The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quick to ban book, little to show in jobs

Calcutta, Jan. 12: The Left Front government took less than a week to ban Taslima Nasreen’s book on the excuse that it “may offend minority sentiments”. But, in 26 years of rule, it has not succeeded in giving the community a fair representation in government jobs.

Muslims — comprising 26 per cent of the state’s population — now barely get one in 26 government jobs.

Labour department statistics (the last decade-wise compilation was done for 1990-99) of jobs routed through employment exchanges show:

The percentage of Muslims in the number submitted in response to various recruitment notices was only 4.18 per cent.

The percentage who got jobs through the exchanges was 4.54.

The discrimination, said officials, starts from the bottom. “One defence is the relatively uneducated state of Muslim society,” a minority welfare department official said.

“But that fails to explain why, even in the lower cadre, there are so few,” he added.

“Is the number of Muslims, who have passed class VIII and are qualified for a chaprasi’s job, so low'”

At the other end of the spectrum are the upper-caste (non-Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe/Other Backward Classes) Hindus. They constitute around 35 per cent of the state’s population but end up cornering around 62 per cent of the jobs.

This discrimination continues till today, said labour department officials, explaining why the number of Muslims getting jobs in government-run or government-aided institutions continue to hover around 5 per cent.

Calcutta police, for instance, have around 4 per cent Muslims. But, even here, the bulk comprises the lower cadre (the constables); and the percentage decreases as one goes up the hierarchy, said officials.

West Bengal police or Calcutta police have not had a single director-general or commissioner from the community in recent history.

Ground-level figures and some random sampling help more in showing how hopeless the situation is for the largest minority community.

Jadavpur University has 720-plus teachers; officials, however, could not recall more than three Muslim names in the faculty.

Hindu School has 40-odd teachers; there is only one Muslim, said school officials.

The only time the situation was sought to be repaired, however haphazardly, was during Siddhartha Shankar Ray’s tenure as chief minister (1972-77). It was then decreed that each police station would have at least one officer of the rank of sub-inspector from the minority community.

“This move, at the very least, tried to sweep under the carpet any overt bias against Muslims at the thana level,” a traffic department officer, who joined the force as a sub-inspector then, said.

But it’s not that the present government is not concerned. Minority welfare minister Mohammad Salim admitted that Muslims were under-represented in jobs. “But there is a new section of Muslims coming up,” he added, referring to them as a class that had “deliberately enjoyed the benefits of modern education”.

“The state government now has several schemes to help them financially and otherwise,” he said, referring to the West Bengal Minorities’ Development Finance Corporation that was helping Muslims in being self-sufficient and the West Bengal Minorities’ Commission-aided programmes that were designed to help meritorious Muslims compete for upper-end government jobs.

“It’s the Left Front government’s responsibility to ensure a situation in which no one can say that the state has not done its share to give due representation to Muslims,” Salim said.

But words are not always backed up by deeds. A central circular — issued first on August 16, 1990, and modified in phases — has not found uniform application in Bengal.

The circular makes it mandatory for every committee — recommending a promotion or selection — to have representation from the minorities, women and SC/ST/OBCs after it was found that the male, upper-caste Hindu was finding favour.

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