Skip to main content

Why empowering Indian Muslims is 'critical' for post-Covid economic recovery

By Vikas Kumar*

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” -- Mahatma Gandhi
The Indian economy was in doldrums even before the pandemic. Covid-19 has dealt it a fatal blow. Millions of livelihoods have been lost, millions of families permanently forced into abject poverty. The economists and ruling party politicians have offered various “solutions” which are like applying band-aid to gunshot. However, there is a simple yet very effective solution to boost the economy: empowerment of Indian Muslims.
Muslims constitute 14.2% of India’s population. Yet their share in educational institutes, government jobs belie their population proportion.
Though mostly residing in urban centres, Muslims have a particularly low share in public jobs, politics, and university posts. They hold only 4.9% of government jobs and only 3.2% of jobs in India’s security forces. Muslims earn less than other groups and are excluded from financial ecosystem.
The Sachar Committee Report, released about a decade ago, revealed all round backwardness of Indian Muslims through a myriad of statistics. The average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) for Indians stands at Rs 1,128. It is, however, the lowest for Muslims at Rs 980. The committee highlighted that in addition to socio economic deprivation, Muslims live with a sense of deep fear and insecurity owing to communal riots and violence.
Unsurprisingly, Muslims trail in the literacy data charts too. Literacy rate among Indian Muslims is lower than national average of 74.04 Percentage. The data also shows that a meagre 2.76% of Muslims are educated till graduation level or above.
According to a World Bank Report, published in 2013, nearly 34% of all Indian Muslims were below the poverty line compared to 19% of Hindus. Pitifully Muslims account for 40% of India’s total prison population.

Hindutva politics and Muslims

With the rise of Hindutva politics in India, persecution of Muslims has become strident and commonplace. In today’s India, Muslims are openly depicted as religious and cultural other who must be hated, lynched and thrown out of the country. With passage of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), threat to their citizenship has become real.
Under the current establishment, cities bearing Islamic names are being changed, Muslims have been accused of waging “Corona-Jihad” and “Love-Jihad”. There have been numerous riots and lynching in the country that stemmed directly or indirectly from the Hindutva brand of politics.
A recent study by Brian Grim and Robert Snyder showed that countries with lower levels of religious hostilities and lower governmental restrictions on religion consistently ranked higher in primary education and health, technical training, innovation, communications, market infrastructure, market efficiency, financial market development and labour efficiency market. Religious freedom also contributed to overall peace and stability. It also helped lower corruption: another important prerequisite for growth.
Research also suggests that as social and religious conflicts increase, economic growth of any country is severely negatively impacted. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a think tank headquartered in Australia, estimated that communal & caste base violence took a toll of $1,190 billion in FY2016-17. This translates to roughly 8% of the GDP and Rs 40,000 per person.
In today’s India, Muslims are openly depicted as religious and cultural other who must be hated, lynched and thrown out of the country
According to various global media reports, India has lost its attractiveness to global investors due to rising social & communal tensions. Indian Asset managers maintain that rise in sectarian violence and instability remain key issues that restrict foreign investments into India.
In a Bloomberg report, Alyssa Ayers, from the Council on Foreign Relations, was reported as saying that “India remains too fractured and unable to rise above domestic cleavages. People do not worry about social instability and its significant costs”.
Another great example of how communal violence has hurt the economy is leather industry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stated aim was to double the leather exports as a part of Make in India. However, Leather exports have declined 3% YoY in FY17-18 compared to growth of 20% in FY13-14. Industry Experts point out that cow vigilantism has wreaked havoc on the leather industry: which employs close to 5 million people, most of them from weaker sections of society.

Steps to empower Indian Muslims

The priority should be on ensuring adequate educational opportunities that bring Indian Muslims into the social and economic mainstream. The Indian Muslims must be active participants in shaping the future of India’s economic growth. They must also be equal partners in India’s prosperity.
Following Rule of Law in letter and spirit: Most fears and insecurities of Muslims are fuelled by a hostile state and indifference of their own fellow citizens. Insecurity about physical safety, property and one’s place in society leads to lack of ambition and social depression among young Muslims. Government must hold perpetrators of communal violence to account and de-communalise its counter terrorism strategy which are sine qua non for restoring Muslim community’s confidence in the state machinery.
Affirmative action to ensure adequate representation in employment: Indian Muslims deserve targeted affirmative action which has been followed for other marginalized group like Dalits & OBC. The most underprivileged among Muslims should be given a share within the overall OBC and Dalit job and education quota. Further, government agencies and forces can employ other forms of affirmative action like specialised recruitment from the community until a desired Muslim representation is reached.
Educational empowerment is key to political and economic empowerment: Education holds the key to empowerment of Indian Muslims. The main reason behind educational backwardness is abject poverty among Indian Muslims due to which children are forced to drop out of school or never see school. Poverty and Educational Backwardness are thus two sides of the same coin.
Schools beyond primary schools are few in Muslim neighbourhoods and Girls only schools are even fewer. Government should introduce job oriented education and vocational training in madrasas. Minority universities with a majority proportion of seats reserved in the fields of medical, engineering, law should be opened in each state to fulfil higher education needs of the Muslim community. 
Further, Minority Career Counselling, Employment and Placement Cell in each Muslim concentrated district should be established to facilitate and guide Muslim youth in making good choices of career.
If India wants to emerge as an economic superpower in post Covid-19 world, it must steadfastly work towards empowering its minorities especially Muslims without allowing religious divisions and conflicts to distract it.
---
*Management student at IIM-Ahmedabad, wants to work toward his vision of truly secular and egalitarian Indian republic where people from all faiths are granted equality of opportunity in employment and education

Comments

Unknown said…
The true test of a democracy is whether minorities are treated fairly and feel safe.
I cannot see India ever to develop fully if two hundred million of its people are left behind as dead wood.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p