Last Updated on Friday, 04 July 2014 12:15
R.K.Ohri, IPS (Retd.)
In a country teeming with the poor and the indigent there could be no justification for appointing a Committee exclusively to look into the socio-economic and educational backwardness of one single community, namely the Muslims, who in terms of many human development indicators are better placed than the Hindus. In accordance with the Notification dated March 9, 2005, the Sachar Committee had invited representations from all interested groups by issuing advertisements in newspapers.
The Committee was further required to conduct “an intensive literature survey to identify the published data, articles and research on relative social, economic and educational status of Muslims in India”, as reiterated in para 2 (a) of the aforesaid notification.
Sachar Committee, however, failed on both counts. It took no notice of the detailed facts-packed Memorandum submitted by our Forum on 18th May 2006 (after the original one was lost in Committee’s office) and despite a written assurance given to our Forum vide their letter dated Oct. 5, 2005, did not consider our Memorandum. Six reminders sent by us were never replied to. The Committee did not take into account many important documents, especially the 2 off-beat seminar papers read on Sept 2, 2006, by S/Shri R.K. Ohri and Prof. Sanjay Kumar (Fellow of Centre for Study of Developing Societies) in a Seminar held in the prestigious Indian Institute of Public Administration which highlighted the fact that the Muslim community was not disadvantaged at all vis a vis Hindus. The findings of two well-researched seminar papers established that actually the proportion of ‘very poor’ people was higher among Hindus than among Muslims. This fact has been confirmed now by the latest survey conducted by NSS which showed that the poorest 10 percent population of India lives in rural areas on a pittance of Rs 9/- per day. On pro rata basis it would mean that 74 percent of these les miserables happen to be Hindus. The proportion of the poorest in Hindu community comes to 13.6 percent, while among Muslims it is 10.5.
The following important facts, duly supported by statistical data and critical analysis (including the sources of inputs) have been ignored by Sachar Committee :
1. The incidence of infant and child mortality per 1000 births is substantially higher among Hindus than among Muslims, the overall differential being 29 to 30 percent. It is
a universally recognized fact that higher incidence of infant and child mortality is a direct consequence of poor nutritional intake resulting from acute poverty. In addition, between 1991-1999 there was a steep increase in this differential in the Infant and Child Mortality of the two communities (as pointed out in our ignored Memorandum) which indicated a sharp decline in the economic status of Hindus. The following data compiled by S. Irudaya Rajan gives the overall picture of incidence of Infant and Child mortality for the Hindus and Muslims of India :
Estimates of Infant and Child Mortality for Hindus and Muslims
Source: S.Irudaya Rajan, District Fertility Estimates for Hindus and Muslims, Economic and Political Weekly, January 29, 2005, p.440.
Note 1: NFHS stands for National Family Health Survey. Two such surveys have been held in the past, one in 1992-93 and another in 1998-99. The third survey has completed recently. But its final results are yet to be released.
Note 2: The term Infant Mortality relates to death of children below one year age per 1000 births, while Child Mortality relates to death of children below 5 years, but above the age of 1 year per 1000 births.
A mere glance at the above data shows that in 1998-99 for the country as a whole there were 77 cases of Infant Mortality (per 1000) among Hindus as against only 59 such cases among Muslims thereby revealing more than 30 percent higher incidence of Infant Mortality among Hindus vis a vis Muslims. As regards the incidence of Child Mortality, according to NFHS -2 , there were 107 cases of child mortality per 1000 births amongst Hindus compared to a meagre 83 such cases among the Muslims. In other words, the incidence of child mortality, too, is nearly 29 percent higher among Hindus as compared to Muslims. It is simple commonsense and a universally recognized principle that higher incidence of infant and child mortality is a direct consequence of poor nutritional intake resulting from acute poverty. This in terms of these 2 important human development indicators the Hindus are definitely worse off than the Muslims.
