Indian Muslims poorer than other minorities

The plight of Indian Muslims has remained more or less static since independence despite numerous promises made by our political parties one after another. The latest poverty figures released by the Planning Commission on 19 March show that Muslims are even poorer than other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.

The overall grim picture of Muslims in every sphere as compared to Dalits, SC,ST and other sections of society has already been highlighted by the Sachar Committee report. In terms of progress and growth, Muslims are far behind and poorer than other poor from the general category or SC/ST. As per the Planning Commission estimates, the poverty ratio is highest among Muslims at 33.9 percent both in rural and urban areas as compared to Christians where only 12.9 percent are poor in the urban areas. In rural areas only 11.9 percent Sikhs are poor. In urban areas, SCs have a poverty ratio of 34.1 percent and STs are at 30.4 percent while for OBCs the figure is 24.3 percent. If we go by other figures available, we will find that there has been an overall decline in urban poverty from 25.7 percent to 20.9 percent and in rural poverty from 41.8 percent to 33.8 percent. Surprisingly, Muslim poverty has not decreased.

The trends are alarming and an eye-opener. But the big question is: are Muslims discriminated against within the minority structure? If it is true, how can one accept that 4.5 percent reservation to minorities will help Muslims to get their chunk out of it or will it go the same way where one would again be forced to say that Muslims are even more jobless than other minorities in the end. Will the authorities responsible for implementing various minority schemes in states or at the Central level ensure that Muslims would not be discriminated against within the ambit of minorities at all levels or will it merely end up in just keeping the estimates in files for further reference while preparing another estimate for minorities.

The figure of the Planning Commission indicates that Muslims are more backward as compared to other minorities in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal. The figures released by the Planning Commission are based on data collected by the National Sample Survey Organisation. The estimates of poverty by the Planning Commission are based on assuming a daily income of Rs 32 as the poverty line.

The statistics reveal that political parties over the years have only paid lip service to the cause of Muslims because their promises hardly generate any action on the ground. The greater emphasis is on how to show their concern by simply drum-beating or by fulfilling promises in bits and pieces. Poor implementation of Sachar and Ranganath Mishra recommendations speaks volumes about the seriousness of the government towards the upliftment of the community. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2012 on page no. 4

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