April 17, 2006Public Policy

Sachar reckless committee

Releasing half-baked results of a sensitive study is an act of disservice

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Determining the social, economic and educational status’ of Muslims in India is a task of immense gravity. Justice Sachar, whose committee was tasked with preparing a report on this matter, should have known that this task requires exemplary levels of probity, rigour and integrity. Not only because of the obvious political senstivities, but more importantly, to serve as the basis for future policymaking. Unfortunately, Justice Sachar and his political principals have demonstrated little of the desirable while throwing up one controversy after another.

First, it was the issue of the communal composition of the armed forces. And now, it is the release of some sensational interim results. The Indian Express has published these under the headline Muslims at the bottom of the social heap’. While the report contains several figures that suggests the socio-economic indicators of India’s Muslims are dismal, the manner in which the Sachar committee compiled, and is now presenting, the data is questionable. And questionable is the last thing it should have been.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Justice Sachar said: “These figures are based on what people and organisations told us when we met them in the states. But they need to be analysed before arriving at any final conclusion. The committee is yet to submit its report”. [IE]

Surely, compiling a report of this seriousness would require more than simple hearsay from people and organisations’ who, implicitly, have a vested interest in the matter. Will such numbers stand up to scientific scrutiny? Moreover, if these numbers are yet to be analysed why release them in the first place?

It is indefensible for the Sachar committee to have released such half-baked statistics prematurely. If, on the other hand, this is a result of investigative journalism, then the editorial board of the Indian Express has revealed poor judgement. That however, does not absolve the Sachar committee of failing to prevent sensitive and potentially misleading information from leaking out to the media. Numbers, like words, cannot be taken back. For someone tasked with helping improve the lot of India’s Muslim citizens, Justice Sachar has already done them a disservice by setting the stage for the politicisation of his findings. In doing so, he has delivered exactly what his political principals wanted him to. The UPA government’s singular domestic agenda is one of driving nails of entitlement onto the coffin of India’ still-alive society and economy. And it may yet prove to be its legacy.

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