The newly released data from the 2011 Census shows that the Muslim community, the largest minority in the country, come out pretty much at the bottom of most socio-economic indices even a decade after a high-level government probe into their historical disadvantages led to policy actions. Almost a quarter of India’s 370,000 beggars are Muslims, newly released data from the 2011 Census show, reinforcing that thecommunity still lags behind on most counts despite the country’s rapid economic growth. Muslims, the largest minority who make up 14.2% of India’s 1.25-billion population, come out pretty much at the bottom of most socio-economic indices, even a decade after a high-level government probe into their historical disadvantages led to policy actions. India has the second-largest Muslim population globally, after Indonesia.“There is a high level of destitution and disparity. But (it is) not surprising,” said Amitabh Kundu, a development economist who led a committee to evaluate the policy impact on the community.
Talk of Muslim development is often polarising and evokes sharp views in the political sphere. But the landmark 2006 report by the Sachar Committee, which was commissioned in 2005, showed the community faced disadvantages.
The report found high poverty and low literacy levels among Muslims. Despite the community being highly self-employed, their access to credit facilities was very limited.
At that time, less than 5% of Muslims held government jobs. Their living conditions were comparable, and on some parameters, worse than other backward categories such as Scheduled Castes, the report showed.
“All these point to discrimination,” Kundu said.
A raft of development programmes unveiled to reverse these indices hasn’t plugged the gap, although there has been some progress. Government employment is up from 5% a decade ago to 8.50% in 2014-15, but that’s way below their share in the population.