Presidential Address of Mr. Moosa Raza at the Regional Conference of National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions at Chennai on 2 Feb 2011
The main minorities in India are Muslims and Christians. At the all-India level, Muslims form close to 15% of the population. There are other minorities like Sikhs and Jains but they are dominant minorities. But among all the Minorities, both in terms of education, economic development and share in both public and private services, Muslims are at the bottom of the ladder. They are the deprived minorities; their share in the national cake is far less than their population warrants.
Statistics have been analysed by the Sachar Committee, I cannot refrain from highlighting only a couple of them.
According to Census data, while about 7% of the population aged 20 years are graduates or hold technical diplomas, this proportion is less than 4% among Muslims, and less than 1% have technical education.
Only 3.6% of Muslims are graduates. 25% of Muslims children in the 6-14 age group have either never attended school or have dropped out. A majority of these are girls. That is why more than 50% of Muslim women are classified among illiterates, even by the minimalist definition of literacy – mere reading and writing and arithmetic.
The main reasons behind this large gap in womens literacy are
1. The large scale illiteracy among mothers especially in rural areas. Hence, they are unable to educate their children at home.
2. Absence of all-girl schools within easy reach for girls.
3. Absence of transport arrangements to go to school.
4. Economic necessity of retaining girls to look after younger siblings.
5. Demand for dowry by the bridegroom and his family, which the economically depressed cannot afford.
6. Finding well educated grooms for educated girls of equivalent level.
7. The feeling that if one has to choose between spending your meager resources on educating a boy or a girl, the cost/benefit ratio goes in favour of the son.
8. Absence of girls hostels and safe transport for college girls specially in the uncertain security scenario.
There is however a section of the people, among them sociologists and academics who believe that the religion of Islam plays a role in keeping women illiterate.
Though a few misinformed moulvis might have given stray fatwas on girls education, by and large the religious leadership of the Muslims has been always in favour of providing education to Muslim girls. Today most of the responsible imams and khateebs in mosque are emphasizing the need for education, both for boys and girls in their Friday sermons albiet with safeguard for their modesty and physical safety.
The Sachar Committee observed “There is also a common belief that Muslim parents feel that education is not important for girls and that it may instill a wrong set of values. Even if girls are enrolled they are withdrawn at an early age to marry them of. This leads to a higher drop-out rate among Muslims girls. Our interactions indicate that the problems may lie more in non-availability of schools within easy reach for girls at lower levels of education, absence of female teachers and availability of scholarships as they move up the education ladder. In some cases absence of vital facilities in schools such as toilets keeps the girls away from schools”.
The UPA govt. in its first stint appointed the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Committee to look into the needs for the Muslim minority. These two committees have made several important suggestions for the amelioration of the economic, educational and employability of Muslim community.
The Prime Minister also promulgated a 15 point Programme for the educational and economic uplift of Muslims.
In the aftermath of the Gujarat and Kandhamal pogroms, the minorities felt shaken. The nation as a whole felt that such riots paid no dividends and only impeded the progress of the country and the nation.
They voted the UPA back to power for a second term. Muslims voted for UPA in larger numbers than earlier. Immediately after taking power the President of India addressed the Joint Session of the Parliament on 4th June 2009. She talked of the Govt. ensuring inclusive development with special emphasis on minority development.
She acknowledged the UPA victory “a mandate for inclusive growth, equitable development and secular and plural India”. On behalf of her govt. she promised “concerted action for the welfare of, among other weaker sections, the minorities”.
Para 28 of her address reads as follows:
“My Govt. will continue to accord the highest priority to the welfare of minorities and the action taken on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee have, to some extent succeeded in ensuring an equitable share to the minorities in govt. resources jobs and plans. Steps under way would be consolidated further. Govt. would strive to strengthen and modernize administration of wakfs, reform the management of Haj operations and set up an “Equal Opportunity Commissions.”
