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Story of continuing neglect in Muslim-concentrated areas: Janvikas survey

Janvikas, a well-known Ahmedabad-based NGO taking up human rights issues, recently surveyed as many as 63 Muslim-concentrated areas to find out if they are provided with necessary social and economic infrastructure to enable their human development. The survey has found the 2002 communal riots have adversely affected most of these areas. Results of the survey:
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The Sachar Committee, constituted by the Prime Minister, is known to have found glaring underdevelopment of Muslim-concentrated areas, especially basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, banks, educational institutions, internal and approach roads, representation of Muslims in employment, under-representation of Muslims in government services, negligible access to credit from nationalized banks and other allied sectors, and so on. Based on the Sachar Committee’s findings, the Prime Minister announced a 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities in 2006.
The programme (click HERE to download) aimed at achieving four major objectives: (a) Enhancing opportunities for education; (b) ensuring an equitable share for minorities in economic activities and employment; through existing and new schemes, enhanced credit support for self-employment, and recruitment to State and Central Government jobs; (c) improving the conditions of living of minorities by ensuring an appropriate and share for them in infrastructure development schemes, and (d) Prevention and control of communal disharmony and violence.
The Ahmedabad-based NGO, Janvikas, working on human rights issues, undertook a study to assess the status of implementation of the Prime Minister’s 15 point programme in Muslim-concentrated areas of Gujarat. The study especially looked at physical infrastructure available in these areas. The survey was carried out in six districts (Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bharuch, Kutch, Mehsana and Sabarkantha), in areas where Muslims constitute more than 25 per cent of the total population.
Issues taken up in the study included water and sanitation; internal and external approach roads; access to aaganwadi, primary and secondary school within the village and three kilometers from the village; access to electricity connection in households, and street lights villages or blocks; access to primary health centres (PHCs) and visit of health workers; access to banks in the village within two km of the habitation; and access to public distribution system within the range of two km of the habitation.
Access to internal and external roads: Out of a total of 63 areas surveyed, 35 did not have access to internal roads, and another 13 did not have external road link. Gujarat’s commercial capital, Ahmedabed, found to be the worst – out of 11 areas surveyed, nine did not have any internal roads. The situation was found to be also bad in Kutch, where out of 10 areas seven did not have internal roads, followed by Vadodara (seven of 11 areas), Mehsana (seven of 11 areas), and Sabarkatha (six of 10 areas). As for link to external roads, the situation was again the worst in Ahmedabad, where five areas did not have access to them, followed by four in Kutch, two each in Vadodara and one in Mehsana.
Access to banks and public distribution system (PDS): The survey found that the presence of nationalized banks in most of the areas is impressive, except for Kutch where no banks exist in Muslim-concentrated areas, followed by Mehsana (six areas). The survey also found that the PDS structure in most of the areas has been established. However, in Mehsana, in most of the areas its presence has not yet to be established. All the PDS shops are well within the range of two kilometer range of their habitation.
Access to street lights and electricity at home: Street lights exist in all Muslim-concentrated localities of Bharuch, followed by Vadodara (nine out of 11), Ahmedabad (seven out of 11), Kutch (seven out of 10), Sabarkantha (seven out of 10) and Mehsana (four out of 11). As for individual electrification, two areas of Vadodara and one area of Kutch were found not to have electricity connection.
Access to healthcare: Healthcare access suggests that out of 63 localities surveyed, as many as 37 areas did not have any primary health centres (PHCs). The worst was Kutch, where just one out of 10 areas had a PHC, followed by Mehsana (three), Vadodara, Bharuch and Ahmedabad (two each) and Sabarkantha (seven). In as many as 10 areas, no auxiliary health workers visit for regular health checkup. But in the areas they visit, they do it maximum for once a month, that too irregularly. In some areas (one each in Kutch and Sabarkantha), they visit once in three months. In just one case, in Ahmedabad, they visit daily.
Water: Out of 63 areas surveyed, as many as 13 were found not to have any access to potable water. These included five in Sabarkantha, two in Kutch, and one each in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Kutch. Bharuch is the only district where all the areas had access to drinking water.
Further, as many as 16 areas do not get regular supply of water, the highest number (seven) being Kutch, followed by five areas in Ahmedabad, and three in Mehsana. In Bharuch district, though access to water was found to be fairly regular, people, especially women, had to walk more than one kilometer to access water.
Sanitation: The survey found that out of the 63 areas surveyed, 13 areas did not have any sanitation facilities, with people from as many as 10 areas of Kutch having to go to open fields for defecation, followed by Mehsana (two) and Sabarkantha (one). During monsoon, things become particularly difficult for these areas. As for alternative system of sanitation system is concerned, Ahmedabad topped the chart with soak pits in six areas out of 11 areas surveyed.
