Sachar Committee Report: An Overview
Dr. Shakeel Samdani
Fallout of the Sachar Committee Report is being noticed now when the UPA government is inching towards implementing it step by step. Academicians and intellectuals both are weighing it on different scales. A section of the media is opposing it in toto while another is supporting it without any reservation. Both the lines are not in conformity of the objective analysis. The Sachar Committee Report or any other such report should be analysed in context of the prevailing Indian Constitution and social realities. As far as implementation of the "Report" is concerned, it cannot be done in toto nor should anyone expect that it happen. No doubt Justice Rajinder Sachar has done a commendable job and brought out facts over ground which were just in the shape of myths till other day but on certain counts, he failed to make deeper insight. This article is trying to take an objective look over the whole "Report" and suggest some affirmative actions within the orbit of the Indian Constitution and social justice.
In March 2005, UPA Government appointed a high power "Committee" under the chairmanship of Justice Rajinder Sachar (Retd.) to study the social, educational and economic status of the Muslim community. Specifically the Committee was entrusted to collect data about Muslims. Notification issued on March 9, 2005 states that, "As it has been noted that there is lack of authentic information about the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India which comes in the way of planning, formulating and implementing specific interventions, policies and programmes to address the issues relating to the socio-economic backwardness of this community, Government has constituted a High level Committee to prepare a comprehensive report covering these aspects" [Notification No. 850/3/C/3/05- Pol. Prime Minister’s Office, dated March 9, 2005, P. V, the Sachar Committee Report]. Composition of the "Committee" was broadbased. Justice Rajinder Sachar headed it as "Chairperson", Syed Hamid, Dr. T.K. Ooman, M.A. Basith, Dr. Rakesh Basant and Dr. Akhtar Majeed were appointed "Members" while Dr. Abu Saleh Shariff became "Member Secretary". The "Committee" submitted its "Report" on November 17, 2006 which was tabled in the Parliament. The report sent shock waves not only within the Muslim community but also among Saner elements of the Indian society because it revealed that the Muslims are lagging behind every other community in all fields but the finer point is that the Indian citizenery has realized that the Muslims need upliftment and the state should take up its responsibility is this respect.
A glimpse on the findings of the Sachar Committee Report reveals that the Muslims have been marginalized in the employment sector. Even the has sidelined them. On the all India level (a sum of 12 states) Muslims are nearly 15.4 per cent of the total population but their share in government jobs is only 6.4 per cent [The Indian Express, October 27, 2006]. Likewise in Public Sector Units also their representation is almost negligible. In the higher education they are lagging. For example in the Indian Institute of Management and Indian Institute of Technology their share is 1.3 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively [The Indian Express, October 24, 2006]. Statistics indicate that the number of poor within the Muslim society soared consequently "nearly 40 per cent Muslims fall under poorest monthly per capita expenditure class" ["Minority Report, in numbers" by Seema Chishti, The Indian Express, October 23, 2006]. Politically also they are on marginalisation. Their representation in decision making bodies is negligible and they are counted only at the time of the elections. Successive governments have made promises before elections leading to persistent accusations of appeasement but ironically these promises have generally been forgotten post-elections.
It is not suddenly that ruling elite has learnt about the inadequacy of the welfare of the Muslims. The essence of what the Sachar Committee has put on record was common knowledge even to the common man on the street. But now that "common knowledge" has got official seal and has become authentic.
