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Mystery of the missing Muslim Captains of industry
September 7, 2015, 5:04 PM IST
This newspaper’s finding that only 2.67% of the directors and senior-most executives of the largest 500 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange are Muslims is a sad reflection on the state of the community and of Indian society in general, but hardly comes as a shock
Except to those engaged in professional demonization of Muslims as descendants of foreign invaders who pollute the culture, owe foreign allegiance, harbour terror in their hearts and are resolutely fecund, so as to outnumber Hindus, the sooner the better. The 2011 Census data showed that the Muslim population growth rate has steadily been coming down, is lower than that for Bihar as a whole and that, in absolute numbers, Hindus outnumber Muslims by the largest ever majority today. Now, the ET study brings out an indicator of relative economic disempowerment of Muslims, as well.
Rather than the caricature of menace the Hindutva brigade paints of the Muslim, the reality shows a deprived, disempowered community living under the shadow of violence as the number of communal incidents recorded by the Home ministry keeps going up.
Of course, Muslims are not alone in being under-represented in the corporate hall of fame. The result would be even more disheartening, if one were to hunt for the presence of members of India’s deprived castes and tribal groups in the higher echelons of corporate India. However, certain other minority communities are likely to be overrepresented, in relation to their population: Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis.
The difference, essentially, is education.
Of course, the same prejudice that makes it hard for Muslims to rent a home in urban India will be at work when it comes to hiring as well. However, given the shortage of talent in general, companies are likely to pay attention more to capability than to religious identity. Discrimination on the basis of community used to be far stronger and overt in the pre-liberalisation era of suppressed competition.
Even in companies with Muslim promoters, the largest proportion of senior managers would be non-Muslims, more likely than not. This underscores the role of factors other than discrimination in hiring for the weak representation of Muslims in decisionmaking roles in corporate India.
The Sachar committee report and the subsequent evaluation report on its recommendations, by Prof Amitabh Kundu both brought out the plight of India’s Muslim minorities. In terms of socio-economic indicators, they are at the bottom of the heap, along with the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
The Planning Commission, under the previous UPA government, found that funds allotted for education and healthcare had systematically skirted Muslim-dominated villages in places like Uttar Pradesh. This led former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare that the minorities and other deprived sections had the first claim on the nation’s resources. Such statements were widely interpreted to be minority appeasement — with merit, considering that Congress-led Maharashtra did not particularly lag Gujarat in putting away young Muslim men behind bars for years on terror charges that were subsequently disproved.
Vice President Ansari recently said Muslim backwardness is a drag on the entire society. He called upon the community itself to do more for its own uplift. Things are, indeed, changing.
When e-learning software producer Extra Marks was scouting for a school to deploy its offering, it met with skepticism and rejection, till it met up with the Muslim Education Society in Kerala. The MES school in Pattambi was the first school to buy and use English-language software and tablet based teaching and learning.
This is, of course, far removed from the Madrasas of north India, where Muslim pupils are herded into a closed universe, whose horizons are defined by Urdu, the only language they learn, besides the Arabic of the Quran.
The route to redemption for Muslims, as well as for other deprived sections of Indian society, is to equip themselves to take part in the ongoing structural transformation of the Indian economy, from an economy where the bulk of the workforce was engaged in agriculture to the new, emerging, urbanizing powerhouse of services and industry. Those who become skilled professionals and entrepreneurs from among the ranks of the deprived communities will augment their community’s social capital and help the rest climb their way out of backwardness.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.