"Muslims' backwardness rooted in regional context"

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said the Government alone could not address the backwardness of the Muslim community. It must be backed by political will and community initiative, he said, adding that the status of Muslims was rooted in the regional context as their condition in South India was better than in the North.

Addressing a national consultation on `Social, Economic and Educational Implications of the Sachar Report on Muslim Women,' the Minister said while the Sachar Committee made a detailed analysis, it failed to reflect on the connection between the general backwardness of North India and the status of Muslims in the region.

Mr. Ramesh cited the Sachar Committee's observation that only about a lakh SHGs were located in minority-dominated areas. "But, the fact is that 80 per cent of the SHGs is in South India."

He said Muslim women were particularly backward. This was borne out by the lower fertility rate among the Muslim women of South India. "So, the focus should be on the larger issue of backwardness of North India" as the benefits of development percolated to all communities as was proved in the South.

Using the incidence of polio to support his argument for a community initiative in addressing backwardness among Muslims, he said 540 of the 667 polio cases reported from across the country in 2006 were from Uttar Pradesh. "When Muslims of South India administer the oral polio vaccine to their children, why is it that their counterparts in the North say the OPV will make their kids impotent?"

He said State Governments must take the lead in providing reservation on social and economic grounds as was done in Kerala and Karnataka to broadbase education among Muslim women.

On SHGs, Mr. Ramesh said the movement was very rural-based whereas Muslims were urban-centric.