Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu , 1, Dec 2006
|Suggests far-reaching recommendations for uplift of community|
NEW DELHI: The Rajinder Sachar Committee, appointed by the Prime Minister to evaluate the social, economic and educational status of Muslims, has called for path-breaking efforts to include and mainstream them — efforts that will at once address the inequities experienced at all levels and in all spheres by the community and eliminate its perception of discrimination.
Suggesting the adoption of suitable mechanisms to ensure equity and equality of opportunity to Muslims in residential, work and educational spaces, the first of its kind report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, makes a strong pitch for making diversity a key feature of public policy.
The report emphasises that these objectives can be achieved only "when the importance of Muslims as an intrinsic part of the diverse Indian social mosaic is squarely recognised." It recommends the creation of an Equal Opportunity Commission, modelled on the U.K. Race Relations Act, 1976, to look into the grievances of religious minorities.
"It is imperative that if the minorities have certain perceptions of being aggrieved, all efforts should be made by the state to find a mechanism by which these complaints could be attended to expeditiously." Other institutional mechanisms suggested include a national bank to collect and store data, and an autonomous authority to assess, monitor and suggest timely policy options.
The report does not recommend reservation in education and jobs for the community as a whole. However, it makes a forceful case for "multifarious measures, including reservation" for Muslims with similar traditional occupations as that of the Scheduled Castes "as they are cumulatively oppressed."
The report notes that the community exhibits "deficits and deprivation" in practically all dimensions of development. "In fact, by and large, Muslims rank somewhat above the SCs/STs but below Hindu OBCs, Other Minorities and Hindu General (mostly upper castes) in almost all indicators considered." In States with large Muslims populations, "the situation is particularly grave in … West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam." What adds to the "development deficit," is the perception among Muslims that they are discriminated against and excluded.
The report demolishes several myths about the community. Its findings: only four per cent of all Muslim students are enrolled in madrasas; and Muslim parents are not averse to modern or mainstream education, and would, in fact, prefer to send their children to "regular school education that is open to any other child in India." In social indices such as infant mortality rate and sex ratio, the community fares better than the rest of the population.
The report suggests specific policy initiatives to address educational, career and political deprivation among Muslims. On education, its recommendations include a special focus on free and compulsory education; institutionalising 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 primary education in Urdu in areas where the language is widely in use.