2. Our Memorandum further highlighted through proper analysis that the manifest difference in incidence of child mortality between the Hindus and the Muslims further widened between 1991 and 1999 because of a sharp decline in incomes in the agricultural sector resulting in further deterioration in the economic condition of Hindus. During the last two decades there has been a massive decline in productivity in the agricultural sector where GDP growth remained very low – far below the high growth recorded in the urban sector. In recent years more than 15,000 suicides by impoverished peasantry (now the number has exceeded 25,000) most of whom were Hindus. The rightful claim of farmers and rural poor for “affirmative action” to ameliorate their lot has been denied by the government because they happen to be too poor and disorganized to act as a solid “vote bank” and have not learnt the devious art of practising “grievance politics”.
3. Degree of urbanization, or the relative proportion of a community’s population living in urban areas is the third important globally accepted human development indicator. According to Census 2001 as many as 74 percent Hindus live in rural areas whereas the proportion of Muslims living in rural areas was only 64 percent. Thus barely 26 percent Hindus are urbanized, while the percentage of urbanized Muslims is much higher at 36 percent. According to this human development indicator, too, Muslim community is far ahead of Hindus. The following table shows the degree of urbanization among members of the two communities, as per Census 2001:
Numbers Living in Urban Areas
Percentage Living in Urban Areas
Source: Census 2001, Religion Data Report.
4. The average life expectancy at birth is yet another globally recognized indicator of socio-economic status of a community. As calculated by two well known professional demographers, P.N. Mari Bhat and A.J. Francis Zavier in their research study published in Economic & Political Weekly, January 29, 2005 (page 390), the average life expectancy at birth for Muslims was 1.2 years higher than the Hindus – the respective averages being 62.6 years for the Muslims as against 61.4 years for the Hindus.
5. There is not much difference in the literacy average of the two communities, the average literacy among Hindus being 65.1 percent (barely 0.3 percent higher than the national average of 64.8), as against 59.1 percent among Muslims. There were substantial variations in the percentage of literacy from State to State, as revealed by Census 2001. According to Statement 8 of Census 2001 (Religion Data Report) there are at least 13 States and Union Territories, including several big states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Gujarat where the Muslims are ahead of the Hindus in the matter of literacy. Even female literacy among Muslims is higher than among Hindus in 13 States and U.Ts, namely Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Pondicherry, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Andamans & Nicobar Islands. Interestingly in Andhra Pradesh, a State notoriously hellbent on providing 5 percent reservations to Muslims, the percentage of literacy among Muslims is higher than the Hindus to the extent of 7 percent, while in the matter of female literacy the Muslims have an advantage of 10 percent over Hindu women.
6. According to NSS surveys the per capita income of Muslims is lower than that of Hindus. But there were two critical differences between the economic parameters of the two communities. One crucial factor is the comparatively larger size of Muslim households when compared to Hindus which increased the dependency burden on the breadwinner. On an average every Muslim family has one additional member to feed than the comparable Hindu household due to poor acceptance of small family norm. According to National Family Health Survey -2, on an average every Muslim woman is giving birth to 1.1 more child than her Hindu counterpart.
The second important reason is the abysmally low work participation of Muslim women which was nearly 50 percent lower than the Hindus, the respective percentages according to Census 2001 being 14.1 percent for Muslim women as against 27.5 for Hindu women. The reason for this poor work participation was the obscurantist custom of veil and the Shariah-dictated taboo forbidding women to go out for work. The Committee, despite harping repetitively on its pet theme of Muslim poverty, dare not delve deep into the true reasons for this globally prevalent malaise, namely the high birth rate and poor female work participation, as established by our research. The intention obviously is to hide from the gullible public the knowledge about the politically inconvenient truth of abnormally high birth rate and poor female work participation in Muslim community.
A simple real life example, based on NSS data, will highlight the precise nature of the problem. Let us assume that in one locality 2 families are living: one Hindu and another Muslim. The Hindu family, Mr and Mrs Menon, have 2 children and both husband and wife (Mr and Mrs Menon), are working so that the dependency burden on breadwinners comes to 1:1 (i.e, 2 earning hands and 2 dependant children). Alongside there is a Muslim family, Mr and Mrs Abdul, who have 3 children, but only Mr. Abdul works so that the dependency on one breadwinner comes to 1:5 because one single earning member (ie., Mr. Abdul) has to look after 3 children and wife. Now Abdul and his family are angry that they don’t have the same economic status as Mr. and Mrs. Menon. And there are many Abduls who clamour for having equal economic status without agreeing to reduce the size of their families and without allowing their wives to go out to work. Please elucidate is it really possible and if so how? What Sachar Committee is trying to do is simple bluster.
