Gujarati Muslims can forget Godhra, but what about these economic figures?

April 18, 2014

By Sanjeev Kumar (Antim)

Author’s Note: This is part of a report on Gujarat’s model of development, written by me for Jagriti Natya Manch. I am the script writer, director and founding member of the Manch. This theater group consists of students from JNU, DU and IIMC.

If not Modi, then at least some of his supporters have been finally coming out in increasing numbers in order to persuade secular voters of this country either to set aside or forgive Modi for the Godhra incident. They have been trying to fight this election on the issue of development and governance. But their understanding of development or governance is limited to economic upliftment and unconditional support to a particular section of society in robbing public property and the governmental mechanism. The conservatism of the current Gujarat government is most visible not only in case of their discriminatory policies against the Muslims on the issues related to religion or governance but also on economic issues. Even if we forget Godhra pogrom, the continuous killing of Muslims in fake encounters in the name of fighting terrorism and of good governance cannot be ignored. For the time being, even if we ignore these extra-judicial killing, how can we ignore the fact that the conditions of Muslims in Gujarat in terms of poverty, literacy, health, economic empowerment, employment etc. either remain stagnant or have deteriorated during the rule of Narendra Bhai Modi.

Our concern here not to find what the condition is of Muslims of Gujarat at current time but instead to find what really had happened to them in last 10 years. Thus we need a comparative study of Muslims in Gujarat between the beginning and end of the last decade (2000s).


A comparative analysis of NSSO surveys for the year 1999-2000 and 2009-10 reveals that Muslims in Gujarat have experienced very little decline in absolute poverty. As per the Tendulkar Committee poverty line there was only a 1.8 percentage points decline in poverty during the decade of Modi’s rule. Gujarati Muslims are marginally ahead of Muslims in most other Indian states and the national average in terms of poverty reduction, but in past (during Pre-Modi Gujarat) they were much ahead of other communities (Time of India 16 May 2012). In terms of monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) their position is worse than even SCs and STs in Gujarat (and also Bihar Bengal, Rajasthan, MP, WB). So is the situation in case of urban poverty among Muslims. It is not that the condition of all the minorities in Gujarat is bad. Ironically poverty among other minorities (Christians and Parsis) of Gujarat is 0% [1].

The same Sachar Committee report from which the supporters of Modi have often been seen quoting in order to propagate the myth of well-being among Muslims in Gujarat, states that Gujarat is one among the states where the labor-force participation rate of Muslims is lowest. In most states Muslims participation in manufacturing and trade self employment is higher than of other religious groups, but this is not the case with Gujarat [2]. The ratio of self employment in Gujarat is lesser than national average for both Hindus and Muslims but at least for the Muslims same was not the case in 1999-00 [3]. In Gujarat, self employment among Muslims in 1999-00 was much higher than among Hindus but by the end of decade the situation became totally opposite [4]. Same is the case with rural labour where the ratio of Muslims in rural labour was less than the ratio of Hindu in 1999-00. This simply means that Muslims of Gujarat are being forced towards the ignored and less profitable rural economy.

In 2004-05 around 41% Muslims in Gujarat were involved in the service sector which came down to 31.7% in 2009-10. In 2004-05, 59% Muslims were self-employed which came down to 53% while in case of salaried services the proportion of Muslims come down from 17.5% to 14% during the same period. It is also to be noted that Muslim share in causal labour increased from 23% to 32% during the same period [5]. This means, Muslims are repeatedly being marginalized in Gujarat from better employment choices. They are being offered third-grade, unsecured and low wage employment. The total gap between Muslims and non-Muslims in terms of persons currently attending schools in the age group of 6-14 year is far more than national average. In 2001 when literacy rate (age above 7 Years) in Gujarat was 69.1%, the literacy rate of Muslims in Gujarat was at 73.5% but in 2007-08 when literacy rate of Gujarat went to 74.9% the literacy rate of Muslims in Gujarat remained at 74.3% [6].

