July 7, 2018 at the conference hall, FTK, CIT, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Vision-2025: Socio-economic Inequalities - Why does India's Economic growth need an inclusive agenda, edited by Amir Ullah Khan and Abdul Azim Akhtar and published by Genuine Publications and Media Pvt. Ltd. on behalf of the Institute of Objective Studies, was released by Prof. Amitabh Kundu, former Dean, School of Social Sciences, JNU at a well-attended function jointly organised by the IOS and the publisher on July 7, 2018 at the conference hall, FTK, CIT, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

In his key-note address, Prof. Kundu, remarked that the study expressly indicated that Muslims stood deprived in every respect. In this connection, he referred to two other reports, viz., Asian Development Bank Report and the Brookings Projections carried out by Brookings Institution. There was another report commissioned by the World Bank. The ADB Report had projections till 2030. That way it was certainly more exhaustive and an improvement on the Vision-2025.

Quoting from the document, he said that the percentage of Muslim urban migration had gone up to 38 from 34 percent. But the growth of Hindus slowed down. The question, therefore, was if the migration of vulnerable sections from the rural areas would grow. He said that the study revealed that the Muslim male work force was higher than the women of the community. But Muslim women too were coming to the job market.

Referring to the rate of drop-outs among Muslim girls, he said that it had registered a rising trend. This was due mainly to gender disparity. Deprivation of education among Hindu girls, too, was not much different from that of the Muslims. Commenting on life expectancy, he said that Muslim women lived, longer than their Hindu counterparts. Similarly, infant mortality rate among Muslim women was less than among Hindus due to gender equality. So far as consumption expenditure was concerned, it was higher among Muslims than the Scheduled Castes population, but less than the Hindus.

He said that data made available in the document must be relooked due to the nature of their variation, and be critically analysed and reused. Lauding the efforts of the IOS in collecting and using data for cross-purposes, he said that he, too, benefited from the statistics made available to him by the Institute while preparing the Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee Report, popularly known as Kundu Committee Report.

The report was not made public and Narendra Modi used to call it Kundu Committee during electioneering in 2014. He said that whenever the question about the report was raised in Parliament, the government always replied that it was under consideration. He urged those interested in the study of the vision document to purchase the book, so that the IOS earned some money and prepared itself for the next report.

Welcoming the guests, the Secretary General, IOS, Prof. ZM Khan, observed that a rigorous exercise had been done in the preparation of Vision-2025 to look into the future of the country and society. It was also an attempt to delve into the positive side of our economy and create a vision for the future. The Vision-2025 also attempted to visualise the future scenario that was impossible without analysing history. "During the IOS journey spanning 32 years, we had been sincere in our efforts without hankering after results. Within our limited resources, we were engaged in surveys, studies, publishing books, reports and facilitating doctoral and post-doctoral research, Prof. Khan said.

Listing the activities of the Institute, he said that a workshop on the art of translation was organised recently in which professional translators from different parts of the country participated. The institute proposed to set up a translation bureau to reach out to the maximum number of people. The vision-25 document was the result of constant efforts to have a blueprint for the future. He informed that the Institute had drawn up a comprehensive plan, which included e-magazines, data bank, etc. He reiterated the IOS commitment to embark on a highly ambitious plan for the future.

Presenting the introductory report, Prof. Amir Ullah Khan, member, Commission of Inquiry on Socio-Economic Conditions of Muslims, Government of Telangana; explained that this journey began some 16 years ago when Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies commissioned a study focused on madrasas. Scio-economic plight of Muslims and the methodology of the study was initiated by the noted statistical expert, Dr Abusaleh Shariff and perfected by Prof. Kundu. He said that the data used in the study came from the government and was supplemented by Dr. Sharif. During the course of study, the foremost question was how to rebuild the data to project the condition of Muslims 10 years later. It was also a problem to deduce conclusions at a time when some experts were already working on the inclusiveness of Muslim community. Meanwhile, there was a chance meeting with Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, who encouraged him to take up the study.

