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Published in the 16-31 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Socio-economic condition of Muslim slums of Lucknow

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: This has had a gracious-fall. The city was at one point of history (in 1850s) the largest and the most prosperous pre-colonial city in the sub-continent. ‘In contrast Delhi, Lahore and Agra, the once great Mughal capitals, were greatly diminished centers of progressively enfeebled Mughal authority, not quite equal to half the population or the commerce of Lucknow’ writes Veena Talwar Oldenburg in The making Of Colonial Lucknow.

What put the brakes on the once thriving city? Perhaps, a bit of history would help. ‘So our gracious queen has 5,000,000 more subjects and 1,300,000 pounds more revenue than she had yesterday,’ wrote Lord Dalhousie, the governor-general of India (1848-52) in his private papers. ‘The King of Oude, seems disposed to be bumptious. I wish he would be. To swallow him before I go would give me satisfaction. Cherry (Wajid Ali Shah) that will drop in to our month one day,’ he wrote further. And, accordingly on Feb 13, 1856 the Nishapuri Avadh became British Oudh.

"We need to bring this historical overview of Lucknow to help understand the situation today. Since 1857, Muslims who have been the ruling class in Oudh- have just seen impoverishment on practically all fronts of human development. I could not include these aspects in any survey due to paucity of space," said SSA Jafri, Associate Professor at Giri Institute, Lucknow. Giri Institute is after the name of India’s former President V.V. Giri and a highly respectable institute for data collection. 

"We need to bring this historical overview of Lucknow to help understand the situation today. Since 1857, Muslims who have been the ruling class in Oudh- have just seen impoverishment on practically all fronts of human development. I could not include these aspects in any survey due to paucity of space," says SSA Jafri.

What is the focus of your survey? "The survey is on the socio-economic condition of downtrodden minorities ( read Muslims) in Lucknow metropolis and has been sponsored by Guidance for Education and Employment to Minorities in India (GEM-India), he answered. The survey was conducted in January –February 2004.

The survey to bring forth the socio-economical conditions of Muslims below the poverty line, was therefore, directed towards the slums and it has been now found that out of a total 166,052,859 population (census 2001) of Uttar Pradesh — one-fifth of which is urban-is living in 6,734 identified slums and out of which 639 slums are identified in Lucknow — the capital of Uttar Pradesh! As if this is not enough as more than (639) are unidentified in Lucknow itself! A constituency that has twice seen former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee becoming its representative. AB Vajpayee is presently also the MP from Lucknow.

Lucknow as of now has a population of 27,21,000 (census 2001) and is spread in about 450 sq. kms. and out of this nearly 7,50,000 or 27.6 percent are those who are living concentrated in the 639 slums of the city. What precisely is the living condition of people in these slums? " Deprivation of potable water, flush latrine, health and educational facilities, electricity, pucca road, clean environment are things that are a rarity," answered Jafri. "Fortunately, GEM has come up with an effort to bring into focus the real life of Muslims in a well-structured way as the past experiences have shown us that the welfare programmes run by the government are beneficial to those who are high and mighty and influential," he rued 

The reality is that Muslims are the second biggest majority in India and are in dire-need to have a data bank to record their economic and social status in order to clinically diagnose the inherent malaise," he replied. 

In the introduction, the survey goes on to say, ‘After independence, the socio-economic condition of Muslim has become worse. What has gone wrong under self rule, when the constitution of India provides equal rights for all the citizen and India is one of the signatories to the United Nations charter of human rights and equal treatment to minorities?’

The survey published in 20 something pages is devoted to the study of 784 people which constitute 386 males and 398 females concentrated in 151 household which are below the poverty line. The people below the poverty line are those with an income of Rs. 3000 as per government standard.

"It was a necessity to cover only those households, which are poverty stricken," informed Jafri and then accordingly the statistics were prepared by computing simple proportions. The first pointer was population and it was found that overall sex-ratio among Muslims is 1031 females for a thousand males.

