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Muslims 'lagging behind' other groups: Sachar panel
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November 17, 2006 18:57 IST

Maintaining silence on the issue of reservations for Muslims, the Rajinder Sachar committee Friday said the community was "lagging behind" other religious groups in development indicators and asked the government to frame appropriate programmes to address its educational and economic backwardness.

The seven-member committee headed by Sachar, a former chief justice of the Delhi high court, that was set up to go into the social, economic and educational status of Muslims submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images].

Asked if the committee has recommended any affirmative action like reservations for Muslims, Sachar said this was for the government to decide. In its report, it said the community was "relatively poor, more illiterate, has lower access to education, lower representation in public and private sector jobs and lower availability of bank credit for self-employment".

"In urban areas, the community mostly lives in slums characterised by poor municipal infrastructure," it said adding that there was, however, considerable variation in the condition of the community across states and regions.

"We all feel it was an honest and just report," Sachar said without elaborating on the contents of the report.

The committee was set up in March this year and its tenure was extended up to November 30. Sachar, who made a presentation to the prime minister on the report, said the document was unanimous and there was no dissenting voice.

The report came against the backdrop of the prime minister's observation that he had "acutely" felt the lack of authentic, comprehensive and updated information about the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in the country.

Noting that such data was necessary for planning, formulating and implementing specific programmes to address issues related to the socio-economic backwardness of any disadvantaged group, the prime minister said "one cannot wish away differences merely by refusing to measure them", PM's Media Adviser Sanjaya Baru said in a statement.

Surveys and studies of various disadvantaged sections and regions are necessary to understand the extent of deprivation and evolve and implement focussed interventions to ensure that development is equitable and inclusive, Singh said, observing that he had constituted the committee for preparing such a database.

Thanking Sachar and other members of the committee for a "comprehensive" report, the prime minister said the document would be tabled in Parliament so that it was widely discussed and debated upon to enable a "national consensus" on how to improve the social, educational and economic status of Muslims.

This, he said, would also be in accordance with the government's commitment to achieve growth with equity, to strengthen pluralistic ethos and build an inclusive society.

Sachar told the prime minister that the committee had visited a number of states and met a wide spectrum of people, commissioned detailed surveys and research papers by experts, collated available data and interacted with various departments and agencies of the Central and state governments.

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