMRB Survey etc., the Government has made a number of interventions in SSA to help the minority (Muslim) children in education.  One of the thrust areas is to ensure availability of schools in all minority concentrated districts.  During 2005-06, 4624 primary and Upper primary schools, and about 31,702 Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) Centres were sanctioned in minority concentrated districts.  During 2006-07, 6918 new primary and upper primary schools have been sanctioned in minority-dominated districts.  32,250 EGS centres with a total enrolment of 120.90 lakh children have been sanctioned for 2006-07.  Sanction has also been accorded for enrolment of 11.25 lakh children in Alternative & Innovative Education (AIE) during 2006-07 in these districts.

Madrasas/Makhtabs have been covered under SSA.  The Madarsas affiliated to the State Madarasa Boards and satisfying certain conditions are eligible for such assistance as is available to other regular schools under SSA. So far 8309 madarsas have been assisted.

Facilities for Minority Girls

            Taking note of the fact that a large number of children, especially girls, are found studying in Madrasas the State have been advised that, an EGS centre or an AIE intervention may be started at such Madarsas by the local body concerned, whereby free textbooks and an additional teacher if required can be provided.  4867 maktabs/madarsas have been taken up under EGS/AIE.

            Free textbooks are provided to all minority girls from classes I-VIII.  Urdu textbooks are provided for Urdu medium schools and for Urdu as a subject.  Based on the 1981 Census, 93 districts (now 99) in 16 states have been identified for focused attention.  The major focus is on the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Assam.    Out of the 1180 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV), 210 schools have been sanctioned in minority blocks, 1430 minority girls have already been enrolled in KGBVs till 31.3.06.

            From 2006 onwards, the category Minority (Muslim) is being included in the reporting of enrolment from each school in the country under the DISE database of SSA.  Similarly, each state could collect habitation wise information on out of school children for which the Muslim Community is being included as a separate category.

Muslim Concentration Districts

            In addition to above measures, there is also a special focus on 93 districts, which was found to be having more than 20% Muslim population in the 1981 census, for SSA investments in 2005-06 and 2006-07.  These are :

·            Targetted sanctions to meet infrastructure gaps for schools, classrooms and teachers.

·            Provision for 22 lakh children out of school through EGS/AIE.

·            Additional madarsas/maktabs to be supported under AIE component.

The investments in these are substantial, as more than 25% of the total allocations under SSA for the current year, have been approved for these minority concentration districts.  Such measures have also been reciprocated by several States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam (all having substantial Muslim population) in their own SSA programmes.

In a recent proposal submitted to the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Human Resources Development extends such facilities in the sphere of secondary education.  It has proposed starting 1,500 new Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) with an emphasis on Muslim-dominated districts.  It also wants these residential JNVs to teach Urdu along with other conventional courses.

Sachar Committee’s recommendations in the sphere of education include a special focus on free and compulsory education; institutionalizing the process of evaluating school textbooks so that they better reflect community-specific sensitivities; setting up quality government schools, especially for girls in areas of Muslim concentration; and providing priming education in Urdu in areas where the language is widely in use.  The Government measures outlined above, show that the country is already moving in the direction pointed out by the Sachar Committee.

15-Point Programme

            The Prime Minister has also unfolded a comprehensive 15-point programme for the welfare and empowerment of minorities, recasting a similar programme announced in 1983 by the then Prime Minister Shrimati Indira Gandhi.  The new plan wants to help the minorities by –

·            Enhancing opportunities for education.

·            Ensuring equitable share in economic activities and employment.

·            Improving the conditions of living of minorities.

·            Prevention and control of communal disharmony and violence.

The target groups include the eligible sections among the minorities notified under National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, viz: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis.

West Bengal Example

The 15-point welfare plan for minorities have already elicited response from States with substantial minority population.  For example, West Bengal has announced that it would spend 15% of the funds provided in the financial plans of 8 departments on schemes and projects meant for minorities.  The departments include Panchayats, Urban Development, Municipal Affairs, Women and Child Development, School and Technical Education, Disaster Management and Finance.    To monitor this programme, a State-level Committee has been constituted.  The Committee, chaired by Minority Development Minister, has 18 Principal Secretaries of Departments as Members.  Reputed Non-Governmental Organisations, engaged in social welfare, are also represented in the monitoring committee.

Inclusive Society

The new 15-point programme and interventions of concerned Ministries like Human Resource Development can now be further chiselled and their implementation improved in the light of the Sachar Committee Report.  As pointed out by the Prime Minister when the Sachar Report was presented to him ‘that this would be in accordance with the Government commitment to achieve growth with equity, to strengthen our pluralistic ethos and build an inclusive society.’(PIB Features)

*Freelance writer & former Sr. Addl. PIO, PIB,  Delhi

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and not necessarily reflect the views of PIB.



(Release ID :22830)