India’s 200 million strong Muslim community has lagged behind while the nation has marched ahead. At a time when Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the Indian economy drastically, making it the worst performing large economy in the world, there are reasons to believe that Muslims must be among the worst sufferers during the ongoing pandemic.
A survey by India’s official NSSO labor force survey while talking about the the economic condition of Muslims says the impoverished community does not show any signs of improvement in India.
What does the NSSO survey says?
The NSSO’s 68th round (2011-12) provides estimates of education levels and job market indicators across major religious communities in India.
The educational attainment of Muslims is the least among all these communities.
In urban areas, the number of male Muslim postgraduates is as low as 15 per 1,000.
This number is about four times lower than that of other communities, including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs.
The number of male graduates among Muslims is 71 per 1,000, less than even half the number of graduates (per 1,000) in other communities.
Similarly, the number of Muslims educated up to the secondary and higher secondary levels is 162 and 90 per 1,000 persons, respectively, again the least among all the communities.
The average per capita consumption expenditure (used as an indicator of income) among Muslims is just Rs. 32.66 per day, which is the least among all religious groups.
What are the concerns spotlighted by the report?
An analysis of the data on economic and educational indicators for various religious groups reveals that Muslims are facing a vicious circle of poverty.
Poor achievement at higher levels of education is partly a reflection of similarly low levels of school education or of illiteracy.
Around half the Muslim population over 15 years is either illiterate or has only primary or middle school education.
Muslims have the lowest attendance rates and educational attainment especially in higher education, this can be explained by their income level and higher costs for post-secondary education.
The signs of Indian Muslims being caught in a vicious circle of poverty are visible in terms of their low consumption expenditure and poor job market indicators, including LFPR, employment status, and worker population ratio.
What measures needs to be taken?
The Central and State governments could take concerted steps to help Indian Muslims escape this vicious circle of poverty.
One way to improve their situation is to provide a special incentive and subsidy system for higher education.
That will ensure that school going students continue to higher levels of schooling and higher education.
Similarly, students who don’t wish to continue in general academic education must have access to vocational education from Class 9 onwards.