An IIM-A study reveals that Muslims perceived lowest fairness in five core areas of social prestige, economics, education, employment and politics
The perception of being treated ‘unfairly’ is still high amongst the Muslim minority of India, more than six decades after independence, states a joint study conducted by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
In the study titled ‘Education and Employment among Muslims in India’ by Prof Rakesh Basant, Hindus, Muslims and Christians were asked questions on their perception of participation in different spaces. While the Hindu respondents reported highest sense of being treated fairly, their Muslim counterparts perceived lowest fairness in five core areas of social prestige, economics, education, employment and politics.
The study noted that while the school enrolment rates for Muslims had improved in recent years, school dropout rates continued to rise. School drop out rates are “among the highest for Muslims and go up significantly after the stage of middle school.”
The double burden that the Muslims carry of being labelled ‘anti-nationalists’ while at the same time they are seen as being appeased by vested interests, is one of the reasons for the community’s perception of ‘being treated unfairly’, states the study.
“The fact that the appeasement attempts have not resulted in any benefits is typically ignored. Identity markers often lead to suspicion and discrimination by people and institutions,” the study adds.
The perception of being treated unfairly results in a growing sense of insecurity taking root in the psyche of the community, especially in communally sensitive states and particularly among women. The discriminatory attitude of the police and others compounds this feeling; choosing to live in ghettos is a result of the sense of insecurity and discrimination in housing, schools and jobs, states the study.
Credit flows are virtually non existent in Muslim concentrated areas, which curtails the ability of the community to improve its economic status, says the study. A bias in the implementation of government programmes and in infrastructure development in these areas, compounds the problem of unemployment amongst the community.
Highlighting the links between economic and political spaces, the study suggests enhanced participation of Muslims in governance. “Nominations of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities in local level bodies as is the case in Andhra Pradesh would be a good starting point.”
The study also recommends that delimitation of electoral constituencies should be rationalised “urgently”, so that constituencies with high minority population share are not reserved for Scheduled Castes, which seems to be the case in many states currently.
To improve the condition of Muslims, the study underscores the need to enhance diversity in different spaces including economics, education, employment and politics. It suggests, along the lines of the Sachar Committee recommendation, “acceptable” and “transparent” incentive based Diversity Index be evolved.
Prof Basant suggests that the Diversity Index may include socio-religious category status, gender and other elements as well. But eventually diversity should be a corporate social responsibility, he stresses.
To facilitate employment and educational prospects among Muslims, the study recommends incentivising private educational institutions and corporate houses. An educational institution could get additional grants for diverse student population, firms could get some tax cuts for diverse workforce and builders could get land at concessional rates for making composite housing societies.
While talking about the basis for affirmative actions, Prof Basant says that educational qualifications of the parents and not the caste, should determine eligibility for affirmative action. “Such a policy will take away caste, religion and even economic status, and move away from policies of reservation and quotas.”