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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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COMPARATIVE SOCIO ECONOMIC STATUS OF MUSLIMS AND HINDUS - A REALITY CHECK

 
 

1 .....R. K. Ohri, IPS (Retd)

For decades an unsubstantiated belief has been nurtured by India's middle class, mostly urban Hindus, that as a community the Muslims are socio-economically more backward than Hindus. Surprisingly in recent years this impression has gained considerable credence among opinion-makers and mainstream English media without anyone caring to critically compare the standard human development indices of the two communities. A reality check reveals that truth is stranger than fiction, at least in this case!

On the basis of the prevalent impressionist assumption of socio-economic backwardness of Muslims sometime ago the Prime Minister constituted a High Level Committee, under the chairmanship of retired Justice Rajindar Sachar. Ostensibly the task assigned to the Committee is to examine the socio-economic and educational status of the Muslims of India and recommend measures for their upliftment. I happen to be a member of a study group, sort of a thinktank, which decided to undertake a brief research for assessing the relative socio-economic status of the 2 communities. The result of the research startled even us. It revealed that out of the 5 globally accepted determinants of socio-economic backwardness on at least 3 major counts the Hindus are more backward than the Muslims, as analysed below.

A. Incidence of Child Mortality

Incidence of child mortality is an important indicator of socio-economic backwardness of a community. It is arrived at by calculating the number of deaths of children below 5 years for every 1000 live births in a group. This is a universally recognized norm, accepted both by economists and the World Health Organisation. According to the National Family Health Survey 2, held in 1998-1999, for the country as a whole there were 107 cases of child mortality amongst Hindus compared to a meagre 83 such cases among the Muslims. In other words, the incidence of child mortality is nearly 29 percent higher among Hindus as compared to the Muslims. Thus in terms of this parameter the Hindus are more backward than the Muslims. Surprisingly the difference in child mortality between the Hindus and the Muslims appears to have widened between 1991 and 1999. As analysed by S. Irudaya Rajan, census 1991 showed that child mortality per 1000 births was 97 among Hindus and 91 among Muslims, revealing higher incidence of child mortality among the former by 6.6 percent.(1). The NFHS 1 held in 1992-93 had placed the incidence of child mortality among Hindus at 124 per 1000 against 106 for Muslims which translated into a higher incidence of nearly 17 percent among Hindus. But the NFHS Survey 2 held in 1998-99 disclosed even a higher difference in child mortality of Hindus and Muslims of the order of 24 percent, the proportion being 107 for Hindus and 83 for Muslims. It is universally recognized that the incidence of child mortality is directly related to socio-economic status of a

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community. Thus between 1991 and 1999 the economic status of Muslims appears to have improved in comparison with the Hindus. It could also be inferred that prima facie there was a substantial decline in the economic condition of the Hindu community between 1991 and 1999 which alone could explain the sharp rise in their child mortality.

B. Degree of Urbanisation

Degree of urbanization, or the relative proportion of a community's population living in urban areas, is the second important norm used for assessing socio-economic backwardness. According to Census 2001 (Religion Data Report) the proportion of Hindus living in urban areas is 26 percent while that of Muslims living in urban areas is 36 percent - far ahead of Hindus by a whopping 39.6 percent. In numerical terms, out of 82,75,78,868 Hindus only 21,63,15,573 live in urban areas whereas out of 13,81,88,240 Muslims as many as 4,93,93,496 live in urban areas.(2). On this score, too, Muslims are socio-economically far ahead of Hindus.

C. Longevity, or the Average Life Expectancy at Birth

The average life expectancy at birth is another important determinant of socio-economic backwardness. According to the National Family Health Survey held in 1992 the crude death rate per 1000 was 9.6 for the Hindus and 8.9 for the Muslims which meant that the crude death rate of Muslims was lower than Hindus by nearly 13 percent. A similar difference was also noticed among those aged more than 5 years. In order to minimize any sampling error Mari Bhat and A.J. Francis Zavier, two well known demographers, averaged the age-specific death rates of both communities in terms of two NFHS Surveys held in 1992-93 and 1998-1999 and found that the life expectancy at birth for Muslims was 62.6 compared with 61.4 for the Hindus. Thus Muslims have an advantage of a little more than 1 year over Hindus in the matter of longevity.(3). It is well known that the life expectancy at birth and the incidence of child mortality are correlated. Lower child mortality tends to raise the level of life expectancy at birth.

D. Literacy

According to Census 2001 the national average of literacy for all communities is 64.8 percent. Among Hindus the percentage of literacy is 65.1 which is barely 0.3 percent higher than the national average. For Muslims the percentage is 59.1 which is lower than the national average by just 5.7 percent. However, the literacy averages of Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs at 80.3, 72.7 and 69.4 respectively are much higher than the national average. The point to note is that the literacy average of Hindus is more or less equal to the national average. The literacy percentage of Muslims is, however, marginally lower than the national average.

It may be pointed out that there are substantial variations in the percentage of literacy from State to State. According to Statement 8 of Census 2001 (Religion Data

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Report, p.Xliii) there at least 13 states and U.Ts., including some big states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Gujarat where Muslims are ahead of Hindus in the matter of literacy. Even female literacy among Muslims is higher than Hindus in Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Pondicherry, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.(4).

