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No equality of employment for West Bengal Muslims
By Mohammad Ashfaque, Calcutta

Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits ‘discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.’ Article 16 of the Constitution guarantees ‘equality of opportunity in matters of employment.’ Article 30 of our Constitution confers ‘Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.’

Though our Constitution has laid down a general rule that there shall be an equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointments to any office under the State, these fundamental principles have literally remained mere pious declarations and are being flagrantly violated. Muslim job seekers, who have registered their names in the employment exchanges in West Bengal, have for more than two decades, suffered from continuous discrimination and unfavorable bias in the matter of submission of names to the employers by the employment exchanges. They are denied even the opportunity of being properly considered by the employers for placement against existing vacancies.

During the tenure of the last Congress Government in West Bengal (1972-77), led by the then Chief Minister, Shri Siddhartha Shankar Ray, some positive steps were initiated to solve the unemployment problem of the state and to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens including members of the Muslim community in matters of recruitment in government jobs. 

Apart from taking steps for adequate representation of all communities in state services Shri Siddhartha Shankar Ray had ensured that at least one Muslim police officer was posted in each and every Police Station in West Bengal. Prior to this the members of Muslim Community were very poorly represented in services under Calcutta and West Bengal Police Forces. The steps taken by Ray, had created confidence among the minorities and inspired them to take a bright and hopeful view of things to come and to expect that things would improve and they would no longer be kept isolated from the national mainstream. 

Immediately after coming to power, by an executive order, the CPI(M) dominated Left Front government decided to process all recruitment through the employment exchanges. The annual reports of the Government of West Bengal - 'Labour in West Bengal' - published annually by the Labour Department of the state government present a dismal picture of the poor performances of the employment exchanges and the State Directorate of Employment, West Bengal. 

During the last ten years (1990 to 1999) the number of registered unemployed on the live registers in West Bengal increased from 48,20,331 at the end of 1990 to 55,55,952 by the end of 1999. During these ten years 47,66,176 new job seekers had registered their names with the Employment Exchanges in the State. Names of 21,09,560 (40 % of the average number of job seekers on the live register) were submitted during this period to the employers for consideration against vacancies. 

During the same period (1990 to 1999) 291,768 Muslims had come forward to register themselves but the names of only 70,945 Muslims (10.58 % of the average number of Muslims on the live register) were submitted to the employers for consideration in connection with appointments.

The average number of job seekers on the live register of employment exchanges in West Bengal, during the last ten years, was 52,72,997. The average number of Muslims on the live registers during this period was 6,70,443 (12.71 % of the total on the live register). Out of this total average of 52,72,997, the average number of submission during this period was 2,10,956 (4 % of the total job seekers of all categories on the live registers) per annum. In the case of Muslims out of the average number of 6,70,443 (12.71 %) Muslim Job Seekers on the live registers the average submission was only 7,095 (1 % of the total names of Muslim Job Seekers on the live registers) per annum. 

Despite the fact that about 12.71 % of the registered job seekers, available on the live register of employment exchanges were Muslims the total 21,09,560 names submitted during these ten years (1990-99) to the employers for consideration against vacancies included the names of only 70,945 Muslims (3.36 % of the total submissions).

During these ten years (1990-99) out of the 93,156 registered unemployed persons placed in employment through the employment exchanges only 4,232 (4.54 %) were Muslims. Out of the total 21,09,560 submissions made by the employment exchanges during the ten year period 93,156 persons (4%) had succeeded in getting placements in Jobs. In the case of Muslims out of the 70,945 names of registered Muslim job seekers, whose names were submitted to the employers during these ten years, 4,232 (6 %) were successful in getting jobs through the employment exchanges.

Success rate in the case of Muslims (4,232 out of 70,945) i.e. 6 % of the total Muslim names submitted for consideration by the employers) was, therefore, higher than the average success rates in all categories (93156 out of 21,09,560 i.e. 4 % of the total submissions ). 

