Using Sachar report for promoting own agenda

By Soroor Ahmed,,

Propagating half-sach (half-truth) in the name of Sachar Committee report has become a favourite pastime of several Muslim community leaders. Whenever there is election they are quick to come out with half-baked data. This had happened during the last Assembly election in West Bengal and the same is being repeated now. The 4.5 per cent reservation to Minorities OBC provided them one such opportunity.

Support TwoCircles

Whether the condition of Muslims are really worse than Dalits or not is a different matter and can not be said in just one line, but the truth is that a large number of socio-economic indicators suggest that Dalits are no match for Muslims.

To state that the successive governments treated Muslims worse than Dalits may be fully justified and for this one has every right to fight, but to state that the condition of Muslims are actually inferior to Dalits is a totally different issue and needs to be analyzed more objectively. Just a few data may not lead to anywhere. For this one will have to spend time with both Dalits as well as Muslims of all categories.

Since one has to give a look of beggar to beg––for example, wear dirty worn off clothes etc––some Muslim intellectuals often quote only those data in panel discussions and writings which suit their arguments and show the community in poor light. They would often ignore the data which talks about the self-efforts made by the community to compensate for the neglect by the government.

There are a number of figures given in the Sachar report itself which suggest that Muslims are better than average Hindus, not to speak of Dalits, yet they find no mention anywhere in the discussions as poverty sells.

For example Sachar quoted the National Family Health Survey-1 (NFHS-1) and NFHS-2 to “show that the life expectancy for Muslims is higher than average by about one year. Besides, estimates of maternal mortality also show lower than average maternal mortality among Muslims. Broadly, it could be said that Muslims do have a slim advantage over the average in survival.”

Ironically, less number of Muslim women die while giving birth notwithstanding the fact that their fertility rate is slightly higher. It needs to be mentioned that the comparison is between Muslims and average population of the country, obviously mostly Hindus. The gap gets widened in favour of Muslims when compared to Dalits.

The Sachar Committee quoted various data to show that “the infant mortality rate (IMR), which is the proportion of children dying before completing the first year of life, and under-five mortality rate (U5MR), which is the proportion of children dying before completing five years of age, are lower for Muslims than the Hindus and hence also lower than the national average.”

“Among Socio-Religious Category (SRCs,) SCs/STs suffer from the highest infant and under-five mortality rate, followed by Other Hindus. Muslims have the second-lowest infant and under-five mortality.”

For instance, in the South India, the infant mortality rate among Muslims is as low as 29 per 1,000 live births––significantly lower than the rate of 61 among SCs/STs and the rate of 52 among Other Hindus.

The report says that while infant and under-five mortality rates declined between 1992-93 and 1998-99 among all groups, they declined more rapidly among Muslims than amongst Other Hindus. Thus, Muslims also have experienced some of the largest declines in infant and under-five mortality of any social group during the 1990s. Sociologists attribute this better IMR of Muslims to the fact that Hindus do not take care of their girl child when she gets ill.

Quoting the NFHS data Sachar said that the child gender ratio among Muslims was 986 girls per 1000 boys in the age group 0-5 in 1998-99, significantly higher than the ratio of 931 among SCs/STs, 914 among other Hindus, and 859 among other groups.

If the above figures provided by Sachar are true than the overall health of Muslims is slightly better. This, notwithstanding the fact that many small time professionals––bidi-makers, quilt-makers, carpet-weavers etc––within the communities are prone to several chronic diseases because of the environment in which they work. The average life-span is better in spite of a large presence of malnourished children and the government hospitals and clinics are few and far between in the Muslim localities and villages.

Sachar Committee relied heavily on 2001 Census which shows that the literacy rate among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was 54.69% and 47.10% respectively. In contrast the literacy rate of Muslims was 59.1 per cent against the national average of 64.8 per cent then. The literacy rate of Hindus is 65.1 per cent. Interestingly, while 53.2 per cent Hindu women were shown as literate the percent of Muslim women is 50.1, which is much ahead of Dalit women. May sound somewhat unbelievable nevertheless true: in 10 states the literacy rate of Muslim women was better than of Hindus.

Yet, it is true that the drop-out rate among Muslims is much higher than average Hindus. Thus in higher education they are even below the Other Backward Castes and no match to Hindu Upper Castes. Perhaps a large number of Muslims do not find much meaning in pursuing higher education as they are denied better job opportunities which Sachar highlighted in great detail.

It is because of this reason that the participation of workers among Muslims in household industry is 8.1 per cent, which is almost double that of the national average of 4.2 per cent.

The Sachar report was never a comparative study between Muslims and Dalits as some community leaders and mediapersons try to make it. For example, there is no mention of remittance money earned by Muslims, which has played a key role in keeping them buoyant. Though Dalits get much more government beneficiaries there are very few SC/ST labours and skilled hands working abroad in comparison to Muslims.

At places there may be a large number of Muslims whose condition is worse than Dalits. But at the same time it can not be denied that there are four Muslims in the list of 100 richest Indians. Percentage-wise the performance of the community on this count is better than there presence in IITs, IIMs or Civil Services.

True Muslims form a sizeable percentage of slum population in metros. Yet it is also a fact that in last couple of decades dozens of big colonies of Muslims have come up in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mallipuram, Mumbai, Lucknow, Patna, Bangalore etc which clearly indicates middle-class formation. Dalits, even in Mayawati’s Lucknow, have a long way to go.

In the last West Bengal Assembly election some community leaders came up with a fantastic story. They propagated that the condition of Muslims in the Left Front-ruled state is worse than in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. Though they based their assertion on the Sachar yet they did not bring to notice the fact that the report was largely based on the data provided by 2001 Census. Yet they gave credit to Modi for good work for Muslims when he himself became chief minister in 2001. So they painted Left––which was already on its way out––in the blackest of colours in 2011 on data of 2001.

Such community leaders and part-time intellecutals have little to do with the real plight of Muslims, rather they want to play with data and statistics to get due reward at a suitable time from their respective political masters. In the process they may end up further demoralizing the Muslims with totally one-sided figures