Access to education: A much broader survey was carried out for assessing educational infrastructure in all the six districts, Vadodara, Bharuch, Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Sabarkantha and Kutch. Here, instead of confining to 63 areas, the NGO decided to take into account more areas. During the survey, it was found that Akli village in Kutch district Chandpura village in Mehsana district do not any aanganwadi facility. As for primary education, it was found that in Vadodara district, children do not have access to government primary school in Shekhvago, Patanvago and Karachiya villages, whether government or private.In Ahmedabad district, there no government primary schools in Bibi talav area, and so is the case in Mehsana’s Shalimar and Bilas Park.
As for secondary school, the situation was found to be worse. In Vadodara district, Kasba, Shekhvago, Patanvago, Sahakarnagar, Mahabalipuram, Tandalja village and Tudav were found not to have access to government secondary education. In Bharuch district, Ambli Faliyu, Laxminagar, Masjid Faliyu, Mohammamedpura and Darbar Society (Amod) did not have any secondary school. In Ahmedabad district, Danilimda, Juhapura, Sundaramnagar, Kathwada village and Albadar society (Viramgam) did not have access to primary education.
Concluding remarks: The Gujarat government has developed hundreds of housing colonies through the Gujarat Housing Board, but in practice these colonies lack an inclusive approach to integrate the Muslim community among them. Gujarat therefore becoming a predominantly ghettoized state on religious lines while developing housing colonies.
After the closure of mills in Ahmedabad, several acres of land was made available in the city that provided an opportunity to make housing available to the socio-economically backward Muslims and for housing and commercial purposes to Muslims who were a part of the labour force in the mills. The Wakf board has lot of resources and these resources are a joint ownership of the Muslim community.
Unfortunately, the board is inactive and is not utilizing its financial resources efficiently and effectively for the development of Muslim communities.
There are about 28 Muslim groups included in the list of OBCs, but in a large number of cases they have not been getting jobs either in government or private institutions. For last three years students belonging to these OBC categories have faced immense difficulties in getting admission in academic institutes. There are many instances of cancellation of admission of OBC Muslim students.
The Census India’s 2011 figures once again show that literacy level among Muslims has improved over the last ten years, but their dropout is still very high, hence the number of students going to higher education and professional courses is abysmally low. The low number of Muslim girls in higher education is of particular concern.
The 2002 communal holocaust in Gujarat has adversely affected education of Muslim girls and boys. Thousands of Muslim families have not been able to return to their original homes. Many do not go to schools, because schools are far away or because of fear of new areas.. This in long term will adversely impact not only on individuals, but on the community and the country. More and more self-financed schools are coming up, where poor Muslim students, because of high fees, cannot go and so are forced to go to government schools where quality is poor.
Muslim trusts find it increasingly difficult to get permission to open new educational institutes. They are not given grant in aid by the government. Hence to run institutes with the community’s own resources are very difficult. The situation is of concern because of the discrimination that Muslims face in every walk of life. In universities there are not enough Muslim teachers, though there are educated Muslims who are worthy to be university teachers.
That a majority of Muslims are economically backward is a well accepted fact. They depend on petty business. There are various hurdles in the way of their economic progress. Though banks exist within a stipulated limit in most areas, it is very difficult for Muslims to get loans from banks to start or expand business or for housing. Large Muslim-concentrated areas are branded as “negative zones” by banks and credit cards companies.
Even well-to-do Muslims from these areas are denied loan, without any investigation into their paying capacity. In Juhapura area of Ahmedabad, where two hundred thousand Muslims live, there is just one nationalized bank. In a case of clear discrimination, Muslims are invariably denied dealership for petrol pump. The last Muslim to get dealership was in 1972.
The internally displaced persons (IDPs), were forced to flee their residences during the 2002 riots, many of those who could not return to their home still live at distances which are far away from their work places. This adds to their cost of livelihood. They have very few options available to them to develop their skills. The economic and social ostracism of Muslims further impacts their mental and physical well-being, resulting in deterioration of their economic status and self esteem.
The Gujarat Public Service Commission is responsible for the final choice of candidates for various influential administrative posts. A good number of Muslim candidates appear for the written tests and several of them pass out, but are failed during personal interviews. In Gujarat, senior IPS officers of the community are posted in places that are less significant.
The community has a lot of artisans who despite being skilled were marginalized. The process of globalization has further marginalized them. Some of the skills that Muslims possess and still do not get enough returns are – brocade work, zardoshi, crochet, terracotta, minakari, tie and dye, kite-making and broom making.
Forced displacement and emergence of large ghettoes of Muslims is an ugly reality of developing Gujarat because of a vicious communal milieu. These areas are completely ignored and no attempts are made to provide infrastructure such as roads, transportation or health facilities. Hence, people living in these areas are finding immense difficulties in earning their livelihood. Juhapura, with a population of more than two lakh, and Bombay Hotel area with a population of app. 50,000 have no primary health centre. Similar is the situation in many areas outside Ahmedabad.
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