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Kundu committee asks Modi govt to extend reservation to backward Muslims, help them through Jan Dhan

By Rajiv Shah
In a significant recommendation, the Amitabh Kundu committee, which submitted its “final report” on the status of minorities in India to the Narendra Modi government in early October, wants that the recently launched Jan Dhan scheme should go a long way in helping financial exclusion of the minorities. Even as risking of being dubbed for “appeasing minorities”, it wants the programmes launched by the previous UPA government for minorities to be further intensified, going so far to ask the Modi government to extend reservation to the most backward sections of Muslims, identifying them as “Dalit Muslims.”
In its chapter on reservations and affirmation action, the committee, in fact, underlines, “The Dalit Muslims must be taken out of the other backward classes (OBC) list and incorporated in the scheduled caste list. It should be possible to identify these Muslim caste groups based on the principle recommended by the Ranganath Misra Commission, that all groups and classes whose counterparts among the Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists, are included in the Central or state SCs lists should be brought under the SC net.”
Wanting scholarships -- denied by Modi when he was Gujarat chief minister (2001-14) -- to be offered to backward sections of Muslims to be expanded, the committee underlines, “Given their levels of deprivation, there is a need to apply all norms and procedures prescribed for SC/ST students related to government freeships, scholarships and waiving of fees to them in toto.” It says, “There is a need to identify certain left out deprived Muslim castes into the OBC category and include all the communities identified as OBC in the States into the central government OBC list.”
Pointing towards how the minorities have been neglected by the established institutes like banking, the committee has found though Muslims were 72.9 per cent of minority population, banks disbursed just about 44.31% of the total priority sector loan given to the minorities. On the other hand, Sikhs, who constitute about 10.1 per cent of minorities, cornered 24.58% of loan, Christians with 12.7 per cent of minorities, cornered 21.87% of loan, and Parsis with less than 1 per cent of minorities cornered 2.24 per cent of minority loan.
Apart from Muslims, Buddhists -- many of whom are Dalits -- were at receiving end: Whey they formed 4.2 per cent of minorities, they received 2.06% of minority loan.
Referring to their analysis in the unreleased report – whose copy is with Counterview -- one of the committee members told Counterview, “What it shows that Muslims get 26% less priority sector loan to the share of their population. That also means that priority sector loan is going to relatively well off minorities.” Priority sector loan is disbursed for such sectors like agriculture, small scale industries, education, housing, and for the overall benefit of poorer sections of society for the overall development of the economy.
While Prof Amitabh Kundu of the Jawarlal Nehru University, Delhi, was chairman of the committee, other members were Dr Manzoor Alam, PA Inamdar, Dr Amil Ullah Khan, PC Mohanan, Farah Naqvi, Abdul Shaban, Prof Jeemol Unni, and Ali Ahmed Khan as member-secretary. The committee was appointed by the previous UPA government, but it was asked to finish the job and give report by the Modi government.
The committee has found that average poverty level of Muslims may be better than that of tribals and scheduled castes, but is worse than other sections. Basing on National Sample Survey data, it has said, in rural areas, STs’ and SCs’ monthly per capita expenditure – used for gauge purchasing power of a population – was Rs 167 and Rs 193, respectively (base year 1987-88 = Rs 100). While rural Muslim OBCs’ MPCE was Rs 214, the rural Hindu OBCs’ MPCE was Rs 222, and other Hindus' MPCE was Rs 275, and other Muslims' MPCE was Rs 298.
Things were found to be worse in the urban areas – as against the SC and ST MPCE being Rs 320 and Rs 305, respectively, that of OBC Muslims it was Rs 274. OBC Hindus’ MPCE was Rs 372,  while general category Hindus’ MPCE was Rs 556. General category Muslims’ MPCE was Rs 322. Further, average dwelling space for Muslims was 387 sq feet, worse than other religious groups -- 419 sq feet for Hindus (including ST and SC), 532 sq feet for Christians, and 635 sq feet for Sikhs. The average dwelling space for all religious groups was 422 sq feet.
Cover page of the report
Educational backwardness of the Muslims is equally telling, if the committee is to be believed. It has found that 11.2 per cent of Muslim OBCs and 6.2 per cent general category Muslims never attended any educational institution. The comparative figure is -- 5.4 per cent for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, 3.5 per cent for Hindu OBCs, and 1.2 per cent for non-OBC Hindus. Noting that overall, too, the educational level of Muslims is low, the committee states, “Within socio-religious groups, SC/ST among Hindus and OBCs among Muslim have the lowest levels of literacy.”
All this has prompted the committee to recommend to explore the possibility of having a special budgetary allocation for Muslims in order to provide funds for ameliorating their plight – “akin to the allocations made under the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP), where budgetary outlays are made in proportion to the share of SC and ST population in the country.”
The committee does not fail to recall the impact of frequent communal riots on Muslims. Warning against the “rising incidents of communal polarization and violence”, and wanting the government to address these “firmly and urgently”, it stresses on the need to uphold “the stated national political commitment to bringing an end to the manufactured polarization”, insisting on the need to come up with what it calls “a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation to prohibit discrimination based on disability, sex, caste, religion.”

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