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Poverty among Muslims in urban areas was twice the national average in 2011-12 and four times more than among upper caste Hindus, says a committee which has probed the issue for the government. Also, it says, the employment situation among Muslims has not undergone much change vis-a-vis other groups since the UPA government said it would go by the Sachar committee report in 2006. The panel, however, says job reservation for Muslims isn’t the answer. The committee was constituted by the government to assess implementation of the Sachar recommendations and the Prime Minister’s 15-point programs for minorities. Chaired by Amitabh Kundu, a professor from the Centre for Study of Regional Development at Jawaharlal Nehru University here, it gave an interim report on Friday to the minority affairs minister, K Rahman Khan. Official data showed 13.7 per cent of Indians were below the poverty line (BPL) in urban areas in 2011-12, compared to 25.7 per cent in 2004-05. In absolute terms, 52.8 million people were BPL in urban India in 2011-12, compared to 80.2 mn in 2004-05.
In the country as a whole, the proportion of BPL dropped from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. In absolute terms, 269 mn were BPL in 2011-12, against 407 mn in 2004-05. In 2011-12, unemployment among educated urban Muslim youth was 18 per cent. In lower educational categories, the unemployment rate was highest among Muslims, followed by scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). While the Kundu panel does not favour a reservation quota for Muslims, it favours the inclusion of those engaged in occupations similar to SC Hindus (like Arzaal Muslims) in the SC list, instead of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. Due to its historical association with secessionism, the demand for a separate quota for all Muslims or even a separate sub-quota for them within the OBC category, without bringing in socio-economic considerations, is not feasible, the report said. It is, however, for a law to bar social discrimination against Muslims, on the lines of the existing one for SCs and STs. Rather, the panel wanted the government to go for resource allocation for public and private enterprises based on a diversity index, showing the percentage of different social groups employed by companies. It wants a diversity index-linked resource allocation for all public and private enterprises, instead of a separate Muslim quota, a senior official associated with the committee said.
The panel said except for the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, the economic condition of Muslim OBCs had worsened in most other states in comparison to the SC population between 2004-05 and 2011-12. The assessment was based on the 61st and 68th round of Monthly Per Capita Expenditure Survey of the National Sample Survey. The committee said that though the growth rate in consumption had risen in Muslims in 2011-12 as compared to 2004-05 and 1993-94, this cannot be attributed only to the Sachar committee’s implementation, since this was in sync with the pattern among all communities. The committee says the percentage of poor among OBC Muslims was higher than the SC population in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Assam and Tripura in 2011-12. The committee also said properties under ‘Waqf’ should be exempted from certain enactments like the Rent Control Act, Land Reforms Act, etc, and unused cemeteries could be developed by changing their land use by the appropriate agencies. This would stop illegal encroachments, it said.