By Abdul Bari Masoud

The campaign for electing new assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, and Goa is underway. However, the UP election is the most important one as its outcome has bearing on national politics. UP is the most populous state in India contributing 16% to India’s population. It has 80 seats in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) and 31 seats in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and plays a significant role in the national polity due to its large population. Despite its political prominence, it remains one of the country’s most backward states.

In terms of Muslims in UP, the state has the highest Muslim population in the country, accounting for approximately 20% of the state’s overall population and 23% of the country’s total Muslim population. Despite its size (nearly 43 million), the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh falls behind other socio-religious groups (SRGs) in terms of education, economics, employment, housing, landholding, credit availability, and other development indices.

A report released in Lucknow on January 7 presents the plight of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. There isn’t a single respected sector in which Muslims come out on top.

The 76-page report, titled ‘Situating Development of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh Policy Implications,’ is a must-read for anybody interested in inclusive development. The Centre for Development Policy and Practice (CDPP) published the study. Prof Amitabh Kundu, Prof. P.C. Mohanan, and Dr Amir Ullah Khan, Research Director of CDPP, were among the professionals who contributed to the report.

The study situates the development of the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh by presenting the development indicators, their history, causes and effects and possible interventions to arrest the constant worsening of relative development of the community.

It is an attempt to cover wide areas that affect Muslims’ public life, livelihoods, educational progress, economic mobility, and factors that generate and add to further inequalities.

The salient findings of the study are as follows:

EDUCATION

The most critical handicap for the Muslims is their educational backwardness.  As many as 40.83 per cent of Muslims are illiterate as compared to overall illiteracy rate of 34.01 per cent; and 28.49 per cent of Muslims are educated up to primary level against the figure of 25.11 per cent for all persons. Only 16.8 per cent of Muslims have education above middle level as compared to 25.5 per cent of total population. The proportion of Muslims drops sharply as they move up the education ladder. Only 4.4 per cent of Muslims have university degrees.

  • 71.2 per cent of Muslims above 15 years were illiterate or educated below the primary level in UP as compared to the national average of 58.3 per cent.
  • The educational profile of Muslims in 2019-20 as per PLFS shows as many as 40.83 per cent of Muslims were illiterate as compared to the overall illiteracy rate of 34.01 per cent.
  • 28.49 per cent of Muslims were educated up to the primary level against the figure of 25.11 per cent for all persons. Only 16.8 per cent of Muslims have education above the middle level as compared to 25.5 per cent of the total population.
  • The proportion of Muslims drops sharply as they move up the education ladder. Only 4.4 per cent of Muslims have university degrees.

EMPLOYMENT

  • The proportion of regular wage/salary employment is lower in UP (25.6 per cent) than in India (31.6 per cent).
  • The proportion of workers in the services sector is also lower in U.P. (27.3 per cent) than in India (32.2 per cent). Thus, a larger proportion of Muslims in UP is engaged in less regular and low income occupations as compared to India.

LAND AND ASSET OWNERSHIP

  • According to 2014-15 study 25.83 per cent of Hindu households were landless as compared to 48.05 per cent Muslim households.
  • The size of land owned was also lower for Muslim households (2.03 acres) than for Hindu households (2.63 acres).
  • Only 1.7 per cent of Muslim households owned more than 5 acres of land.

POVERTY

  • According to NSS 2009-10 Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure among Muslim households was ` Rs 752 in UP as compared to Rs 988 in India as a whole.
  • Poverty ratio is higher for Muslims than for all social groups.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The unemployment among Muslims has increased by 9.95% from 2018-2019. Traditionally, Muslims are in agricultural activities, and in traditional industries and crafts like weaving, bangle making, iron casting, tailoring, cotton carding, carpentry, baking, making utensils, carpet making, meat selling and butchering, zardozi and chikankari (threadwork) and other textile related activities. Different regions in UP are known for the craftsmanship of Muslim artisans and craftsmen.

Moradabad is known for decorative metal (aluminium, steel, and iron) utensils; Varanasi is famous for silk sarees and weaving; Aligarh is popular for locks, Lucknow’s zardozi and chikankari attract many tourists. Bhadohi is the carpet manufacturing sector and Kanpur is the biggest leather manufacturing hub of India. Similarly, the furniture of Saharanpur received attention across India and in the world. Agra is known for its shoes. These regions and crafts have been thriving due to Muslim artisans and entrepreneurs for centuries. Some regions and crafts are struggling due to changing socio-political and economic conditions of India. However, few still maintained their relevance and survived against all odds.

