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Published in the 1-15 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

High level committee to prepare report on Muslims status in the country

The Milli Gazette Online

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appointed on 16 March a high-level committee to prepare a comprehensive report on the social, educational and economic condition of Muslims in India. The necessity to prepare such a report arose because even after half a century of the country’s independence there is no authentic and detailed data about the overall position of Muslims, the second largest majority of the country, who are probably the most backward community in the country. Absence of reliable and comprehensive data about the social, educational, economic condition of Muslims is considered one of the reasons for their backwardness.

This 7-member Committee headed by former chief justice of Delhi High Court, Justice Rajinder Sachar, includes Saiyid Hamid, chancellor of Hamdard University; T.K. Oommen, a prominent sociologist, M.A. Basith, senior director of the Planning Department of Karnataka government, Akhtar Majid, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Hamdard University, Dr Abusaleh Shariff, chief economist at National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Rakesh Basant, also an economist.

As per the terms of its reference, the committee will determine Muslims’ relative share in government and private sector jobs. It will also examine if their share in employment is in proportion to their total population. It will also study the population-wise distribution and concentration of Muslims in different parts of the country, in which professions Muslims are generally engaged for earning their living in different parts of the country and how much are their assets and incomes area-wise and class-wise.

The committee will also examine whether Muslims have adequate access to education, health services, municipal services, bank loans and credits and many other services provided by public and private sectors as well as various schemes introduced by government for the welfare and development of minorities and other poor and backward classes and how much benefit they are deriving from such schemes. The committee will also study the proportion of other backward classes (OBCs) from the Muslim community in the total OBCs population in various states and whether Muslim OBSs are listed in the comprehensive list of OBCs prepared by the National and State Backward Classes Commissions and adopted by central and state governments for the purpose of reservation. It will also examine the rate of literacy and dropout among children, rates of infant and maternal mortality. The committee will also check the number of schools, health centres, anganwadi centres etc located in Muslim populated areas. 

In its first meeting held soon after its constitution, the committee considered its strategy and action programme for preparation of the report. It was decided that committee members will visit different parts of Muslim population, meet prominent Muslim leaders and people’s representatives, various social, government, voluntary organisations working for the uplift of Muslim children, men and women to collect relevant data to supplement the already existing data and statistics furnished by government agencies, and compare them with the statistics now compiled. It was felt that in the absence of comprehensive and reliable data, policies about the all-round progress and development of Muslims could not be made and therefore the availability of detailed statistics will be helpful in framing policies for their overall development.

The committee is required to complete and submit its report within 15 months from the date of its constitution, i.e., by June 2006. The committee chairman, Justice Rajinder Sachar, in a press conference explained the modus operandi of preparing the required report. He clarified that this will not be a report concerning Muslims only. It will rather be a comparative report and will contain statistics about other religious minorities also such as Christians, Sikhs and other communities. When someone expressed the fear that a future non-secular government may try to target Muslims because they will have detailed information about them, he discounted such a fear, stating that statistics are neutral and cannot be misused.

In reply to a question whether the report of this committee may not meet the fate of Dr Gopal Singh high power committee’s report submitted long ago for more or less the same purpose, Justice Sachar said that this committee is assigned with the job of preparing a comprehensive report which it will do and submit to the government along with its recommendations but it is not concerned with the implementation part. It is for the government to implement it or not, he said.

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