The Committee’s recipe is that to improve the economic conditions of all Abduls, government should provide reservations and monetary doles to Abduls and their families. But Sachar Committee won”t advise them to opt for small family norm, they don’t tell Abduls to allow their womenfolk to come out of Burka and go out for work because Muslim clerics don’t approve of it. Please put your hand on your heart and speak out boldly whether it is ethical and appropriate to recommend and propagate the obfuscatory remedies like reservations and preferential financial doles to Abduls who don’t accept small family norm and emancipation of women?
7. The scriptural disapproval of women going out to work has 3 adverse side-effects. First, it results in lower household earnings causing lower per capita income. Second, it pulls down the percentage of overall employment in the community because the average of employment is the statistical average of the total work participation by both the men and the women in a community. Third, it tends to show a higher level of unemployment in the community due to large number of non-working women. Rationally speaking, due to adverse impact of these factors the statistical data of unemployment and lower per capita income of Muslims cannot be compared with similar indices pertaining to Hindus, Christians and other communities whose womenfolk don’t suffer from religious disabilities restricting female education, or curbs on women empowerment and work participation.
8. The Hindu society has a thick creamy layer, mostly city-based, whose huge income gets distributed over the vast Hindu population, mostly poor, spread out in rural areas thereby giving an impression that as a community the Hindus are more prosperous than the Muslims. Attention was drawn to the fact that out of 311 Rupee billionaires in the country nearly 300 happen to be Hindus, though the richest billionaire happens to be a forward-looking Muslim entrepreneur, Azim Premji.
9. The socio-economic backwardness of the Muslim community is not an India specific problem. It is a global phenomenon as pointed out by a bold Pakistan-based analyst, Dr. Farrukh Saleem. One major reason is rampant gender discrimination and regressive social practices imposed by powerful clerics and religious scholars. The social status of a community is a direct function of its socio-religious mores, especially the treatment meted out to women in the matter of gender equality and socio-economic emancipation. An important step towards modernizing the community would be to enact a common civil code which alone could empower the Muslim women.
10. The Committee did not want to face the politically unpalatable truth that in terms of four important human development indicators, namely Infant Mortality, Child Mortality, Urbanisation and Life Expectancy at Birth, the Hindus are more disadvantaged than the Muslims and that the real cause of social backwardness of the community, prevalent all over the world, lies in their abnormally high birth rate and regressive social system and stranglehold of obscurantist clergy. Astonishingly the well known facts about veil and gender discrimination voiced by the well known film celebrity, Shabana Azmi and several others have been totally ignored by the Committee.
A detailed study of the Report reveals that it has extensively fudged the facts and taken recourse to blatant obfuscation and suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, of which several instances have been cited in the Rejoinder issued by Patriots’ Forum..
In Chapter 4, while pleading the cause of Urdu for being considered as an elective subject in schools , the Committee trains its guns on the teaching of Sanskrit for reasons best known to its members. Going off at a tangent, it find fault with the “importance attached to say, Sanskrit, which is offered in a majority of schools”. It pontificates on page 83 that “the importance given to Sanskrit in the educational framework in Delhi and many north Indian States has tended to sideline minority languages. Students have to opt for the Sanskrit as there is no provision to teach Urdu (or say other regional languages) in many schools. This, in effect, makes Sanskrit a compulsory subject”. God alone knows what has made the High Level Committee so hostile to the teaching of Sanskrit in schools. Sanskrit and Urdu are by no means comparable languages, nor are they mutually competitive. Sanskrit is the world’s most ancient language and repository India’s glorious heritage and sacred texts, while Urdu is a hybrid born out of the accident of history. We hope and pray that this irrelevant and grossly irreverent observation by Sachar Committee is not used as a subterfuge to substitute Urdu in the place of Sanskrit in schools. It may be recalled that recently the Minister for Minority Affairs has publicly announced that even observations of Sachar Committee will be taken up for implementation.
A prominent streak of obfuscation, bias and intent to conceal the truth runs throughout the Report. The unwarranted diatribe against Sanskrit is one clear indication of the communal agenda of the Committee.