It was Manmohan Singh government that appointed the Sachar Committee on March 9, 2005 to study about the social and economic status of Muslims in India.
The seven-member commission headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar submitted the report on November 30, 2006 after twenty months of hard work. The report is considered as an authentic document which depicts the real picture of the largest minority community in India. The report veritably testifies that the Muslims lag behind even the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The esrtwhile LDF government in Kerala had appointed a committee in 2008 with Paloli Muhammed Kutty as chairman for recommending the measures to be initiated in the state keeping the Sachar Committee report in view. The minority welfare schemes in Kerala are run according to the recommendations by the Paloli Committee. As the committee completes ten years, debates are on in all quarters about its efficacy. It is true that some of the recommendations by the Committee have been implemented. However, in the matter of undermining reservation and filling up of backlog vacancies, the earlier governments in power have failed to implement the Committee's recommendations. The criticisms about what measures the government is taking in implementing the recommendations by the Paloli Committee are relevant. Equally important is examining the initiatives taken by the community concerned in accomplishing the schemes that have been decided to be implemented.
The welfare fund for madrasa teachers was one of the recommendations of Paloli Committee. The government has implemented in principle the Committee recommendation in this regard. But it would be interesting to look at figures related to this scheme. There are over 2 lakh madrasa teachers in the state. However, as per the latest figures, only 17,100 madrasa teachers have taken membership in the welfare fund. The members of the welfare fund are entitled to several benefits such as pension, financial aid for marriage, housing loan, medical assistance and maternity benefits for women members. The initial assumption was that madrasa teachers were turning their back on the schemes because the madrasa teachers fund was linked to interest funds. But since 2011, the scheme has been implemented through Treasury and without interest. This fact was impressed on Muslim organizations and madrasa boards and most of the Muslim organizations in Kerala have madrasa boards. This means that with an earnest effort on the part of religious organizations, who have such a network of grassroots bodies, the scheme can be made successful. But strangely enough, that is not happening. When we ponder why, that may take us to certain other realities.
This cold approach is noticeable not only in the matter of madrasa teachers welfare fund. The same attitude had been noticed towards the government-formed current and former non-resident Keralites. At a minimum, there are an estimated 25 lakh Keralites working in other countries as expatriates. Those who work outside the state will also run into lakhs. The Non-Keralites welfare fund was formed for the benefit of these two categories. And the majority of those non-Keralites are from the minority communities. However, only a negligible 2,88,343 people have taken membership in the welfare fund so far. Even among this only 2,65,032 are active members. The Welfare Board has several benefit schemes like pension, post-death assistance and medical treatment aid. But the number of those who avail themselves of those is very limited. Then, the coaching centres established to train minority candidates for competitive examinations, are another area warranting analysis. While some centres function actively, some others do not even have adequate number of training aspirants.
All these statistics contain factors warranting Muslim organizations to do some introspection. There is an attitude in Muslim community, of turning their back on government machinery and benefits. That is also one reason for their backwardness in educational and employment sectors. But the general impression is that the community has moved past that phase, which is not the case as illustrated by the response to the welfare schemes. The size of membership in welfare funds is just one index of that. That the community has not overcome the ignorance about government mechanisms and the slackness in availing them, is a shame to Muslim organizations. Community's progress cannot be achieved indefinitely depending on migration and employment sectors without social security. Endeavours for community uplift have to be co-ordinated more scientifically and with better planning.