The survey results showed that Muslim entrepreneurs from UP face challenges related to access to supply of raw material, operation and production of product/services, and access to technology. Some also face discrimination from the government and other business communities.

IN GOVERNMENT SERVICES

Representation in government services is an important indicator determining the status of a community. The share of OBC Muslims in government jobs is much less than their share in the OBC population. On the other hand, the non-Muslim OBC castes are over-represented in government services.

In 2015 UP Public Service Commission selected 521 candidates, out of which only 19 (3.65 per cent) were Muslims. Similarly, in case of subordinate services out of 1545 selected candidates in 2013 only 31 (2.01 per cent) were Muslims.

Out of the 1834 university teachers working in State Universities only 57 (3.11 per cent) were Muslims. Out of 727 Assistant Professors selected by the UP Higher Education Commission 149 posts were reserved for OBC. Only 4.69 per cent of Muslims were selected for these posts.

WORK PARTICIPATION RATES

According to PLFS 2019-20, Work Participation Rate (WPR) for Muslims was 29.04 per cent against the figure of 31.74 per cent for all groups.

Unemployment rate for Muslims was 5.08 per cent in rural areas and 7.25 per cent in urban areas. Rural unemployment rate for Muslims was comparatively higher than that of other social groups.

In the 2007-08 study only 27.6 per cent of household members were found in the work force among Muslim families as compared to 29.4 per cent in Hindu families in the rural areas.

Incidence of child labour (age group 5-14) was higher in case of Muslims (6.1 per cent) as compared to Hindus (4.2 per cent), indicating  greater economic pressure to supplement family income.

BANKING SERVICES

Sambhal and Balarampur have the lowest score with high Muslim population whereas Meerut has above average score and rest of the districts are below average score compared to a large presence of Muslim  population.

The very poor districts, which have low score of presence of banking facilities, can be seen in Shravasti (80 bank branches), Shamli (81 bank branches), Balarampur (134 bank branches), Hapur (137 bank branches), Sambhal (160 bank branches) and Sant Kabir Nagar (166 bank branches) despite these districts having large presence of Muslims.

WEALTH INEQUALITIES

The pattern of distribution of wealth was not much different for the two communities. Thus, around one-fifth of the households belonged to the poorest wealth quintile. However, among the richest quintile the proportion of Hindu households was higher (22.10 per cent) as compared to the Muslim households.

LIVESTOCK

It is another important source of income for rural households.

According to 2007-08 survey, a Muslim household owned 0.5 milch animals as compared to 0.8 animals owned by Hindu households. However, Muslim households possess a relatively larger number of goats and poultry as compared to Hindu households. 26.4 per cent of Hindu households and 33.4 per cent of Muslim households did not possess any livestock.

MIGRATION PATTERN

The 2008-09 survey revealed that 7.5 per cent of family members of Hindu households and 8.9 per cent members of Muslim households in rural areas have migrated to other places in search of employment.

The Muslims have not been able to share equally with other social groups in the fruits of development that have taken place in the country since Independence. A major reason for this situation is the low representation of Muslims in Government jobs and elected bodies like state assembly and Parliament which deprives them from voicing their concerns and influencing government policies for their concerns and in betterment.

MADRASA

The study traced the history of madrasa education in UP since pre-colonial times down to the present day. Madrasa education is facing unprecedented challenges from within and without. There are mounting external pressures on madrasas from the Indian state, which sees them as anti-national, antiquated, and irrelevant. Not only are these charges unfounded, but as this chapter has shown, madrasas have played and continue to play a vital role in community preservation for India’s Muslims.

It is to be underlined that the socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims did not get much attention in terms of research and policy till the Sachar Committee revelations.

Speaking with Radiance, Prof. Dr Amir Ullah Khan, one of the key members of the study, said, “There is very little work that has been done on the UP Muslim despite the staggering numbers. A once prosperous and dominant community, the UP Muslim is a shrivelled and desiccated version of what he once was. Under the new dispensation, that euphemistically refers to the Muslim as the non 80 per cent, the battlelines have been drawn clearly. Mosques are under attack. Traditional businesses left unviable because of bans, boycotts and brute force. The future looks bleak too as almost all political formations seem to have distanced themselves from even talking about the feeling of dread, insecurity and helplessness that is evident across the state.”

Unfortunately, for a vast number of people in India, democracy means nothing more than elections, which begin with election campaigning and end with election results. This is also the case of Muslim voters.

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