Lack of political will to blame for plight of Muslims

Govt needs to do more than just window dressing to improve the lot of Muslims, says report


Trithesh Nandan | January 17, 2013

It takes political will to take the nation forward. The UPA government in its first avatar took a major decision by establishing a high-level committee under the leadership of the prime minister (in short Sachar committee) to study about the plight of country’s largest minority population, the Muslim community. After gathering data and studying the conditions of Muslims, the committee presented in report in November 2006 what Abusaleh Shariff, the member-secretary of the Sachar committee called it as ‘diagnostic tool’.

Six years since the Sachar committee report, the cosmetic measures have been erected by the government. Shariff who is now chief scholar with US-India Policy Institute, a think-tank based in Washington DC, brought another report recently (on January 13) that reflected a completely depressing situation of the Muslim community. “Nothing much has changed for the community,” Shariff told Governance Now. The ministry of minority affairs (MMA) came into picture (2006) that was not recommended by the Sachar committee. But it was formed to look after the affairs of Muslims. The multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP), a welfare programme targeting 90 districts with more concentration of minority community and the 15-point programme for welfare of minorities were launched by the UPA I government. Different experts and commentators termed it as ‘political will’ shown by the grand old party of India.

Six years is not a long time but significant long enough to bring significant fruits of development. The hope built by the MMA did not translate into reality. The Oxford educated Muslim figure of the Congress party who headed the ministry till he was elevated to the external affairs three months back calls the reality as conceptual confusion at the government level. “There is issue of politics. The conceptual confusion hurt us more,” said external affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

But one needs to ask if there is conceptual confusion, the government needs to overcome the problem. But why is the government not able to sharpen its thought on all the policies which is hurting the government? A prime minister with a background of economics is so obsessed with growth centric issues that he forgets that in his model of growth all the groups are not benefitting its result to all groups. Shariff’s new report only confirms those fears. The report says that the literacy rate among the general category Muslims have declined in the last five years. It also said that in the micro-credit and Anganwadi schemes, Muslims are excluded. According to the report, “Muslims’ participation in MGNREGS is negligible. They are left out right from the stage of issuance of job cards,” said the study. In a nutshell, the Muslim community has fallen behind the dalits on different economic indicators.

Sixty years ago, when the racial problems started gripping the United States, it came out with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Such was the concern to improve racial relations by the American government; you can see EEOC office in all departments of the governments, universities and the private sectors. The British too followed it up with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The Sachar committee too recommended setting up of Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) on these lines. The lines are blurred within the government. A lack of political will again has again enveloped and we still don’t have such commission. The proposal is perhaps dusted in the files of the group of ministers (GoM). “We need an equality commission. If we don’t have rough equality, how can we evolve a change in society,” said professor TK Oomen, one of the members of the Sachar committee.

“There is a deep sense of disappointment by the government. The Muslim community has gone on backfoot. We are still having the same discussion after six years,” said Farah Naqvi who is a member of the national advisory council led by the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Beyond the statistical data and figures brought out by different reports including Shariff’s new report tells government’s lackadaisical approach to India’s largest minority group. You just need to go to Mewat, hardly 80 km from the national capital, you find the reality. New Delhi-based advocacy organisation, Centre for Equity Studies (CES) report last year studied the pitiable conditions of the Muslim of three district including Mewat. Haryana which is good on economic indicators, the sufferer district is Mewat, which is Muslim dominated.

“Because Mewat is below the radar, it hardly catches anyone’s attention. There are lots of stereotypes like Muslim women don’t want to step outside (their homes). But is it a fact? No, it is not. All these stereotypes justify the government’s inaction,” Sajjad Hassan, a former bureaucrat told Governance Now. He is also the author of the CES report. Hassan said that government’s efforts are just window dressing.

In fact, government’s lacks will. Perhaps, it needs more than a window dressing.




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