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Most Muslim areas of Gujarat lack basic amenities: Excerpts from study

A recent study by Janvikas highlights lack of basic infrastructure facilities in 63 areas of Muslim-dominated areas of Gujarat. Excerpts:
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The Sachar Committee, constituted by the Prime Minister, had found glaring underdevelopment in infrastructure (water, sanitation facilities, banks, educational institutions, approach roads) in Muslim concentrated areas, under-representation of Muslims in employment sector, under-representation of Muslims in governance and common spaces, negligible access to credit from nationalized banks and other allied sectors, inequity, and unequal opportunities. To overcome these problems, the Prime Minister launched a 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities in 2006. Janvikas, an NGO based in Ahmedabad, undertook a study to assess the status of implementation of the point programme in Muslim concentrated areas in Gujarat. The study looked at the physical infrastructure available in Muslim dominated areas and the institutional mechanism for implementation at the State and District level. Glimpses of some of the results:

Drinking Water:

Out of 63 areas surveyed in six districts surveyed, 50 areas are found to receive drinking water. Of these, 26 locations receive village panchayat water supply, 16 receive municipal water supply, five receive private bore-well water supply, and one each receive water from the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board(GWSSB)-equipped with hand-pump and well water respectively. The survey found that many villages in Sabarkantha lack access to drinking water. In Ahmedabad, four areas did not have regular supply of water. In Bharuch district, in areas, people have to walk more than one kilometer to fetch drinking water.
Water has been a major source of internal conflict in Muslim-dominated areas due to scarcity of water resource. In areas like Juhapura, Ahmedabad city, the supply of water is erratic and is insufficient. This leads to families buying water from private water suppliers. In area like Vatwa, an industrial area of Ahmedabad, the water is polluted with chemicals. People living in the area get chemicals-infected water. In Kutch, the government machinery had promised that Narmada water would flow and quench the thirst of the desert. But this has not been met. There are many villages in Bhuj, where water is still a distant dream.
Areas surveyed with Muslim population
Of the 63 areas studied in six districts, 61 areas have some kind of sanitation facility or other. Kutch particularly lacks in sanitation facilities so much so that, especially during monsoon, it becomes difficult for women to go to toilets. Ahmedabad has soak pits in six areas out of 11 areas surveyed.

Road connectivity:

Roads connectivity and ease of transportation are some of the basic needs for leading a decent life. Both internal and external roads in most areas of Ahmedabad and Kutch are still not there. Worse, the community is hardly able to influence their political masters to develop these roads.
In Juhapura, a large ghetto of the Muslim community with a population of more than four lakh, has no internal roads. Same is the case in Sabarkantha district and in rural areas of Kutch, where Muslims are more than 25 per cent the situation is even worse.

School education:

Villages Akli in Kutch district and Chandpura in Mehsana continue without aanganwadi facilities. In Baroda district, children lack access to government primary schools in Shekh vago, Patan vago and Karachiya village. And, Kasba, Shekh vago, Patanvago, Sahakar nagar, Mahabalipuram, Tandalja village and Tudav village lack government secondary education facility. In Ahmedabad district, there are no government primary schools in Bibi talav area, Danilimda, Albadar society (Viramgam), Sundaramnagar, Juhapura, Kathwada village. In Mehsana district Shalimar and Bilas Park do not have access to government primary school. Same is the case with Ambli Faliyu, Laxminagar, Masjid Faliyu, Mohammamadpura, Darbar society (Amod) in Bhruch district.
More important, the number of schools is not proportionate to the number of children. There are 850 primary and 750 secondary and higher secondary schools registered under the district education office in Ahmedabad city. According to an interview report of Prof VK Tripati,, who has done extensive study on access to educational opportunities to poor and marginalized, “There are four government primary schools in Juhapura area and four grant-in high schools which have a total intake of 900 students at class eight level.”
The study further says, “Since these schools have their own primary wings (non-grant) they can admit less than 200 students from other schools. Six non-grant high schools that run up to class 10 have a total of eight classes, with enrollment of 200. Parents cannot afford to pay tuition fees to such schools, and only a few students go there. Therefore, only 18 per cent of the relevant age group of children of Juhapura tend to continue schooling beyond the seventh grade, which is less than half of the national average.”
Muslim children are denied admission to private schools, which has become a routine affair. The community has also accepted that mainstream private schools is out of their bounds. A leading school, RH Kapadia New High School, Ahmedabad, denied admission to a Muslim girl in its branch in the Satellite area, where predominantly children of other communities come to study.

Access to credit:

Except Kutch and Mehsana, banking facilities are available in most survey areas. However, banking facilities mean access to savings, credit, insurance and other financial tools. And, the fact is, Muslims do not have access to credit from the mainstream financial banks to start or expand their business.

Public distribution system:

It has been observed that public distribution system (PDS) structure in most areas is established and all PDS shops are well within range of two kilometres of their habitation. However, in Mehsana, in most areas of study, PDS is yet to be established.

Health facilities:

Among the districts under the survey, there are the primary health centres (PHCs) in all the areas, yet service rendered by the auxiliary health workers (AHWs) is insufficient. In Bharuch, visit by AHWs is highly irregular and erratic.

Street light:

Street lights in human habitations in Vadodara, Bharuch and Mehsana districts are available, but several areas in other districts a lot more needs to be done.

The Case of Juhapura

Juhapura is a neighbourhood in new west zone of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, situated along the National Highway 8A that goes towards Saurashtra and Kutch, was initially developed in 1973 for the people who lost houses in floods. It was founded the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. First housing society of the area was Sarni Kamdar. Today, the population of Juhapura is largely Muslim. More than 400,000 Muslims live in this area. A large number of Muslim professionals and businessmen also live in this area.
Juhapura was a small suburb with a small population until the mid 80s, but after the communal riots of Gujarat from 1985 until 2002, a large number of the Muslims migrated to Juhapura from Muslim and Hindu-dominated areas of Ahmedabad and nearby towns to settle here. This caused a construction and housing boom and a sharp inflation in the land and housing prices. Migration still continues from other parts of Ahmedabad and Muslims from various economic classes settle down in the area. The adjoining Hindu areas in Vejalpur and Vasna have created strong boundaries which clearly demarcates Hindu and Muslim divisions. Many a time people call this a border.
The area of Juhapura was never included in the town planning scheme of Ahmedabad. Due to this, the area has been completely neglected by the civic authorities with regard to health centres, approach roads, internal roads, drinking water supply, sanitation, drainage facilities, government schools, urban resource centre, community halls, parks, etc. etc. Recently, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) announced a community health centre in the area.
The area lacked banking facilities till recently. It is in 2006 that Government of India gave instructions to public sector banks to open up branches in the minority concentrated areas, and as a result now there are four branches in the area. But compare to the national average of 10.6 branches per one lakh population, Juhapura has only one branch per one lakh population. One can imagine the problems in opening of bank accounts as well as access to credit faced by the Muslims of the area.

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