SEEMA CHISHTI, Indian Express , October 31, 2006

Schools, jobs, poverty, land ownership: on all these counts, Muslims worse off than OBCs

New Delhi, October 30: If Muslims are worse off than Scheduled Castes when it comes to education, they significantly trail behind Other Backward Classes (OBCs) virtually across the board: education, employment, poverty levels and landholdings.

OBCs also include Muslim OBCs. (For example, Noniya, Dhuniya, Chirimar and Bhishtis etc, considered to constitute close to a half of the Muslim population although this share is a heavily disputed one).

Muslim OBCs not only trail the non-OBC Muslim (the “General Muslim”), they are worse off than Hindu OBCs in all categories.

These are among the findings from the data based on the 61st round of the NSSO survey and inputs from states. Member Secretary of the Sachar Committee economist Abusaleh Sharif told The Indian Express: “(These) NSSO statistics demonstrate general Muslims are well below the status of Hindu OBCs.”

This acquires significance given the current debate over quotas for OBCs in higher education and the political resistance to the idea of excluding quotas for a “creamy layer.”

Clarifying that his opinion was personal, Sharif, who has shared some this data in a paper with the National Knowledge Commission last month, said: “There is no time like the present, when the world wants Indians. Why don’t we want our own people? A deadly mix of prejudice and poor economic conditions have held back Muslims, poor OBCs (both Hindu and others) and SC/STs constituting large sections of the population. Unshackling the energies and talents of these groups is ultimately what the Indian miracle will need to be premised on.”

The data tabulated indices for levels of education (matriculation, graduates and above), employment (workers and formal sector), economic (poverty and land holdings) between Hindu OBCs, General Muslims and Muslim OBCs, and compared them with the standard all-India average (See red line in chart).

The distance from this average red line of the various bars indicates the extent of deprivation, or deviation for that particular group, from the standard all-India average for that variable.

• For matriculation, graduation, formal sector employment, all OBCs are below the all-India average.

• When it comes to non-formal employment, poverty levels and landholdings, Hindu OBCs are better than even the national average

• Muslim OBCs fare poorer than Hindu OBCs in all categories

• General Muslims are the worst off, trailing both Hindu and Muslim OBCs.

The differentials between General Muslims and Hindu OBCs are particularly large for the poverty index, for landholdings and for employment in the formal sector. Poverty and land ownership have an impact on both the economic and social status of the communities and experts say are key variables while assessing overall status of any community, or gauging the potential for social mobility of members of that community.

As reported by this newspaper since Friday, the Sachar Committee has found that the share of Muslims in government jobs and in the lower judiciary in any state simply does not come anywhere close to their population share. The only place where Muslims can claim a share in proportion to their population is in prison. In some states like Maharashtra, the share of Muslim inmates to the total is as high as over 40 per cent (the share of Muslims in the state is just 10.6 per cent).