Elections are coming round again-in the next 3 years. The community will evaluate the performance of the UPA govt. on the basis of the promises made in the President speech.
It is now going to be close to two years since that speech and the time has now come to redeem the pledges made by the Government. In the context of girls’ education, I placed before the Regional Conference of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions the following 15 recommendations for Government’s consideration.
1. Govt. should focus on girls’ education, especially minority girls, through a sub-plan in the five year plan both at the Centre and the State level, on the lines of the Tribal Sub-plan and the SC/ST sub-plans. Muslims are falling behind the SC/ST in many areas.
2. Govt. should open all-girl schools in the vicinity of minority concentration area. This will help all communities-both majority-and minority.
3. Even in non-minority concentration areas, exclusive girls’ schools are a necessity. Minority girls should be provided a special quota in such schools.
4. It is essential to ensure that atheist Primary Education be provided in Mother Tongue-Urdu. In the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat etc. mother tongue of a large section of Muslims is the regional language. But in these and most other states, there is a very substantial number of Urdu speaking Muslims. So Urdu medium primary schools are a necessity.
5. It is not enough to provide free education, midday meals and books. The poor parents of Muslim girls require to be incentivized to send their girls to such schools and to keep them there. For this purpose, parents of girls studying in schools may be provided special quota in the MNREGA, Slum Clearance projects, Awas Yojnas, PDS system, Kerosene quota and other facilities provided by the Govt.
6. Special scholarships need to be provided to every girl, both in schools and institutions of higher learning. The budget for such scholarships should be in proportion to the number of girls from low-income Muslim families studying. Against some 800 girls of my College, who applied for a scholarship in TN only one got the scholarship! The reason was there was a budget of some 20 crores whereas the eligible girls were thrice that number!
7. NGOs working for minorities, especially for Muslim minority require to be encouraged both financially, administratively and through other incentives. It is unfortunate that all-India statistic indicate that out of 91 NGO’s who have been released educational grants, only one Muslim NGO got included. Out of 789 NGO’s for school education, only 2 Muslim institutions – in Lucknow and Sahaanpur – got any grant.
8. Govt. should provide grants to upgrade minimum facilities in minority schools – especially for drinking water and toilets. For this, state governments should survey all minority schools and assess these special needs.
9. Govt. now provides upto Rs.1.00 crore for girls’ hostels through UGC. In urban areas, one cannot get even a plot of 60’ x 40’ for 1 crore. In semi urban areas that amount may fetch a small one acre plot ! Even a 50 room hostel to house just 150 girls would cost more than 1 crore to build. Where is a poor NGO going to find land for this? Either this amount needs to be revised, or alternatively Govt. should provide the land. The rules governing allotment of wakf land for Muslim educational purposes should be made more flexible.
10. Even in the rural areas of T.N., e.g. in Kilakarai, the monthly charges for the hostel, work out to Rs.1500/- / month per girl. Which rural family can afford such expenditure? Govt. needs to subsidize minority girls hostel stay.
11. Teacher Education Scheme requires to be extended beyond the existing restrictions. At least, in all areas where we have substantial population of Muslims, Christian & SC/ST, exclusive female teacher training colleges need to be established, or NGOs encouraged to build such institutions.
12. Female teachers from the Muslim Community may be incentivised through scholarship to get trained in Teachers Training Colleges. Absence of female teachers poses a great handicap, especially in rural areas.
13. In the XI plan, 13 universities were funded to start Centres to study Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy for Minorities, SC/ST in 07-08. For 35 Centres, Rs.14/- crores was released. No one has seen the reports submitted by these Centres. What are the outcomes? Govt. should publish these reports and disseminate the information for a public discourse.
14. The poet Robert Burns said “The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang agley”. Most of the plans of the governments, both at Central and State levels are well-intentioned, well conceived and well-planned. But most of these Plans & Schemes are at best only partially translated into action and many times remain only on paper. So monitoring the implementation of the Schemes at all levels is essential, if the promises made are fulfilled. The community needs to see the results, not the promises. The President promised that all Ministries will place a quarterly report before the Parliament on their performance. This remains only a promise!