Sachar Committee Report entitled as, "Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India" contains twelve Chapters. In the first chapter we find, "Context, Approach and Methodology", Second chapter deals with, "Public Perception and perspectives" with a conclusion. Third chapter discusses, "Population Size, Distribution and Health Conditions of the Muslims" in which Committee declares that, "the recent intercensal decade 1991-2001, has shown a decline in the growth rate of Muslims in most of the States" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 30] which explodes the myth about Muslim population. Fourth chapter tells us about educational status of the Muslims. Entitled as, "Educational Conditions of the Muslims" in which Committee emphasizes that, "in view of a large number of children with Urdu as their mother tongue, Urdu should be taught as an elective subject" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 83]. Another disclosure made is that, "about 70 per cent of teachers employed in urdu medium schools are females" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve]. It means, if the government acts on the "Report" we will head on the path of women empowerment indirectly. Chapter five is, "Economy and Employment: Situating Muslims" which studies Muslim presence in employment sector. The Report says that, "since a large section of the Muslim workers are engaged in self employment, skill development and credit related initiatives need to be tailored for such groups" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 108].
Chapter six is on credit from banks. Titled, "Access to Bank Credit" it deals with in depth data on benefits from financial institutions to the Muslims. It states that, "Steps should be introduced to specifically direct credit to Muslims, create awareness of various credit schemes and bring transparency in reporting of information" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 137]. In chapter seven, we find about living conditions of the Muslims. Entitled, "Access to Social and Physical Infrastructure" it says that, "the study of the Muslim Concentration localities of Lucknow and its adjoining areas showed a perceptible difference. Compared to the Muslim majority areas, the areas inhabiting fewer Muslims had better roads, sewage and drainage and water supply. A Hindu dominated urban slum in Lucknow had better quality roads, drainage system etc. compared to another slum populated largely by Muslims" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 149]. This observation of the Committee clearly indicates inherent bias of the administration and is noteworthy. Chapter Eight deals with the poverty of the Muslims. Titled, "Poverty, consumption and standard of living" it says that, "The analysis of differentials in poverty across SRCs shows that Muslims face fairly high levels of poverty. As compared to rural areas, Muslims face much higher relative deprivation in urban areas" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 161]. This fact is crying for the attention of our policy makers. Employment conditions of the Muslims are in the Ninth chapter entitled, "Government Employment and Programmes" which discloses that, "share of Muslims in recent recruitments by State Public Service Commissions is about 2.1 per cent" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 176]. It also points out that, "A very small proportion of government/public sector employees are Muslims and on average they are concentrated in lower level position" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, pp. 186-87]. Percentage of the Muslims in higher services and PSUs are already well known and need not to be mentioned here.
Chapter Ten entitled, "The Muslim OBCs and Affirmative Action" deals with castes within the Muslim community and discusses ways and means to make a level playing field. It clearifies that, "the usage of classes" instead of ‘caste’ in Constitutional reference to OBCs viz. article 15(4), 16(4) and 340(1) has led to many legal wrangles and disputes. However, the Courts, like the two Backward classes Commissions accepted ‘caste’ as a basis of classification. In Venkataramana Vs. State of Madras, the Supreme Court upheld the list of Hindu castes declared as backward by the Madras government. This was further confirmed in Ramakrishna Singh Vs. State of Mysore in which the Mysore High Court held that class included persons grouped on the basis of their castes. The caste basis was further clarified in 1968 in P. Rajendran Vs. State of Madras wherein the Supreme Court held that ‘a caste is also a class of citizens, if the caste as a whole is socially and educationally backward’. In the Indra Sawhney Vs. the Union of India (Mandal case), the 9 judge bench rejected economic criterion as the determinant of backwardness. The court upheld the concept of caste: A caste can be and quite often is a social class in India. On the question of backward classes among non-Hindus, the Court held that they should be identified on the basis of their traditional occupations" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 192]. On the Muslim OBCs, it says, "the present day Muslim society is divided into four major groups (i) the Ashrafs, who trace their origins to foreign lands, (ii) the upper caste Hindus who converted to Islam, (iii) the middle caste converts whose occupations are ritually clean, (iv) the converts from the erstwhile untouchable castes – Bhangi (scavenger), mehtar (sweeper), chamar (tanner), Dom and so on"[The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve]. Citation of another observation will be worthwhile. The Report says that, "overall the conditions of Muslim OBCs are worse than those of Muslim-Gen. The abysmally low representation of Muslim OBCs suggests that the benefits of entitlements meant for the backward classes are yet to reach them" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 213]. Emphasizing the need of suitable steps for uplifting Muslim OBCs, the Report concludes thus – "Based on the arguments and data presented here, it is logical to suggest that Muslims in India in terms of their social structure, consist of three groups – ashrafs, ajlafs, and arzals. The three group require different types of affirmative action. The second group, ajlafs/OBCs need additional attention which could be similar to that of Hindu OBCs. The third group, those with similar traditional occupations as that of SCs may be designated as Most Backward Classes (MBCs) as they need multifarious measures including reservation as they are cumulatively oppressed" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, pp. 213-14]. Now, it is the duty of our Ulemas and politicians to realize that Muslim OBCs need their attention and there should be no roadblock in the way of their getting fair share in the 27 per cent reservation granted by the Mandal Commission.
