The recommendations of Rajinder Sachar committee on socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in India, tabled in parliament on Thursday, should be implemented before February, Minorities Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay said.
"The basis of the recommendations is not reservation. It says that justice should be done to the community," Antulay said, minutes after the controversial report was tabled in both houses of parliament.
"The cabinet will discuss the recommendations and personally I feel it should be implemented before February," the minister said.
The report has recommended an Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) to look into the grievances of the deprived groups.
The 404-page report has made out a strong case for the government to enunciate policies to deal with the deprivations of Muslims and which would sharply focus on inclusive development and mainstreaming of the community.
On all socio-economic indices - education, health, employment, credit, infrastructure and public programmes - the committee has found the community severely lagging behind.
In a scathing comment on the condition of Muslims, the seven-member committee, headed by a former chief justice of Delhi High Court, found that despite the economic boom, Muslims have had to bear the brunt of the so-called competitive forces unleashed by liberalisation.
"The country is going through a high growth phase. This is the time to help the underprivileged to utilise new opportunities through skill development and education. Lack of access to critical infrastructure facilities is another matter of concern for the Muslims," the report said.
The commission found that in urban areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, poverty among Muslims is even higher than the Scheduled castes and tribes.
"Even in rural areas poverty levels among Muslims are high. In some states, the headcount ratio among Muslims is much higher than the SCs/STs, not to speak of OBCs (Other Backward Communities) and general (category)," the report said adding that the poverty among Muslims is very high in rural areas of Assam and West Bengal.
The report points out that the Muslim representation in the Indian Administrative Service is just three per cent, 1.8 percent in Foreign Service and four per cent in police service. "Overall, Muslims constituted only 4.9 per cent of candidates who appeared in the written examination of civil services in the years 2003 and 2004," it says.
Share of Muslims in security agencies is around four per cent while in judiciary it is about 7.8 per cent only, whereas OBCs constitute 23 per cent and SCs and STs are 20 per cent in judiciary.
"The participation of Muslims in the professional and the managerial cadre is low," observes the report. "Available date clearly shows that on average, Muslim regular workers are the most vulnerable with no written contract, social security and benefits," it said.
Among the state government employees of Tamil Nadu, Muslims constitute only 5.6 per cent and only 9.1 per cent in Gujarat.
Faced with the strong recommendations of the panel, sources in the government said that some of suggestions would be implemented before the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
The panel also favours a group of Muslims with traditional occupations as that of Scheduled Castes be designated as Most Backward Classes (MBCs) and provided "multifarious measures" including reservation.
On the educational deprivation faced by the Muslims, the panel notes that from lower levels of enrolment to a sharp decline in participation in higher levels of education, the situation of Indian Muslims is indeed very depressing compared to other socio-religious groups.
In the medium and short run, the panel has suggested that the University Grants Commission (UGC) should evolve a system where part of the allocation to colleges and universities is linked to the diversity in the student population.
And to facilitate admission to the most backward of Muslims in universities and autonomous colleges, alternate admission criteria need to be evolved.
Observing that a "very small" proportion of government/public sector employees are Muslims, concentrated in lower level positions, the panel recommended that it might be desirable to have minority persons on interview panels.
This can be done on the lines of SC/ST participation in panels, it said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted the seven-member committee in March this year and its tenure was extended till Nov 30.
The report has come against the backdrop of Prime Minister's observation that Muslims should get a "fair share" in government jobs, which triggered a debate.
The formation of the Committee had created uproar in Parliament due to Committee's reported move to seek a headcount of Muslims in armed forces.