The socioeconomic backwardness in 10 minority concentration areas was examined in a development audit report by the nonprofit SPECT Foundation titled "Marginalization of Muslims in Ten Minority Concentration Districts: Bringing the Equality Issue Back Into the Political Debate." The report, which was just made public in the Press Club of India, also addressed the myth surrounding the "growth of radical Islam" in numerous bordering regions in India.
Almost 1.41 crore Muslims live in the 10 areas that were chosen for the audit; they make up 52% of the local population. Furthermore, the article claims that the districts were chosen because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had targeted them for a number of reasons, "including purported population increase and 'illegal infiltration' from neighboring nations.''
Araria (Bihar), Purnea (Bihar), Kishanganj (Bihar), Katihar (Bihar), Dhubri (Assam), Kokrajhar (Assam), Shravasti (Uttar Pradesh), Balarampur (Uttar Pradesh), Malda (West Bengal), and Murshidabad (West Bengal) are among the selected districts.
The data calls into doubt the concept of "appeasing Muslims," showing that the Muslim population in these 10 areas has continued to be more isolated from basic resources than in other parts of the nation.
The main development indicators in four Bihar districts showed a terrible socioeconomic situation. The literacy rates of Muslims stands lower than the state average. Also, the student-teacher ratio in classrooms is significantly greater than the state average, highlighting the appalling status of the educational system.
Also, there was "chronic discrimination against minorities in scheme distribution," according to the report. Although there are many people living in poverty in all four of these districts, only 31.20 percent of Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana (PMGAY) recipients were Muslims, which is '17.5% less than the total average of the Muslim population.'
Numbers from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) further demonstrate the socio-economic backwardness. According to the research, "there was a stronger need for work in this region than the state average" between 2014–15 and 2020–21. Throughout the COVID pandemic, the situation grew worse.
In two districts of Uttar Pradesh, the urban myth that Muslims are seeing a population increase is debunked. In Shravasti, the decadal population growth (DPG) between 2001 and 2011 was -5.02%. When compared to the preceding decade, it fell by 32.23%. The DPG increased in Balrampur, however, it was minimal in comparison to other districts.
In comparison to other districts, both Balrampur and Shravasti have significantly lower literacy rates. While the state average is 57.25%, Balrampur and Shravasti have lower averages of 49.51% and 37.89%, respectively. Only 16.8% of women in Balrampur districts have finished 10 or more years of education, according to the NFHS-5 statistics. 39.3% is the state average. The infrastructure for healthcare in Shravasti is likewise subpar. Of all the districts of Uttar Pradesh, it is considered the poorest.
The two Assam districts chosen for the development audit have a similar status. "The number of functional lower primary schools has decreased" in Kokrajhar. Due to the dearth of universities in the district, students frequently move out for their higher education. Poor infrastructure and poor health outcomes are present in both Kokrajhar and Dhubri.
West Bengal's districts of Malda and Murshidabad, with 51% and 66% of their populations being Muslims, respectively. These areas have been under fire from the BJP for "increasing population due to infiltration from neighboring Bangladesh." The analysis indicates that the BJP's advertising is untrue because these districts saw a negative decadal population increase. Infrastructure for health and education is also in disrepair.
The report criticized secular parties for falling prey to the BJP's "prejudiced and motivated "appeasement" bogey." As a result, the secular parties avoid discussing the problems related to the marginalization of Muslims.
"The greater process of community persecution includes the socioeconomic marginalization of Muslims. A community's chronic underdevelopment and deliberate and vengeful obstruction of affirmative activities for its social welfare is also incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy," said the report.
The audit report presented by the SPECT Foundation was based on the findings of the Sachar Committee Report and Amitabh Kundu Committee (2014).
The Sachar Committee report focused on the social, economic, and educational status of the Muslim community of India.
According to the 2001 Census, India’s Muslim population was about 138 million (about 13.4% of the total population), and by 2006 the Muslim population would be over 150 million. The report states, “In India, populations of all major religions have experienced large growth in the recent past, but the growth among Muslims has been higher than average.” Between 1961 and 2001 the percentage of the Muslim population increased from 10.7% to 13.4%.
The literacy rate among Muslims in 2001 was 59.1%, below the national average (64.8%) with the gap greatest in urban areas. The report also noted that despite a common belief that many Muslim children attend madarsas for primary education, only 3% of Muslim children of the school-going age go to madarsas. Instead, many Muslim children are enrolled in Maktabs, which provide supplementary religious education in addition to enrolment in public schools.
Worker population ratios for Muslims are significantly lower than for all other SRCs in rural areas, but only marginally lower in urban areas. The lower ratios are mainly due to much lower participation in economic activity by Muslim women.
According to the Committee Report, “the most striking feature is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self-employment activity,” primarily in urban areas and for women workers. Participation of Muslim salaried workers in both the public and private sectors is quite low (as is true for SCs/STs), and the average salary of Muslim workers is lower than others (possibly, as more Muslims are in inferior jobs).
There is a clear and significant inverse association between the proportion of the Muslim population and the availability of educational infrastructures in small villages. Studies found that, compared to the Muslim-majority areas, the areas inhabited by fewer Muslims had better roads, local bus stops, pucca houses, sewage and drainage, and water supply facilities. The Committee highlighted the following points:
About one-third of small villages with a high concentration of Muslims do not have any educational institutions.
About 40% of large villages with a substantial Muslim concentration do not have any medical facilities.
Muslims face fairly high levels of poverty. Their conditions on the whole are only slightly better than those of SCs/STS, though slightly worse in urban areas. According to NSSO data, overall 22.7% of India’s population was poor in 2004-05 (251 million people), with SC/STs together as the worst off (at 35%), followed by Muslims at 31%.
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