Chapter Eleven has been titled, "Leveraging Community Initiatives: The Case of Wakfs" wherein the Committee has taken up issues related with wakfs. The "Report" categorically states that, "to attain the objective of putting the Wakf properties to optimum use, fresh institutional support is essential. The importance of stricter monitoring of the Wakf management in general and the vacation of encroachments in particular cannot be over emphasized" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 224].
After studying conditions of the Muslims, the Sachar committee recommended several steps to be taken up by the Government of India. Before making any remark, positive or otherwise, these recommendations should be examined thoroughly. The "Report" in its Chapter twelve entitled, "Looking Ahead: Perspectives and Recommendations" says tat the outset that, "This report has probed the question of whether different socio-religious categories (SRCs) in India have had an equal chance to reap the benefits of development … but since the mandate of this Committee is primarily on equity, the Report essentially deals with relative deprivation of Muslims vis-ŕ-vis other SRCs in various dimensions of development" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, p. 237]. Hence, the focus of the Committee is on the deprivation of the Muslims. In the same context, it again says that, "the Committee strongly suggests that the policies to deal with the relative deprivation of the Muslims in the country should sharply focus on inclusive development and mainstreaming of the community while respecting diversity" [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve]. It is noteworthy that the report emphasized on, "respecting diversity" which is also in conformity of the Constitution of India. The Sachar Committee has recommended corrective measures in two categories i.e. General Policy to be adopted and specific policy measures [The Sachar Committee Report, Chapter Twelve, pp. 238-244].
Within, "General Policy" it recommends –
1. Creation of a National Data Bank (NDB) where all relevant data for various SRCs are maintained.
2. Enhancement of the Legal basis for providing equal opportunities.
3. Establishment of an Equal opportunities Commission (EOC) to look into the grievances of the deprived groups.
4. Enhancement of participation in governance.
5. Establishing a more rational procedure for delimitation of Constituencies.
On "Specific policy" to be adopted by the government, the Committee recommends that –
1. Free and compulsory education upto the age of 14 is the obligation of the government and is critical for the improvements in the educational conditions of Muslims.
2. School textbooks should reflect social diversity.
3. The pre-entry qualification for admission to it is showed be reduced to class VIII and Madarsa educated children should be treated as eligible to such courses.
4. The University Grants Commission should be encouraged to evolve a system where part of the allocation to colleges and universities is linked to the diversity in the population.
5. Hostel facilities to the students of the minorities should be provided on priority basis.
6. The State should run Urdu medium schools.
7. Linkage of the Madarsas with higher secondary school boards and recognition of degrees awarded by them for competitive examinations.
