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Published On:12 February 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

No survey to assess backwardness of Muslims in the state: Modi govt to Gujarat HC

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat high court recently asked the state government if it conducted any survey to assess backwardness of Muslims in Gujarat in the last 20 years. The government replied, "No".

The full bench put the question to Advocate General Kamal Trivediduring the hearing on the legality of the Centre's scheme of pre-matriculation scholarships to students of five minority communities, to which the state government has objected.

Citing instructions in the Supreme Court's Inder Sawhney judgment, Justice V M Sahai, who presides over the five judge bench, asked the state government's legal officer, "Twenty years have passed. Have you conducted any survey of the Muslim community as a whole to know how many of them are really backward?" The AG said that the state government did not conduct any such exercise for last two decades.

The issues cropped up when the state government questioned the Centre's floating the scheme on the basis of the Justice Sachar committee's recommendations. The AG asserted that for conducting any survey, the government needs a legal declaration about the backwardness of communities. Justice Sahai again questioned him why the government did not undertake any exercise in this regard.

The judge further said that Muslims are downtrodden and live in ghettos. Narrating his own experience, Justice Sahai said, "Why do they live in ghettos? There are historical reasons, for security." He also commented, "The state of Gujarat is fighting for Rs 4 crore (its contribution to the minority scholarship)?" The AG rebutted this by saying that it is a matter of principle. "Tomorrow, the Centre may come out with umpteen schemes, but it is subject to declaration...It's a matter of principle," he argued.

A couple of judges in the bench commented that the schemes are aimed at benefitting the downtrodden, and affirmative action by the executive should be welcomed. Justice D H Waghela questioned the state government's projection of literacy ratio, which is claimed to be higher among the minorities, and cited the dropout rate for Muslim students in higher secondary.

The court's query on the survey came after the AG submitted that the Sachar committee could come up with recommendations, but it is up to the states to determine the criteria to adjudge whether a community is backward. He questioned why the committee's report is "so sacrosanct" for the Centre. He dubbed it a "convenient committee", and said that action on basis of its conclusion "cannot be tolerated".

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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