E. Poverty Level and Per Capita Income

It is true that the per capita income of Muslims is lower than that of Hindus and also the percentage of Muslim families below poverty level is higher than that of Hindus. The real reason for lower per capita income of Muslims is their larger family size and fast paced population growth. According to National Family Health Survey-2 held in 1998-99 on an average every Muslim household has at least one extra family member compared to Hindu households. The same survey further revealed that on an average a Muslim woman was giving birth to 1.2 child more than her Hindu counterpart. The reason is well known, namely the non acceptance of small family norm due to diktats of their religious scholars and community leaders.

Another important reason for lower per capita income of Muslims and higher incidence of poverty in the community is the abysmally low work participation by Muslim women. It is almost axiomatic that the earnings of women through work participation add substantially to family or household income. The all India average of Female Work Participation (all communities) is 23.6. The female work participation by Hindus is 27.5, Christians 28.7 and by Sikhs 20.2. In sharp contrast the ratio of female work participation among Muslims is a meagre 14.(5). The reason again is the custom of veil (or burka) and the scriptural taboo forbidding women from going out to work. In terms of overall male work participation the Hindus have a small edge over the Muslims, their respective percentages being 52.4 and 47.5. But the overall work participation by Muslims in Household industries is higher at 8.1 percent as against a paltry 3.8 percent for Hindus. Similarly in the 'other professions' the Muslim percentage is 49.1 as against 35.5 percent for Hindus.Here attention may be drawn to the fact that being more urban based, a higher percentage of Muslims are engaged in small scale industry (e.g., carpet weaving, garment stitching, etc) and professions like iron-smithy, tailoring and other sundry professions.(6).

Thus the low per capita income of Muslims is a direct consequence of their non-acceptance of small family norm and low work participation by Muslim women. In terms of other major human development indices, or determinants of socio-economic status,
the Muslims are fairly ahead of the Hindus. It follows that unless the Muslims as a community accept the small family norm and allow their womenfolk to go out for work, there is little chance of any tangible improvement in their economic status. On the contrary if we analyse the respective percentages of the 2 communities in the 0-6 years age cohorts (Statement 7 on page Xlii of Census 2001 Religion Data Report) it becomes clear that the existing fast paced growth of Muslim population is likely to register a big

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quantum jump in the coming decades. The percentage of Muslim cohorts in 0-6 years age group is 18.7 as compared with 15.6 of Hindus. This 21 percent higher proportion of Muslim cohorts coupled with low acceptance of family planning by the community (by at least 25 percent, if not more) is bound to speed up growth in Muslim numbers across the country in next four decades. That will surely cause greater unemployment in the community culminating in more demands for reservations in a higher proportion.

Presently India has 311 billionaires the richest among whom is Azim Premji, an enlightened Muslim entrepreneur. But most of the billionaires (more than 300) and lakhs of millionaires and multi-millionaires happen to be Hindus. Their high income upgrades the overall per capita income of the Hindu masses a large proportion of whom (i.e., 74 percent) live in rural areas (as against only 64 percent Muslims). The spate of suicides by agriculturists in recent years, mostly rural Hindus entrapped in debt, dire poverty and squalor underlines the plight of the community. That might explain the high incidence of child mortality and lower ratio of urbanization among Hindus. Unfortunately the upgraded per capita income of the Hindus (buoyed by the huge individual earnings of a few lakh members of the community) creates an illusion that as a religious group the Hindus are more prosperous than Muslims. The biggest cause of poor development indices of the majority community is their abnormally high concentration in rural areas. As pointed out by Manoj Pant in an interesting article in The Economic Times of October 13, 2005, during the last decade the contribution of agricultural sector to India's economy declined sharply by 25 percent and during the ninth and tenth five year plans the agricultural sector recorded a pathetically poor growth rate of 2 percent.(7).That has led to greater impoverishment of rural population and its impact can be widely seen in growing numbers of suicides by agriculturists, mostly Hindus, across the country. On the other hand, there has been a spectacular growth in urban-based sectors like industry, services and export. For instance, during the last 2 years the GDP growth averaged around 7 percent. Last year industry grew by around 9 percent, services by 12 percent and export by 20 percent and its benefits were shared largely by urban population where proportion of Hindus is only 26 percent.

On overall assessment in terms of 3 globally accepted basic human development indices like incidence of child mortality, degree of urbanization and life expectancy at birth, the Hindus happen to be more backward than the Muslims. The relatively lower per capita income of Muslims is largely due to non acceptance of small family norm and poor work participation by their womenfolk. Unfortunately both these factors are controlled rather rigidly by their community leaders and religious scholars.

References / End Notes:

1. S. Irudaya Rajan, District Level Fertility Estimates for Hindus and Muslims,
Economic and Political Weekly, January 29, 2005, p.440.

P.T.O.

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2. Source: Statements 1 and 4 of Cenus 2001 Religion Data Report, pp. xxvii and xxxix.

3. P.N. Mari Bhat and A.J. Francis Zavier, Role of Religion in Fertility Decline - The
Case of Indian Muslims, Economic and Political Weekly, January 29, 2005, p.390.

4. Source: Statement 8b of Census 2001 Religion Data Report, p.xiv.

5. Statement 9b of Census 2001 Religion Data Report, p. Xlviii.

6. R,B, Bhagat and Purujit Praharaj, Hindu-Muslim Fertility Differentials, Economic
and Political Weekly, January 29, p.44 - [Source: Census 2001 Religion Data Report]

7. Manoj Pant, 'Take out excess farm labour', Economic Times, New Delhi, p. 16.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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