He admitted that after the defeat of the Congress Party in the last parliamentary elections, the new government coined attractive slogans. It was a difficult time for the community as a hostile government came to power. Explaining the scope of the study, he said that a pilot project was launched in selected cities to collect relevant data. About six workshops organised in different places focused on the issues like health, education, security, employment and political representation.

He predicted that employment was going to be the greatest issue of Muslims in the next 10 years. Similarly, Muslims nurtured a secular concern today and if made to speak, they would say that these were difficult times for them. Citing the case of Telangana, one of the areas where workshops took place, he said that housing was the main issue for Muslims there unlike other apprehensions in several states. The issue of political representation of Muslims in assemblies and panchayats also formed a part of the study.

One of the findings was that Muslims had the lowest representation in legislatures after Independence. One of the questions put to the respondents was if the Muslims would elect a Muslim or a Hindu representative or if Hindus would also elect a Muslim as their representative. The answer to the question was not clear. In order to determine the opinion in real terms, a large number of non-Muslims were also included in the survey. He said that questions regarding demand for increase in Muslim representation and the ways to bring them back into the political process, were also put to them.

Emphasising the need for doing something tangible for the community's employment needs, he noted that the lack of jobs hampered their progress to a great extent. The study also revealed that the number of unregistered voters among Muslims was very high. This number was abnormally high in the states with large Muslim populations. According to him, the good thing in the entire exercise was that both Muslims and non-Muslims shared the same concerns. He pleaded that more and more Muslims should be provided employment and participation in the political process.

Later, participating in the panel discussion CEO, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, Vijay Mahajan, remarked that one could not figure out a single identity, caste or religion. The problem of socio-economic inclusiveness was there and that had to be addressed accordingly. Quoting from the report, he said that 20 percent of housing should be reserved for the minorities. Spaces, recreational or otherwise, were short. They remained peripheral in socio-economic terms.

Though digital technology was the trope of the 21st century because of its presence everywhere, a space problem, be it working or vending, was looming large. He said that urbanisation had made much progress but adequate financial services were lacking, more so in the case of Muslims who needed them for improving their economic lot. Commenting on the access to credit, he pointed out that the official number of bank account holders had gone up with the number of account holders had moved to a considerable extent.

He made a strong pitch for Shariah-compliant banking which stipulated proportionate sharing of profit and loss. He stressed the advantage of interest- free banking in the mainstream. He firmly behaved that social and economic inclusion without financial inclusion was not possible.

Prof. R. Sudarshan, dean, public policy, Jindal University, and former head, Ford Foundation India and UNDP India, in his remarks said that the wellbeing of people mattered more than the growth of the GDP. What was important was how people felt. In this case, population groups mattered a lot. This brought one to the fact that government did not reveal the status of Muslims for fear of tensions in society. Commenting on the human development report authored by Mahbubul Haque and Prof. Amartya Sen, he said that one must push the ideas contained therein. Underlining the importance of connectedness, he said that Indians must have genuine appreciation for other social groups. In this regard, he made special mention of Tamil grammar that accommodated Sanskrit words. Such identities were important and made it incumbent upon Indians to protect rights of minorities enshrined in the Indian Constitution. "Eternal vigilance is the price if liberty", he reiterated.

Dr. Monica Banerjee, director, National Foundation of India, remarked that India appeared to be a strange place because of so many distressing problems. She asked the editors of the report to come out with solutions to the problems raised in the vision document in the next report. Referring to the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for minorities, she said that her Foundation tried to go into the failures plaguing the much-touted programme.

She informed that entitlement centres were active in seven states, with West Bengal securing the first position in the implementation of the schemes for Muslims, like scholarships, ICDS and madrasa education. Gujarat was so slack in implementation that it stood at the bottom. Expressing concern over illegal detentions, she said that 54 percent of them were Muslims, Dalits and other depressed sections. Coming down heavily on the manner in which National Register of Citizens was being prepared in Assam, she said that since the people declared illegal migrants could not be deported, they were being put under illegal detention.

She feared that this phenomenon could be a general trend in the entire country and the sub-continent. Quoting from the Sachar Committee Report, she said that inclusion, fraternity, secularism and civility were under attack and every conscientious individual was duty-bound to protest against such high-handedness.

