Not ‘reservation’ in employment or educational institutions, but ‘equal opportunities’ is what the Rajinder Sachar Committee appears to have suggested for the uplift of Muslims.
In its report — on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims compared to other religious communities — submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, the panel emphasised that Muslims were lagging behind other religious groups on most development indicators. The panel stressed the need for devising appropriate programmes to address backwardness among Muslims.
Asked if the committee had recommended reservation for Muslims, Sachar, a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, said that was for the government to decide. “We have informed the government about the status of Muslims in India,” he said.
The report said the community was “relatively poorer, more illiterate, with lower access to education, lower representation in public and private sector jobs, and lower access to bank credit for self-employment" than other religious communities.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, the report said that "in urban areas, the community mostly lives in slums characterised by poor municipal infrastructure" but added that there was considerable variation in the condition of the community across states and regions.
"We all feel it was an honest and just report," said Sachar, but refused to elaborate.
The Sachar panel was set up by the prime minister in March 2005. The report has been submitted against the backdrop of Singh asking for a 'fair share' for Muslims.
Accepting the report, the prime minister said "authentic" data on Muslims was necessary for planning, formulating and implementing specific programmes to address issues relating to socio-economic backwardness.
The report will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, starting from November 22, for wider discussion and debate so as to build a national consensus on how to improve the social, educational and economic status of the community, the PMO statement said.
The seven-member Sachar panel collected data from central and state government organisations, the Registrar of the Census General of India, the Election Commission, the Union and state public service commissions, the University Grants Commission, the National Sample Survey Organisation and security agencies. Its members visited 13 states before finalising the report.