Researchers claim it is most comprehensive study based on primary data

Seven years after the Justice Rajendra Sachar’s report on the minorities, a range of activists and scholars from various professions have come together to publish arguably the most comprehensive report on the socio-economic condition of Muslims in West Bengal.

The report – Status of the Muslims in Bengal, 2014 – is based on field level survey by at least a dozen scholars and scores of field-based researchers. The survey was conducted over two and half years and in nearly one hundred thousand households. No other report on Muslims of Bengal has collected data from as many primary sources as the forthcoming report, scheduled to be released on Saturday.

Justice Sachar report, released in 2006, collected its data from “secondary sources” as the committee did not receive much information from the then Government of West Bengal, the Committee’s member-secretary told this correspondent earlier. Saturday’s report, however, is expected to be more “in-depth and comprehensive,” according to one of the researchers.

Several members of Bengal’s civil society played a significant role to get the project off the ground. Members of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s trust, Pratichi, and academics with prestigious social science institute of Kolkata, Centre for Studies in Social Science (CSSSR), have joined hands with a couple of non-governmental organisations working among the minorities, like Social Network for Assistance to People (SNAP) and Guidance Guild, to conduct the survey and structure the interim report.

The members of the groups told The Hindu that it was “an arduous job” to bring extremely diverse groups of professionals to work together to publish a report on the socio-economic condition of Bengal’s minorities. But finally when the report is published on Saturday, it is expected to be a major talking point, not only in Bengal or eastern India but across the country.

The report is expected to highlight that almost a decade after Sachar report, 80 per cent of Muslim households depend on manual labour for livelihood or members of one fifth of the households are illiterate.

Approximately, Muslims constitute 25-26 per cent of Bengal population, that is one in four persons is a Muslim in the State. While Bengal has almost no record of large-scale communal violence over decades, the socio-economic condition of the community has not improved.

The Prime Minister-appointed Sachar Committee placed Bengal in the category of “worst” performing States. While refusing to accept the committee’s argument, the Left Front acknowledges that Sachar report had hit the coalition, both in the 2009 Lok Sabha and in 2011 Assembly polls. The Front, which almost always had an unflinching support of Muslims, lost the minority votes, and the leaders partly blamed the report for losing the traditional base. However, questions were raised about the authenticity of Sachar’s information regarding Bengal as the Committee could not access government data. The former member-secretary of Sachar Commiitee, Abusaleh Shariff told this correspondent in an interview in 2009 that the committee based its report on “secondary sources” as the Bengal government “refused to cooperate.”

However, Mr Shariff was questioned by the Left Front for alleged bias against the Bengal government. It is expected that the Saturday report will dig out the facts about the Bengal’s Muslims – approximately 2.1% of India’s population – objectively, dispelling myths. In fact, one of the reasons to produce a status report on the Muslims has emerged from the “need” to cross-verify the information released by the Sachar Committee nearly a decade ago.

Eminent poet Shankha Ghosh and Litterateur Nabanita Dev Sen will release the report in the city.

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