This shows that the Muslim job seekers are not in any way inferior to others. Muslims of West Bengal do not lag behind others in meeting the criteria for being selected for jobs but still they are denied equality in employment opportunity. They are placed in a disadvantageous position simply because of bias and prejudice in matters of submission of names. The concerned authorities of the state government are not doing proper justice with the registered Muslim job seekers in the matter of submission and are submitting very few names of Muslim job seekers for consideration by the employers. This discrimination has been going on for a long time. For the Muslims in West Bengal the Constitutional guarantees of equality in employment opportunity have, therefore, proved to be false promises. This has given rise to serious resentment and frustration among the unemployed Muslims of West Bengal. Their confidence in the Employment Exchanges and the Employment Policy of the State Government has been badly shaken. This is evident from the fact that over the years the number of unemployed Muslims coming forward to register their names in the Employment Exchanges has fallen from 47,908 in 1990 to an average of 27,096 per year during 1991-99. During this period more than 1,60,000 frustrated Muslim job seekers did not renew their registrations or had got their names cancelled from the live register of employment exchanges.

According to the Census reports, population of Muslims in West Bengal, at the time of 1991 census, was 1,60,75,836 (17 % of the total 9,52,22,853 Muslim population of India).

So far as concentration of Muslim population is concerned West Bengal is second only to Uttar Pradesh, which has a Muslim population of 2,41,09,684 (25% of the total Muslim population of India). 1,60,75,836 Muslims in West Bengal constituted 24 % of the total population of the State. Scheduled Castes account for 24 % and Scheduled Tribes for 6 % of the population of the State in 1991. The population of Other Backward Classes in West Bengal is estimated to be about 10 % of the total population of the State. Under the Government orders, 37 % of the jobs in the West Bengal State services are reserved for Scheduled Castes (22 % ), Scheduled Tribes (6%) and Other Backward Classes (9 %). 

Though Muslims are inadequately represented in the State services there is no provision for any reservation for them in West Bengal. Some other States like Kerala have provided statutory reservations for Muslims in jobs and admissions in educational institutions. Muslims account for 23% of the population of Kerala. Provisions for reservation have been made for them by the Government of Kerala under Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution of India and there has been no legal hurdle to such reservations.

Muslims, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes account for approx. 64 % of the total population of West Bengal. Others (excluding Muslims, SC, ST, & OBC) account for only 36 % of the total population of the State. This 36 % population has received the benefit of 62.81 % of the submission of names by the employment exchanges for consideration by the employers and 62.43 % of the placements in jobs made through the employment exchanges in West Bengal during 1999. Muslims constituting 24 % of the population of the State and accounting for 13 % of the live register of employment exchanges received the benefit of only 4.18 % of the submissions and 4.95 % of the placements made during 1999 through the Employment Exchanges in West Bengal. 2,49,769 names were submitted to the above employers by the employment exchanges during 1999 which included the names of only 10,458 (4 % Muslims). No wonder the Muslims got only 717 (4.95 %) placements during 1999. 

A pertinent question agitating the minds of the Muslims of West Bengal is whether the fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees embodied in our Constitution are mere illusion.

Apart from denial of equality of opportunities in matters of employment, Muslims of West Bengal are further aggrieved because they find that even the constitutional rights 'to establish and administer educational institutions of their own choice', guaranteed under Article 30 of the Constitution , is denied to them by the state government. The case of Milli Al Amin College is an example of the arbitrariness of the state government. This College has been built in Calcutta as a 'Minority Institution' with donations received from munificent Muslims and assistance from the Al Amin Educational Trust, Bangalore. The state government has not contributed anything. 

The College was built in 1992 but the state government has refused to recognize Milli Al Amin College as a Minority Institution. On the other hand the state government has been trying to impose such conditions which tend to deprive the Muslim community of the substance of their rights guaranteed under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution.

The above factual analysis dispel the myth that the Left Front Government is friendly with the minorities. It does not auger well that while we have 'solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and pledged 'to secure to all citizens justice and equality of status and of opportunity' the religious minority in West Bengal is left to feel that it is not only inadequately represented in the services under the State but is also being denied equality of opportunity in employment and education. The members of the Muslim community in West Bengal have well grounded reasons to be aggrieved and to feel that proper justice is not being done with them by the State. The matter should receive serious attention and consideration by all concerned.

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