Neena Vyas, The Hindu, 1 Dec 2006
Urgent policy initiatives called for
# Use of electricity for lighting is less among Muslims
# They have the least access to potable water
NEW DELHI: Muslim dominated villages, whether in West Bengal, Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, are less likely to be served by infrastructure facilities like an educational institution, healthcare facilities, `pucca' roads, bus-stops or even electricity or tap water, but the housing of Muslims was more or less at par with other communities.
However, surveys showed that in the southern States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu differences between infrastructure in low or high Muslim populated villages was only marginal.
The Sachar Committee report found a "clear and significant inverse correlation" between the proportion of the Muslim population and the availability of various facilities, which in turn leads to further social and economic disadvantage for the minority community. The report has suggested urgent policy initiatives to improve matters.
The suggestion, though not clearly articulated, is that there has been a State bias, conscious or otherwise, against Muslims, for nothing else could explain consistent findings of lower levels of infrastructure of all kinds in villages with high Muslim populations.
Less access to postal services
Chapter seven of the report demonstrates with the help of diagrams that villages with higher concentrations of Muslims have less access to even services like posts and telegraph, and the situation deteriorates further if the high Muslim concentration village is larger, with a population over 2000.
As Muslims are less landed and more likely to be artisans, lack of `pucca' roads and bus stops means that the economic opportunities that may have opened up for them elusive.
Using the National Sample Survey Organisation (61st round) data, the Sachar panel found that use of electricity for lighting is less among Muslims when compared to the all-Indian average and the disadvantage is "quite large" in Muslim concentrated villages, with "the share of villages with no electricity increasing substantially" as the size of the village falls and Muslim population rises. A number of diagrams and charts are used by the Sachar report to establish this point.
The situation is not very different for availability of tap water. While in urban areas 60 to 70 per cent of all households have access to potable tap water across socio-religious communities, in rural areas where only 25 per cent of households get this facility, the Muslims have least access compared to other religious communities.
At the same time, the Sachar committee report says that housing conditions of Muslims were at par with those of other communities and toilet facilities were even better.