Low literacy rate keeps Muslims in poverty trap

Lack of higher education adversely affects the job prospects of the community as dynamics of labour market are largely a matter of degree of knowledge and skills, writes MY SIDDIQUI

76

Muslims continue to face vicious circle of poverty with no light beyond the tunnel. This was highlighted in the recently held National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) reports. While NSSO (68th round) survey provides estimates of education levels and job market indicators across major religious communities, its 71st round takes note of levels of education in all religious groups in the country.

According to the two NSSO survey reports, educational attainments among Muslims is the least of all the communities. In urban areas, number of male Muslim postgraduates is 15 per 1,000, which is four times lower than that of other communities  Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. Situation is similar for Muslim women. Number of Muslim men graduates is 71 per 1,000, less than half the number of graduates per 1,000 in other communities. Similarly, Muslims educated up to secondary and higher secondary levels is 162 and 90 per 1000 respectively, the least among all the communities.

Poor achievement at higher levels of education is partly a reflection of similarly low levels of school education or illiteracy. Surveys reveal around half the Muslim population over 15 years is either illiterate or has only primary or middle level education. Number of illiterates is highest among Muslims, which is 190 per thousand followed by Hindus 84, Sikhs 79 and Christians 57. Number of persons with just primary or middle school education among Muslims is 257 and 198 per 1000 respectively. Compared to other communities, distribution of Muslim population is the least at the higher levels of education. Likewise, the current attendance rate among Muslims is the lowest at all age groups, the reports reveal.

Number of Muslim males of 5-14 years in urban India attending educational institutions is 869 per 1000, the least among all religious groups. It’s higher among Christians 981, followed by Sikhs 971, and Hindus 955. Gaps in the current attendance rates of Muslims and those of other religious groups are increasingly seen at higher age groups. Muslims have the lowest attendance rates and educational attainments in higher education, judged by their income level and higher cost for post-secondary education. NSSO surveys further reveal, average per capita consumption expenditure among Muslims is just 32.66 per day, the least among all religious groups. It is highest among Sikhs 51.43 and Hindus 37.50. Average course fees for college degrees in technical courses in government and private unaided institutions is 25,783 and 64,442 respectively, unaffordable for Muslims, given their per capita income. Despite children up to 14 years of age having a right to free and compulsory education, the average course fee is 508 per student per academic session for all communities, its burden among Muslims being the highest. Course fee for upper primary education accounts for 8.5 per cent of per capita income for Muslims, followed by Hindus 7.4 per cent, Christians 5.4 per cent and Sikhs 5.03 per cent. Higher burden of the cost of education among Muslims is a factor for their lowest attendance rates.

High levels of illiteracy among Muslims and their low levels of general education ensure that they are trapped in a vicious circle of poverty. Lack of higher education affects adversely their job as dynamics of labour market is largely a matter of degree of knowledge and skills. Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), defined as number of persons employed or seeking jobs, dependent on educational attainment, and quality of employment is linked to levels of education and skill. Muslims, lagging in education and in abject poverty and backwardness, cannot come out of it unless the governments at the Central and States levels intervene.

Signs of Indian Muslims being caught in deep poverty are noticeable in their low consumption expenditure, poor jobs including LFPR, employment status and worker population ratio. NSSO data show LFPR among Muslims is 342 and 337 per 1000 in urban and rural areas respectively, the least among all religious groups, implying that only 342 persons among Muslims in urban India are employed or available for works. Similarly, LFPR among Muslim women is worst than women of other religious groups. Given that Muslims live predominantly in urban areas unlike other poorer communities, such low LFPR is because of Muslim’s low levels of education.

Worker Participation Ratio (WPR), defined as the number of persons employed per 1,000 persons, is the lowest among Muslims, both in urban and rural areas. Among urban male, number of Muslims employed in regular jobs is only 288 per 1000 employed persons, while the corresponding figures among urban Muslim women is 249, lowest among all other communities. Number of regular employees per 1000 employed is higher among Christians 495 urban males and 647 urban females, followed by Hindus 463 and 43 and Sikhs 418 and 482 respectively. Similarly, proportion of households with their major source of income from regular salaried jobs is the lowest among Muslims.

Way forward for improving lot of Muslims suggested by NSSO surveys is that Central and State governments should take concerted steps to help them escape the vicious circle of poverty, to provide special incentives and subsidised higher education to ensure school going children to continue their higher education, and vocational education for those students not continuing their higher education from nine class onward.

Above findings of NSSO surveys explodes the myth of “Muslim Appeasement” raised regularly by the Sangh Pariwar as a vicious propaganda to divide society through the politics of polarization, politics of marginalization, politics of exclusion and politics of hatred, ostensibly on the pretext of inclusive development, just for electoral gains. As a result, Muslims of India are reeling under abject poverty, backwardness, squalor, deprivation, wide scale discrimination amidst lurking fear and insecurity!

[email protected]