Muslim-Concentrated Districts Suffer from Abject Poverty, Lack of Resources


The report by SPECT Foundation, which surveyed 10 minority districts, also drilled holes into BJP allegations of population influx and minority appeasement. It also finds that Muslims are discriminated against in all government schemes.

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Muslim-concentrated districts in Bihar, West Bengal and Assam suffer from “abject multidimensional poverty and lack of resources”, shows a report prepared by an NGO.

The report titled “Marginalisation of Muslims in Ten Minority Concentrated Districts: Bringing the Equity Question Back in the Political Discourse” was released by SPECT Foundation here on Monday.

The report assesses socio-economic parameters in 10 districts, which are part of the identified MsDP (Multi-sectoral Development Programme): Bihar (Araria, Purnea, Kishanganj, Katihar), Assam (Dhubri, Kokrajhar), Uttar Pradesh (Shravasti, Balarampur) and West Bengal (Malda, Murshidabad).

“What seems to escape any attention is that these districts, inundated by flood every year, suffer from abject multidimensional poverty and lack of resources. There are huge gaps in the existing structures of livelihood that diminish opportunities and shrink resources for the people of these districts. In most of these districts, data shows that the Muslim community in particular has remained even more cut off from basic resources,” the report noted.

The report found that these districts lack educational institutions, and health centres, have lower literacy rates, higher dropout rates, fewer work opportunities, and lack basic infrastructure. People in these districts do not get benefits from government schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana (PMGAY). These ten districts were also chosen in the first round because they have been particularly targeted by the BJP, its affiliates and the media in recent years for various reasons, including alleged population explosion and ‘illegal infiltration’ from neighbouring countries.

The report also said that the conversation around the socioeconomic backwardness of the Muslim community, as well as the systemic underdevelopment of Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs) has largely disappeared from the public domain in the last 8-10 years. The current ruling dispensation, displaying an anti-Muslim bias, has turned the narrative on its head, pushing instead the baseless idea of “Muslim appeasement”. The tragic chronicle of extreme socioeconomic backwardness among Muslims has been replaced by a range of concocted narratives that stigmatise, stereotype or seek to criminalise India’s Muslim community. The report provides an overdue factual corrective.

It also slammed secular parties for denying these districts the fruits of development and succumbing to the bogey of appeasement propagated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The mantle for raising demands to the central government for the development of marginalised communities, including Muslims, clearly now falls on secular parties and organisations. However, many secular parties appear to have succumbed to the prejudiced and motivated ‘appeasement’ bogey raised by the BJP and have become reluctant to address or even raise the issues of marginalisation of Muslims lest that jeopardise their majoritarian vote share. West Bengal, for example, has never had a BJP government. Bihar has largely been ruled by non-BJP parties or occasionally in alliance with BJP being a marginal player. Yet, even in these states, we find the Muslim community, in particular, being denied the fruits of development,” noted the report.

It pointed out that the Muslim community is often considered a pliant vote bank by these opposition parties, who assume that they will be forced to vote for them in the face of continual attack and persecution by the BJP. Hence the issue of marginalisation of Muslims is not a priority issue even for the secular parties.

According to the report, the socioeconomic marginalisation of Muslims is part of the larger process of persecution of the community. It is also against the basic ethos of democracy if a community is systemically left underdeveloped and affirmative actions for its social welfare are intentionally and vindictively stymied. “The abject state of the Muslim community in the country is, therefore, not an isolated problem for a single community alone. It reflects poorly on the overall developmental indices of the country. When we demonstrate the lack of public education or public health facilities in these districts, it also reflects on the overall degeneration of public resources. For the sake of the overall development of democracy, concrete steps must be taken to ameliorate the overall underdevelopment of these areas with substantial Muslim population,” it said.

The report made the following recommendations

1. Implement recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission and Amitabh Kundu Committee.

2. Special approach recommended by the Sachar Committee for targeted reach of minorities needs to be implemented at the block and village level because within districts itself resources are distributed unevenly and developmental deficits exist at multiple levels.

3. The Central government and Niti Ayog should do fresh surveys to assess the conditions of the minority population, especially Muslims, to understand the change, improvement or deterioration since the Sachar Committee report.

4. Opposition parties should be more vocal about the systemic socioeconomic marginalisation of the Muslim community and force the Central government and BJP-led state governments to take concrete actions.

5. Secular opposition parties should stop treating Muslims as a pliant vote bank and instead be more proactive in taking concrete actions to improve the socioeconomic conditions of the Muslims in states where they hold power.

6. The opposition should be more vocal in busting the myth of “Muslim appeasement” rather than succumbing to this fallacious, prejudiced and motivated narrative.


Photo used for illustrative purposes only.

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