Nearly eight in 10 Muslim households in rural West Bengal have a monthly family income of Rs 5,000 or less, which is barely above the cut-off level of income for poverty line for a family of five. While Muslims constitute 27 per cent of the state’s population, as much as 38.3 per cent households from the minority community in rural parts of the state earn Rs 2,500 or less per month. Only 3.8 per cent of these households reported earning Rs 15,000 and above per month, according to a report released Sunday by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on the status of Muslims in West Bengal
Titled “Living reality of Muslims in West Bengal”, the report has been drawn up by non-profit organisations SNAP, Guidance Guild, and Sen’s own Pratichi Institute. The event was held at Gorky Sadan. Significantly, 13.2 per cent Muslim adults in the state do not hold voter identity cards, the report has found. According to the study, there are two Muslim-majority districts in the state: Murshidabad (66.3 per cent Muslim population), and Malda (51.3 per cent); and 65 of the 341 blocks in rural Bengal are Muslim-majority.
But their large presence notwithstanding, Bengal Muslims stand deprived of basic amenities such as tap water, drainage, equal opportunities in employment and even LPG cylinders, according to the study. It found their access to tap-water (15.2 per cent) is nearly 40 per cent less than that for the state’s overall population (25.4 per cent, as per Census-2011). This, in a way, displays a “combined community and class exclusion”, the study says. While there seems to be parity in electrification of Muslim-dominated areas to the rest of the population, only 12.2 per cent minority community households have access to drainage system, against 31.6 per cent overall.
The use of traditional fuel for cooking is much higher among Muslims (85.9 per cent) compared to the average population of the state (68.6 per cent). In rural Bengal, nearly 47 per cent of all Muslims who work are either agricultural workers or ‘daily workers’ in non-agriculture sectors — “they are at the bottom of the economic ladder,” says the study. A measly 1.55 per cent of the state’s Muslims are school teachers, and 1.54 per cent work in the public sector. The report states: “Regular salaried jobs in the private sector are also a rarity — only 1 per cent of the households surveyed. In the entire sample of 7,880 households only five were found to have a college or university teacher, and there was no household with any of the highest category of professionals as members, such as doctors, engineers and advocates.”
Releasing the report, Sen said: “The fact that Muslims of West Bengal are disproportionately poorer and more deprived in terms of living conditions gives this report an inescapable immediacy and practical urgency.” Jahangir Hossain, who collaborated in preparing the report, said, “Most information collected by the Sachar committee was from secondary sources. So we decided that we needed to collate data and verify information from primary sources.” On the social development front, the literacy rate for the community in the state is reported at 68.3 per cent — 4 per cent below the general population. Among literate Muslims, only 2.7 per cent hold graduate degrees
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