Mehmoodur Rahman committee recommends far-reaching measures for Maha Muslims

60% Muslims in Maharashtra below poverty line

By Aleem Faizee

Mumbai: Around 60% of Muslims in urban and rural areas of Maharashtra are living below the poverty line (BPL) in abysmally vulnerable conditions, and just about 25% of them are marginally above the poverty line, Dr. Mehmoodur Rehman Committee has said.

“The Committee has found that 59.4% of the urban population and 59.8% of the rural population of Muslims is below the poverty line (BPL).

More than five years after it was constituted to look into the educational, social and economic backwardness of around 10.3 million Muslims in Maharashtra and propose remedial measures that could be taken by the Government, Dr. Mehmoodur Rehman Committee submitted its report to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on 21 October.

“The committee has noted that more than 70% of Muslims live in urban areas and face the problem of housing and do not have satisfactory access to poverty alleviation programmes in operation in the rural areas,” it said.

Besides poverty, the committee also threw light on the poor educational status of the Muslims in Maharashtra. “Only about 2.2% of total Muslims complete  graduation, and 1.4% Muslim women reach  graduation stage. The work participation rate among the Muslims is 32.4% and the women work participation is only 12.7%, it said.

The report expressed concern over alarmingly low representation of Muslims in govt jobs. “Their share in the IAS Cadre in Maharashtra at present is reported to be nil, and in the police force Muslims account for about 4.4%”, the committee said adopting the Sachar Committee reported figure of 4.4% as share of Muslims in Government Services in Maharashtra.

The committee also expressed its concern over the large number of Muslims who are in jails. “While the Muslim population in the state is 10.6%, their share in the jail occupancy is ranging from 32-35%”, the report said.

“It is a cause for concern. The committee has recommended setting up a commission to inquire into the reasons behind disproportionate share of Muslims in state jails and suggest corrective action”, it said.

One of the major recommendations made in its report, the committee proposed a maximum of 10% or at least 08% reservation for the Muslims. The recommendation is made on the basis of the population of Muslims in Maharashtra which stands at 10.6%.

“The committee has unanimously come to the conclusion that in view of the negligible presence of Muslims in the government and semi-government employment vis-à-vis their population of

10.3 million against the total state population of 96.9 million (Census of India 2001), the Muslims should have a reservation of 10% or at least 8% in the employment and admissions to all educational institutions including the professional courses”, the report said.

The committee also recommended immediate vacation of unauthorized occupation of Waqf properties and release of outstanding rents by the government offices. It also recommended creation of a Waqf Service and construction of a Waqf House in Mumbai.

The Committee also recommended handing over of the Ismail Yusuf College and its adjoining land to the Muslims - a demand, the report said, is supported by a huge majority in the state and the country.

“Muslims from all over Maharashtra, and more overwhelmingly from the rest of the country, have supported the proposal of the transfer of management of Ismail Yusuf College to the Anjuman-e-Islam, which is one of the oldest and effectively managed institutions”, the report said.

The committee also suggested to handover the Haj Committee building at Palton Road to Muslims. “The present Haj House building at Palton Road, Mumbai, constructed out of big and small donations, is recommended to be handed over to the Muslims of the state as per their very justifiable demand made to the Study Group for organising socio-religious and cultural functions.”

“The Office of Chief Executive of the Central Haj Committee is recommended to be shifted to any other hired or official building”, the report said.

The committee has also highlighted the difficulties the Muslims in Maharashtra are facing while seeking permission for building mosques, and for getting approval for burial grounds.

“The police department in the state creates a lot of hassles to the community members seeking permission for building mosques, and many a time, denies permission to construct mosques. The cases of Kolhapur and Sanpada (Navi Mumbai) are examples in this regard”, the report observed.

“This not only violates the basic constitutional rights but is also very discriminatory. In case of any dispute, the open dialogue and interaction between the communities need to be promoted as is being done in many European countries. The state needs to act tough against the policemen violating the basic fundamental rights of the community’, it said.

About the permission for burial grounds, the report said, “Muslims at many places in the state are struggling to get land for burial grounds. Their request for land for this purpose remains unheeded by the urban local bodies. The struggle of the community to get burial grounds in Vasai and Mumbai are suitable examples in this regard.”

“Presently, the land allotments for burial grounds need to be approved by a resolution from local bodies (municipalities/municipal corporations) but given that the Muslim representation is quite low in elected local bodies, the resolutions are not passed or are delayed. The issue requires immediate attention and action by the Government of Maharashtra”, it said.

“The Government should delink the land allotment for burial grounds from approval by the local bodies. The collector should be authorised to allot the land and delay in this regard must be considered violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution”, it said.

Other recommendations that the committee has made in its report include adoption and implementation of Cultural Diversity Index and establishment of Equal Opportunity Commission at the state level, expansion of the OBC list to include extremely deprived strata of Muslim community, inclusion of Dalit Muslims into the scheduled caste category and anti- discrimination Act in line with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for Muslims.

Also recommended in the report are: all norms and procedures prescribed for SC/ST students related to government freeships, scholarships and fees to be applied to Muslim students in toto, need to establish quality Urdu, Marathi and English Medium schools and higher education centres in Muslim-concentrated areas, mandatory representation of Muslims in selection (recruitment) committees, construction of a new Urdu Academy house, its reorganisation and popularisation of Urdu and Sanskrit as pleaded by Justice Markandey Katju, renaming of Karjat or Matheran Railway station as Adamji Peerbhoy railway station.

The report also suggested that the government should encourage reform in the Muslim community with regard to gender equality. The arbitrary talaq should be prohibited and alimony to the divorced women be made compulsory. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2013 on page no. 1

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