Six years after a high-powered justice Rajinder Sachar committee appointed by prime minister Manmohan Singh ripped open the socio-economic backwardness of Muslim community, a fresh study has found the perceptions of fairness in five core areas of social prestige, economics, education, employment and politics was lowest amongst the largest minority group in the country.
The study conducted by the IIM Ahmedabad in association with Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation (ORF) recommends that instead of quota, an innovative way of parents’ school education be made criteria for an affirmative action.
For increasing employability of minority community, it suggests incentives and dis-incentives to corporates, for example additional grants to educational institutions for enrolling Muslims, tax benefits to builders and corporate for housing or employing more people from the community.
The study draws solace that enrollment rate of Muslims in schools has grown, coupled with illiteracy rate also declining dramatically (from 37% to 19%). But, the positive features have not helped to arrest the drop-out rates. The research project headed by Rakesh Basant, professor of economics at the IIM Ahmedabad, suggests the reason could be negative perception about the future possibilities, where the community members find the education hardly helping them in better employability.
Is religion playing part in behavioural features? The researchers say, yes. Their sample surveys shows, Hindu and Muslim household living in similar habitats exhibiting different enrollment rates with the latter having lowest ones.
As compared to upper caste Hindus, Muslims who also are not protected by jobs reservation have suffered from considerable access disadvantage, making it more compelling to extend reservation to Muslims rather than Hindu OBCs. But, due to political and legal issues involved in extending a religion-based reservation, a more simple way devised by the researchers could be making parental education a criteria.
“Given the problems of information deficit, asymmetries and a variety of other factors, parental education can potentially be a good criterion for affirmative action, as it is easy to measure and does not have any problems associated with designation and re-designation of castes for reservation purposes,” says Prof Rakesh Basant. Such a policy will take away caste, religion and even economic status, and move away from policies of reservation and quotas.
The study has also raised concern at the feeling of insecurity amongst Muslims, the largest minority group in the country.
“The discriminatory attitude of the police and others compounds this feeling; choosing to live in slums is a result of the sense of insecurity and discrimination in housing, schools and jobs,” the researchers said. Since the insecurity adversely affects mobility, especially of women, it leads to situation wherein the community is unable to fully exploit economic opportunities.
Charging that Muslim concentration areas at various places have been designated as ‘red zones’ to which credit flows are virtually non-existent, discrimination in the implementation of government programmes and in infrastructure provision adds to the problems.
The study also recommends re-looking at and rationalising the delimitation procedures so that constituencies with high minority population share are not reserved for SCs, which seems to be the case in many states. The links between political participation and education attainment observed are interlinked.