15. The Prime Minister has introduced a Result Framework Document for 72 ministries of the Govt. The Secretary today signs an agreement with his minister, laying down quantified targets, annually. A similar RFD needs to be introduced by each state govt. Such performance reports, especially for education of Muslim girls should be placed before the public annually.
16. A Parliamentary Committee for Minority Welfare at the Central level and an Assembly Committee at state level should be established. I believe the AP & Karnataka govt. has already done so. The conditions of the SC/ST improved considerably because of the regular monitoring done by these Committees. Why not for Minority Welfare?
The 15 point proposal given above is for the Government’s initiative. However, if the Community stands back waiting for the apples to fall in their lap, they will continue to remain a Deprived Minority-leave alone becoming an Equal Minority or a Dominant Minority!
An Urdu poet remarked long ago:
“This world is a tavern-house. He who stands and waits will never get a drink. The wine belongs to him who comes forth and grabs the goblet.”
So I recommend an Eleven point programme for the Muslim Community to ponder and adopt.
1. The Community should study the Sachar Committee report deeply, analyse the findings and realize the importance of education. The Community should focus its attention single-mindedly on Education and avoid frittering its energies on such non-profitable issues as Salman Rushdies, Taslima Nasreens, Danish Cartoons, Processions, Litigation on Beards etc. These are temporary and passing irritants. Education is the panacea! Special attention needs to be paid for women’s education.
2. Community should set up an institution both at Central and State level
- to get the Right to Education Act implemented
- to use the Right to Information Act effectively
- to gather Information & Disseminate it.
(I call this COGID)
3. Community should set up a Group both at the Central and State level, with sub-groups at the district/taluk level to liaise and interact with MPs, MLAs, Opinion Makers, media and other power groups (GLIMMOM). These groups should hold regular periodic meetings with the power-elite, in a structured way, keep records of discussions, follow up the action proposed and taken, and assess results.
4. The Christian Community in India runs perhaps ten times the number of educational institutions that Muslims run. Their population is perhaps a seventh of the Muslim population. The Muslims should coordinate with Christians. Set up a Muslim– Christian Coordination Committee for Education (MCCCE).
5. GLIMMOM should be mandated to lobby with UGC/AICTE/HRD/MMA and other Central bodies so as to establish standing committees at various levels to monitor their minority schemes and act as links between these bodies and the community.
6. GLIMMOM & COGID should develop a data bank on Muslim related statistics, parliamentary and Assembly Questions/Answers, prepare and supply such data/parliamentary questions/Assembly questions to MPs/MLAs/Corporators/Panchayat Members etc.
7. Community should build public opinion through mass-contact, work-shops, seminars etc to lobby for the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee for Minority Welfare, on lines of similar Committee for SC/ST. Similar effort should be made for an Assembly Committee, wherever such a Committee is not there.
8. Community should mobilize public opinions, lobby with Govts. Wakf Boards, to get Wakf Land allotted for schools/Colleges/Hostels (especially for girls). Even if there are no NGO today to take up such lands in the areas where such land exists, the land should be statutorily reserved for educational purpose so that it is not alienated/encroached upon today and deprive future generations.
9. Community should select eminent, well-reputed, committed members in each district, form a Committee of such persons to liaise with COGID& GLIMMOM, and to ensure liaison with local educational institutions to take full advantage of the RTE/RTI and ensure flow of credit from local banks especially for educational activities, and to ensure full enrolment of all eligible students–boys and especially girls.
10. Community should start a campaign–and not leave it to only religious heads – to educate people against dowry-demands, education of girls, and prevent despair and deviation among unmarried girls.
11. Community should develop effective means of using the mosques, especially the Friday sermons – to educate the Community on Education, Health & effective use of government schemes for the welfare of the Community.