Former chief election commissioner of India Dr SY Quraishi, hit out at anti-Muslim hate campaign based on falsehood. This was aimed at misleading the majority community about the Muslims by spreading rumours like four marriages of every Muslim male and abnormal population growth. One of the myths being spread by them was that the population of Hindus in 1950 was 84 percent of the population against the Muslims at 9 percent. But that had now been reversed by the Muslim population, threatening demographic change. Available data showed that the birth rate among Muslims in 16 states was less than the birth rate among Hindus in Bihar and UP.

He opined that the Quran is not opposed to family planning. Similarly, there is no Quranic direction for marrying four wives. The practice of allowing four marriages came into existence in view of the increasing number of orphans and the necessity to rehabilitate them. Referring to the status of women in India in 1975, he said that the rate of polygamy among Muslims was lowest.

Former dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, JMI, Prof. Naushad Ali Azad, held that the report had the description of goals that were implementable. Millennium goals included inclusive development of all sections of society. The present development was not sustainable because it lacked inclusiveness. In India's case, the situation was bad not only for the Muslims, but also for the nation and society at large. He said that basic issues like health, education and other local services must be addressed first. The discussion moderated by Dr Amir Ullah Khan.

In his presidential address, the chairman, IOS, Dr. M Manzoor Alam, said that it was he who fist mooted the idea to commission a survey for projecting the period till 2025 based on the available indicators in different sectors of economy. While talking of 2018, one must not oblivious to the situation that obtained in 1947, he pointed out. He added that though the times had since changed, the politics continued to be the same as the communal clashes in places like Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad and elsewhere haunted Muslims even today. The situation was more awful today.

The difficulties of the first two decades of Independence were partly the result of bitter memories of Partition when Muslims were looked at with suspicion, and even with a measure of hostility. Only after their exemplary services to the nation in the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971 was the impeccable patriotism of Muslims established. However, their marginalisation still continued. He noted that the governments formed the Gopal Singh Committee, the Sachar Committee, the Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee of which he himself was a member, to ascertain the exact nature of Muslim educational and economic backwardness and address the issues arising out of them.

He observed that the present vision document was part of that long series of efforts. Referring to his meeting with then prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on January 14, 2005 along with Justice AM Ahmadi, Yusuf Hatim Muchchala, Dr A Haseeb, Prof. ZM Khan, Dr. Manzoor Ahmad and Dr. Abusaleh Shariff. He said that he (Dr. Singh) was presented with eight books and documents on Indian Muslims published by the IOS.

Dr. Singh expressed his gratitude and said that he did not know that IOS had been doing such an important work. This led to the announcement of the constitution of the Sachar Committee by the Prime Minister. Referring to the Vision-2025 document, he said that it was different from others in that while earlier reports were ordered by governments, the present one was from an NGO (IOS) affiliated to the United Nations (social and economic roster).

He stated that over the years, the IOS produced 389 titles with great relevance to Muslim (including Dalit) situation in India. The late Prof. Iqbal A. Ansari's works done under the Institute were all time great on human rights and civil liberties. Prof. Ansari's three-volume "Readings on Minorities", was a remarkable and relevant work, about which the noted jurist, Soli Sorabjee said, "Prof. Iqbal Ansari's works are part of India's legal canon".

"For us, the continued marginalisation of Muslims and other traditionally ignored communities has been a constant concern," Dr Alam said. He added, "a few years ago, we undertook seven studies (published as books later) that looked at empowerment of Muslims through education, political measures, youth activism and in other ways." He remarked that today, anti-Muslim pogroms had become an election strategy. Meanwhile, the educational and economic backwardness of Muslims continued. In that scenario, the writers and editors of this book had tried to look at what would be the situation in 2025, or what should be the situation. Such studies were a work in progress as the situation required constant updating, he concluded.

Earlier, the function began with the recitation of a verse from the Quran by Shah Ajmal Farooq Nadwi. The proceedings were conducted by Prof. M Afzal Wani, Professor of law, GGSIP University and asstt. secretary general, IOS. A large number of scholars, economists, university teachers, research scholars, social activists and prominent citizens were present.

Read: Coverage by Chauthi Duniya Urdu (edition)


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