October 31, 2006EconomyPublic Policy

Sachar reckless committee (2)

Conclusions must be drawn after it releases the whole report

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

The Sachar Committee has been given a month past its original deadline to submit its report on the socio-economic condition of India’s Muslim population. As this blog has previously observed, the committee has relied on hearings involving people and organisations with vested interests in the subject. Still, its final report is bound to be interesting. It would also have been most useful if conclusions were drawn, especially by the breathless news media, after the entire report became publicly available.

Unfortunately, some of its findings have already been presented to the public through the pages of the Indian Express: that relative to their proportion in the population, Muslims are under-represented in government jobs, in schools, in the judiciary and in land ownership. They are over-represented among the poor and in the prison population. We are told that Muslims contribute 10 per cent of the labour force but punch under their weight when it comes to contributing to GDP, only six per cent”.

It also turns out that states where political leaders have championed the Muslim cause aggressively, like Uttar Pradesh, fare poorly when it comes to providing Muslims jobs in government and in the public sector—ironically, Gujarat fares better on this score. In other words, minority politics’ benefits politicians more than it does the community.”

Putting the findings to good use requires a clear-headed and dispassionate analysis of the data the committee has compiled. It is entirely possible that religion is a red-herring: poor socio-economic indicators may be correlated with religion, but the underlying cause could well be secular (pun unintended). The poor, for example, are often over-represented in the prison population, and under-represented in jobs, schools and land ownership (that’s why they are poor in the first place). Such a scenario suggests that reducing poverty may resolve many of the downstream problems.

But we can’t conduct any such analysis to make up our own minds, because the Indian Express has access to the data. We don’t. Continuing its previous behaviour, the Sachar committee has permitted the selective release of data and findings to the media. This is unfortunate, ill-advised and is likely to prove to be the first step in its use for purely political purposes.

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