Without referring to the age-old Malthusian trap of population increase, Gujarat’s CM blames fertility trends among Muslims for their backwardness. But if that is so how were Gujarati Muslims doing well before the coming of Modi into power? The fertility rate among Muslims is highest not in Gujarat but in Rajasthan, UP and Bihar. The differences between fertility rate of Muslims and Hindu in Kerala has been much higher than in Gujarat but their condition is better in other parameters of development. The popularity of contraceptives among Muslims in Gujarat is only 1% below than of Hindus [7]. Muslim participation in sterilisation and IUD is slightly more than their ratio to population [8]. At least in Gujarat, Modi cannot blame the Madarsa education for the bad performance of Muslims in field of education because the popularity of Madrasa education is least among Muslims of Gujarat [9].

The real causes for the deteriorating condition of Muslims in Gujarat are the policies of the Government of Gujarat. Muslims constitute about 9.7% of the poor population in Gujarat but share of Muslims in most Government’s welfare schemes (for the poor) is below their proportion in the total population. Their share is satisfactory only in SJSRY and NSAP schemes [10]. Under Krishi Bima Yojana Muslims got only 3.5% of total allocation. Only 1.4% of total allocated power tillers and 4.1% of total allocated tractors were with Muslims. Not a single loan from the co-operative department or from Rural Development Department has been disbursed to Muslims in Gujarat [11].

The contribution of Gujarati Muslims in forming Thrift, Credit Societies and micro enterprises is more than double of their ratio to population but their participation in training given (5.5%) for the unemployed is less than their ratio to their population. Only 4.5% of total lands allocated for the construction of houses meant for the weaker section of society, were given to the weaker section among Muslim. In contrast to that they got 13.9% of benefits in national family benefit scheme run by central government [12]. Muslims have 12.4% of total bank accounts in Gujarat but the loan amount disbursed to them is only 2.6% [13]. Individual deposit per account in scheduled commercial banks by Muslims is almost 20% higher than of Hindus. Despite that disbursement of loans to Muslims is less than loans dispersed to Hindu. Under SIDBI scheme the sanction of amount to Muslims is only 0.44 crore out of total sanctioned amount of 3133.77 crore during 2000-01 and 2005-06. Similarly the Refinance by NABARD to Muslims in Gujarat is only 1.7% of the total amount during 2004-05 and 2005-06 [14].

Based on the figures of Sachar Committee Report, Mr. Modi is claiming that situation of Muslim in Gujarat is much better than in West Bengal. Modi is right in his facts and figures. But it is also to be noted that United Nations has observed that the poverty head count ratio for Muslims is highest in the states of Assam, followed by Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat in fourth position. When we compare the conditions of Muslims or any other community in two or more states we should first look into the history of that community in that state. If we can refer to Medieval History, Gujarati Muslims till recent period were one of the most vibrant business communities of the world. Remember the Bohras and Menons? If we compare them with landless Muslims of medieval Bengal province (consisting of modern West Bengal, Assam, and Bangladesh) who were converted to Islam because of their poverty [15], it is obvious that the situation of Muslim in contemporary West Bengal cannot be expected to be better than ST/SC Hindus because there is hardly much difference in terms of practice of casteism among Hindus and Muslims.


[1] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, pp 155 & 158-9
[2] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, p 102, App 5.5 & pp 105-6
[3] 55th Round of NSSO, p 43 & 66th round of NSSO, p 59
[4] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, p 343
[5] Atul Sood, Povery amidst prosperity: Trajectory of Development in Gujarat, 2012, p 268, Table 8.19
[6] Atul Sood, 2012, p 270, Table 9.9
[7] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, pp 284-85
[8] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, pp 374
[9] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, p 293
[10] Sachar committee Report, 2005-06p 178
[11] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, pp 373-5
[12] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, pp 373-5
[13] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, p127 & (Ministry of Minority Affairs, MMA, GOI, 2011-12)
[14] Sachar Committee Report 2005-06, pp 351-53
[15] See Richard Maxwell Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760