Jayanth Jacob, Indian Express, Tuesday, April 18, 2006

NEW DELHI, April 17:Discriminated against and pushed to the sidelines, the Muslim community in India is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to benefits from Government-run welfare schemes, access to education, employment, even the system of credit, including bank loans.

 This is the disturbing conclusion emerging from the initial findings of the Prime Minister’s High Level Committee, headed by Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachar, looking into the “social, economic and education status of the Muslim community in the country.” The final report of the committee is expected to be submitted in June this year.

Since August last year, the committee has collected data after visiting several states, holding talks with government departments in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, NGOs and Muslim organisations.

The data, accessed by The Indian Express, shows:

• 94.9 per cent of Muslims in Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in rural areas do not receive free foodgrains.

• While only 3.2 per cent of Muslims get subsidised loans, just 1.9 per cent of the community benefit from the Antyodaya Anna Yojana Scheme, a programme meant to prevent starvation among the poorest of poor by providing food grains at a subsidised rate.

• 60.2 per cent of Muslims do not have any land in rural areas. National average: 43%

• Just 2.1 per cent of Muslim farmers have tractors. With 15,25,000 tractors, India ranks No.4 after US, Japan and Italy

• A mere 1 per cent own handpumps.

• On the educational front, the picture is equally dismal: 54.6 per cent Muslims in villages and 60 per cent in urban areas have never attended schools. National average: 40.8 per cent in rural areas and 19.9 per cent in urban areas.

• Only 0.8 per cent of Muslims in rural areas are graduates.

• Although in urban areas, nearly 40 per cent of the Muslims now receive modern education, only 3.1 per cent of the community in urban areas are graduates. Just 1.2 per cent are post-graduates.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Justice Sachar said: “These figures are based on what people and organisations told us when we met them in the states. But they need to be analysed before arriving at any final conclusion. The committee is yet to submit its report”.

The committee also found shocking instances of discrimination against the community. These include cases of Muslims not getting loans from even nationalised banks and finding it difficult to sell or buy property.

“There is an implicit diktat that loans should not be given in specific areas dominated by Muslims because of the high probability of default”, the committee observed after its visit to Rajasthan between August 22 and 24 last year.

The committee also found inadequate number of government schools in the Muslim-dominated areas contributing to the low number of Muslim boys and girls attending the schools.

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