Muslims in West Bengal are facing High levels of deprivation and possible discrimination: Abusaleh Shariff

By Md. Ali,,

New Delhi: The Left may have been projecting itself as the champion of minority rights in India, the socio-economic situation of the community is really shocking in its bastion – West Bengal. The Left ruled West Bengal is far worse discriminatory towards Muslims than even Modi led Gujarat.

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Comparison with Gujarat on different socio-economic parameters reveals the disturbingly abysmal condition of Muslims beneath the veneers of political rhetoric of the Left government in the state. For instance, Muslims’ share in government jobs in West Bengal is just 2.1% which is not even half of their share in govt. jobs in Gujarat (5.4%) and Karnataka (8.5%) — both BJP ruled states. West Bengal’s is the lowest in the country while Kerala is at top with (10.4%) followed by Andhra Pradesh (8.8%) and Bihar (7.6%).

Abusaleh Shariff (2nd from L) during the presentation on the socio-economic condition of Muslims in West Bengal

With just 56% ratio of Muslim workers in the state, West Bengal is way below Gujarat where it is 61%. As for Muslim workers’ percentage in the category of Informal Trade and Self Employment, West Bengal with 11% and 53 % is below than Gujarat (23% and 54%).

While analyzing data and figures related to the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in West Bengal, the chief economist of National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) Abusaleh Shariff categorically pointed out that “relative to other states and other communities Muslim deprivation and their possible discrimination is considerably large in most of the economic, social, human development, education, employment, health and infrastructural facilities.” He was making a presentation on “Relative Development of West Bengal and Socio-Religious Differentials” organized by the Institute of Objective Studies on 22nd March here at the India Islamic Cultural Center.

With as low as just 2.1% share in government jobs, 2% Muslim children educated at matriculation level and just 6% utilization of the Minority Concentrated Districts funds, the condition of the second biggest majority community is any thing but good. Be it the Muslims’ occupation, employment and access to organized sector, deprivation in education, the share of Muslims in poverty, there is not even single socio-economic parameter which could be the reason to cheer about for an average Muslim in the Left ruled state.

Mr. Shariff specifically mentioned that the initially the Left govt. of West Bengal was not providing data about the share of different socio-religious groups in the government sector because it would have exposed their discriminatory treatment of Muslims for last several decades. He had to specifically meet Chief Minister of the state Buddhadeb Bhattacharjy in order to get the data.

Poor utilization of minority funds

In spite of having more than a quarter of its Muslim population (25.2) West Bengal government doesn’t utilize the funds allocated for its minority population. The state has 12 minority concentrated districts out of 90 across the country and the central government releases funds for a variety of centrally sponsored schemes. The “pro-poor” and “pro-people” government spends just 6% of the total funds which is the lowest in the hierarchy of different states across the country.

“Why the state doesn’t want to spend the money of UPA flagship programmes is to any body’s guess but in the process it does an irreparable harm to an average Muslim on the street as this kind of hostile apathetic attitude ensures that the community remains in the acute socio-economic backwardness,” added Mr. Shariff who was also the member secretary of the Prime Minister’s high-powered Sachar Committee.


How can any government be so blatantly discriminatory? Asked Mr. Shariff, while highlighting the fact that even at the primary level 50% of Muslim children are out of school, which is worst than that of even SC/ST whose 54% children get primary education. This is just opposite of Non Muslim and Non SC/ST community where this figure is as high as 80%. If one takes the percentage of Muslim children in matriculation which is 2%, it stands disturbingly lower than that of SC/ST (13%) and abysmal in comparison to that of other Hindu population (38%). 1000 Muslim concentration villages in West Bengal do not have any education institutions.

Poverty among the Muslims in West Bengal is very high and deep, more than the state average. Urban Muslim poverty in the state is even higher than that for SCs/STs

When it comes to the financial share of the community then Muslims hold 29.3% of bank accounts but their share in the amount in the bank is just 9.2 %. On the other hand the share of other majority communities in accounts and amount is 69.8 and 90.1 percentages.

Poor infrastructure for Muslim villages

Overall villages with large Muslim population have poor social and physical infrastructure. 3000 Muslim concentrated villages in the state don’t have any medical facility. Besides, large number of these villages lack post and telegraph facilities. The situation with respect to the availability of bus stop is of particular concern in Muslim concentrated villages of West Bengal.