8. Recommends for promoting and enhancing access to Muslims in priority sector Advances.
9. Representation of the Community in interview panels and boards.
10. For providing financial support to the occupations in which Muslim concentration is and has growth potential.
11. Registration of trusts such as wages and mosque committees.
12. Improvement of employment opportunities and conditions.
The above mentioned recommendations of the Sachar Committee can do wonders, if implemented in letters and spirit by the government. But the experiences show that when time comes to act, usually the same governments shy away from translating recommendations to actions. The Sachar Committee failed in recommending reservation of the Muslims in employment and education. Though it recommended inclusion of dalit Muslims in SC category. But in spite of that there is silver lining on this issue. The question arises about the modalities to be adopted for the reservation.
Some people are demanding that Muslims as a community should be brought under "Reservation Umbrella" in view of the findings of the Sachar Committee. Another section is demanding fair share for OBC Muslims within 27 per cent reservation to the OBC under the Mandal Commission award. There is another group which desires to amend the Presidential Order in respect of the Article 341 which provides reservation to the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist dalit but deny the same to the Muslim and Christian dalits. Hence, there is a confusing position before the policy makers. Well wishers of the community should ponder over the question with an objective mind.
If Muslims as a backward community can get reservation, that will be the most sought after solution. But legally and constitutionally speaking, that is next to impossible. For providing reservation to all Muslims, government will have to amend the constitution and that is not so easy. Interestingly Congress party spokesman Satyavarat Chaturvedi has already contradicted A.R. Antulay and Veerappa Moily by saying that Congress is against religion based reservation".10 Hence, the government should done homework before it embarks upon providing Muslims reservation as a community. They should not leave any loophole to be exploited by anti-reservation lobby. The government should ensure that such a decision stand on the scrutiny of the judiciary because we have example of the Andhra Pradesh before us.
Second choice before us to demand a fair share, say 8 or 9 per cent, within 27 per cent OBC reservation granted by the Mandal Commission. OBC Muslims are at disadvantaged position due to inherent bias and prejudices. We should not ignore the fact that "Hindu OBCs are only 30 per cent of the total Hindu population" [The Pioneer, November 14, 2006]. Whereas Muslim OBCs are nearly 65 per cent within the total Muslim population but main beneficiary of the 27 per cent reservation granted by the Mandal Commission are Hindu OBCs. It will be appropriate, if a separate quota of the Muslims is earmarked. That will benefit a large section of the community. In my opinion, we must press the government on these lines. Because, Mandal Commission has already given it and the government has nothing to do much in this respect. Secondly judiciary has already accepted it, so there will not be any judicial intervention. It will also not make any reaction among other communities particularly the majority community. Just by an order of the government majority of the Muslims will fall under the reserved category.
Third choice before us is to get amendment in the Presidential Order of 1951 in respect of the Article 341 of the Constitution of India which grants Scheduled Caste status to the Hindu, Sikh and Budhist dalits but deny the same to the Muslim and Christian dalits. There is a contradiction. Though a Hindu and Muslim dalit may have some profession and status but a Muslim dalit cannot claim fruits of the reservation because he has no SC status. That should be end. The government should take up this issue seriously because the Sachar Committee has also recommended the same and it is a great injustice rather a Constitutional deprivation.
All the choices are now before the community and the government. It is for them to get implemented uncontroversial options first. In my opinion, Muslims as a backward community should get reservation because the Sachar Committee has itself now acknowledged their poor social and economic status but alongwith the demand of reservation for Muslims, we must mount pressure for a separate quota for OBC Muslims within 27 per cent reservation granted by the Mandal Commission.
After Sachar Committee findings, the UPA government has taken some steps in uplifting the Muslim community. The response of the government seems not only a sloganeering and the Muslim community expects concrete measures. Muslims are the second largest religious group inhibiting India’s every nook and corner. Without their participation, India cannot achieve developments it deserves. Hence, it is in the national interest to pull the Muslim community at par with others. India’s Muslims deeply believes in letters and spirits of the Constitution of India which begins with "We, the People of India" and naturally "we" include Muslims also. Hence, it is now upon the ruling elite to remove the wrongs done to the community.
The author teaches in the Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University
(AMU), Uttar Pradesh, India