Muslims were put in to broad categories of age group — 0 to 14 years children, working age group of 15 to 59 and old age group of 60 and above, it was found that male and female children are 24.4 and 37.2 per cent, male and female working age people are 69.7 and 59.8 per cent and male and female aged people are 6.0 and 3.0 per cent respectively. The survey easily found the trend that during childhood female representation is quite high in comparison to male children but as the age increases the female proportion declines. Thus, suggesting that perhaps during child-bearing age, females have quite a high mortality and therefore pre and post-natal care needs to be provided immediately.

What about Muslim male/female dependents like students, non-school going children and unemployed people above 60? Here the survey found that more than one-fifth population consists of students and 23.6 percent males go to schools while 27.9 percent of females are school-going. Isn’t it commendable that parents are sending their daughters for education more in proportion of their sons. But, unfortunately, due to insecurity, inaccessibility of schools, absence of girls schools and less affordability make female children have a higher drop-out rate.

What then should be the way out? The survey outlines the future as it finds that the non-school going male and female children of 0-14 years are 8.8 and 17.8 per cent. And if 1.8% of male and 5.3% of female children are those which make up children below 3 years and they cannot go to school, if this percentage is subtracted then, 7% of male and 12.5% female students do not attend school and this is where action and serious planning is needed.

Why did female ratio in school decrease? The survey finds the answer in Muslims not sending their daughters to co-educational school/college and therefore free and accessible school/college exclusively meant for girls should be opened and UP government has already announced this plan. It has been also suggested that Muslim girls should take High School, Intermediate exams through National Institute of Open School (NIOS) in any stream through Urdu, Hindi or English and Muslims should try to open coaching to make them aware of NIOS.

On the marriage front it was found that 64.3% of males and 53.6 % females had attained the above 18 marriageable age. And, out of which 42.2 % males and 39.5 females are married, therefore, meaning that 22.1% males and 14.1 % females remain unmarried. Among male and female widowed/divorced the proportion is 3.1 and 2.3 per cent.

The occupational structure too was given due attention and it was found that 46.1% males and only 4.0% females are employed or engaged in any occupation. Amongst the overall employment of males and females, the labourers were 19.1 and 6.3 per cent, artisans 16. 3 and 56.3 per cent, business personnel 49.4 and 18.8 per cent, government jobs 2.3 and 0.0 per cent and 12.9 and 18.8 per cent in private jobs respectively. " Due to these menial jobs the average income is quite low, which is hardly sufficient for buying of coarse food, so one cannot expect them to spend on housing, education or health," said Jafri. What is that income? " It is as low as Indian Rs. 520.61 per head per month," he replied.

All data pertaining to the housing conditions was taken into consideration, and accordingly, it was found that the majority of slum dwelling Muslims were sick, poor, uneducated, drug addicts and also anti-social. The average number of rooms per house was 2.1 and out of 83.5% houses having latrines, 52.3% were flush latrines and 31.2 houses were dry or service latrines. With this proportion of service latrines one can imagine that night soil from 31.2 % houses, which is carried on the head and disposed off mainly in open drains, which understandably is enough to create an extremely unhygienic condition in the entire localities! It was also found that 23.8% of Muslim inhabitants were taking bath outside their houses at public taps/hand pumps installed by the municipal authorities.

"With our limited resources we could not go into more in-depth analysis of Muslims slum dwellers. We could not take into account their eating habits, protein intake, diseases and also the rate of crime and their engagement in the unorganised sectors like opening up a small shop or working as a salesman," said Jafri.

"The discrimination against Muslims is so palpable that I noticed a concrete lane suddenly come to a halt, and instead, a muddy-soiled lane starting, thereby, denoting that Muslim residents area had begun," said Virendra Bhatia, who contested against Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) Urban Development Minister Lalji Tandon in Feb 2002 assembly elections. Virendra Bhatia is now Advocate General of Samajwadi Party (SP) government in UP.

There has been nothing to indicate AB Vajpayee being PM of India and his party’s seven years of rule in UP (it ended in Feb 2002) except for the little specimen this survey has brought. Today, in this world of game of data, Muslims are finding themselves in a no man’s land. There needs to be some massive study to find socio-economic status of Muslims at least in UP, where they make up 20% of the whole population.

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