The Hindu, 1 Dec 2006
# Innocuous purpose is to know if Muslims are under-represented
# Approach positive, not divisive
NEW DELHI: Acting on a Defence Ministry request, the Prime Minister's High Level Committee under Justice Rajinder Sachar has not included the data received from the Air Force and the Navy on the number of Muslims in these services in its report on the community.
As part of its mandate, the seven-member committee sought information from the three services on the number of Muslims in their employ. While the Army refused to furnish the data,the Navy and the Air Force obliged the committee amid a controversy.
"The Ministry of Defence informed the committee that it was not possible for it to supply the data for the Army. It also requested the committee not to use the data which had already been sent by the Air Force and the Navy," Justice Sachar noted in the foreword to the report. "Thus, in the report, the committee has not used the data received from the armed forces."
At the same time, Justice Sachar has sought to clarify that the "innocuous purpose" of seeking such information was "to know if Muslims were under-represented in some departments or any other sphere." Further, "such an approach is not divisive but is positive, an essential requirement for impartial and caring administration in its commitment for instilling confidence in the fairness of the government's functioning. Without considering such information, the Government may not be in a position to take any corrective action, even with the best of intentions."
The Sachar Committee was set up on March 9, 2005 to plug the information gap on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims. It was to have submitted its report by June 8, 2006, but could complete the task only mid-November due to delay in receipt of information from various organisations including the National Sample Survey Organisation on its 61st Round and the Reserve Bank of India.
"Important part of the data was not forthcoming in time from many States," Justice Sachar pointed out in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. To assess the "development deficit" among Muslims, the committee examined their demographic spread and the community's record in social indices such as literacy, dropout, maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate, its share in public and private sector employment, and access to education, health services, municipal infrastructure, bank credit and other services provided by the Government and the public sector.
Also, the committee looked into the proportion of Other Backward Classes from Muslims in the total OBC population in various States and whether Muslim OBCs were listed in the comprehensive list of OBCs prepared by the National and State Backward Classes Commissions and adopted by the Central and State Governments for reservation.