Muslims poor, need help: Sachar

Diptosh Majumdar

New Delhi: The Justice Rajinder Sachar committee on Friday submitted a report which said Muslims in the country were "lagging behind" other religious groups but it was silent on whether they needed reservations

Though report does not explicitly mention quota, it suggests setting up of an Equal Opportunity Commission and increasing the legal basis for providing equal opportunity.

CNN-IBN has exclusive details of the committee's report, which says that Muslims are only slightly better off than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and worse off than Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

In some places the community is worse off than Dalits. The seven-member committee headed by Sachar, a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, gave its report to the Prime Minister.

Asked if the committee had recommended any affirmative action like reservations for Muslims, Sachar said this was for the Government to decide.

The report said the community was "relatively poor, more illiterate, has lower access to education, lower representation in public and private sector jobs and lower availability of bank credit for self-employment".

"In urban areas, the community mostly lives in slums characterised by poor municipal infrastructure," it said adding that there was, however, considerable variation in the condition of the community across states and regions.

"We all feel it was a honest and just report," Sachar said.

The report says Muslims have little access to education, and suggests that Madarsas need to be brought into the mainstream, teacher training programmes and supporting Urdu.

The report finds that Muslims have lowest representation in public and private sector jobs and argues in favour of allocating 15 per cent of all government funds to Muslims under all Central schemes

Thanking Sachar and other members of the committee for a "comprehensive" report, the Prime Minister said the document would be tabled in the winter session of Parliament so that it was widely discussed and debated upon to enable a "national consensus" on how to improve the social, educational and economic status of Muslims.

This, he said, would also be in accordance with the government's commitment to achieve growth with equity, to strengthen pluralistic ethos and build an inclusive society.

Sachar told the Prime Minister that the committee had visited a number of states and met a wide spectrum of people, commissioned detailed surveys and research papers by experts, collated available data and interacted with various departments and agencies of the Central and state governments.

In a brief statement to CNN-IBN after the report was submitted, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: "We don't want the Government to use this report as a launching pad for religion-based reservation."