Pro-Muslim Bias In UPSC? Don’t Be Surprised, It’s Official Government Policy To Give Special Consideration To Minorities In Jobs

Pro-Muslim Bias In UPSC? Don’t Be Surprised, It’s Official Government Policy To Give Special Consideration To Minorities In JobsUPSC aspirants outside an examination centre after the preliminary exam 2018 (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • PM’s '15 point programme' for minorities from 2006 clearly states that both the Centre and States will give special consideration to minority communities in recruitment.

I have observed the debate around allegations of pro-Muslim bias in selection of officers by the Union Public Service Commission for the prestigious posts of IAS, IPS, IFS etc., with amusement.

As soon as Sudarshan News TV anchor Suresh Chavhanke announced doing a special segment on the possible institutionalised bias in favour of Muslim candidates in UPSC entrance exams, many former and current civil services officers came forward to vehemently deny such charges. They wrote to the Prime Minister and even went to the extent of calling the anchor a bigot.

Those who believe that there is a bias, especially at the interview stage where Muslim candidates allegedly get more marks, have presented lots of data to make their case.

This debate is not new. A blogger who goes by the pseudonym YugaParivartan had done an analysis of marks data for written exam and interview stage in 2017 and found that Muslim candidates on average got 13 marks more at the interview stage as compared to other communities. This is almost one standard deviation extra marks and is statically significant and assumes great importance in competitive exams where few marks decide the selection and rank.

Nonetheless, the reason why one terms the raging debate over pro-Muslim bias as amusing is because the Rajinder Sachar Committee Report in 2006 had recommended exactly the same - to increase diversity of Muslims in employment, housing societies and education. More importantly, the government of India had accepted the suggestion and made it its official policy to improve diversity more than a decade ago.

So those who believe that there is no affirmative action in favour of Muslims are on shaky ground when the government itself is implementing such a policy openly.

Let’s look at what the Sachar Report had said in 2006.

It is imperative to increase the employment share of Muslims particularly in contexts where there is a great deal of public dealing. Their public visibility will endow the larger Muslim community with a sense of confidence and involvement and help them in accessing these facilities in larger numbers and greater proportion. To achieve this, efforts should be made to increase the employment share of Muslims amongst the teaching community, health workers, police personnel, bank employees and so on. Employers should be encouraged to endorse their organizations as 'Equal Opportunity Institutions' so that applicants from all SRCs may apply. A time bound effort in this direction is desirable,” the report read. (emphasis mine)

“The lack of Muslims in public employment — in the bureaucracy, police and the judiciary, and so on — has been a matter of great concern. Discriminatory practices, especially at the time of the interview, were cited as reasons for poor Muslim representation even at the Class IV level or in Grade D employment where high educational qualifications are not required,” the report noted.

“In a pluralistic society a reasonable representation of various communities in government sector employment is necessary to enhance participatory governance,” the report said.

The Sachar Committee specifically analysed the Civil Services list of 8,827 officers (IAS, IPS, IFS) and found that Muslims were only 3.2 per cent of them.

For the UPSC exam, the report looked at data from 2003 and 2004 and concluded that out of 11,537 candidates that appeared for the mains exam in these two years, only 283 were Muslims (4.9 per cent). 2,342 total candidates cleared the written examination and appeared for interview out of which 56 were Muslims (4.8 per cent). 835 candidates got selected finally and 20 were Muslims (4.8 per cent). As one can see, there was no bias in UPSC at that time. Whether one looks at Recommended Candidates as percentage of Appeared for Written Examination and Recommended Candidates as percentage of Selected for Interview, in both the criteria, Muslims were present at par with others.

Still, the Sachar report concluded that “There is a need to improve Muslim participation in the UPSC competitive selection process.” It specifically recommended that, “While no discrimination is being alleged, it may be desirable to have minority persons on relevant interview panels.”

Not just that, the report said that there was an urgent need of devising a ‘diversity index’ that can help improve diversity in living, education and workspaces. Towards this end, the report recommended that government frame policies to give:

a) Incentives in the form of larger grants to those educational institutions (public and private both, higher education institution as well as schools) that have higher diversity.

b) Incentives to private sector to encourage diversity in the work force.

c) Incentives to builders for housing complexes that have more 'diverse' resident populations to promote 'composite living spaces'.

To implement this, the committee recommended setting up an ‘Equal Opportunity Commission” (EOC).

The then UPA government accepted all these suggestions of the Sachar Committee Report thereby making it the official policy.

The Union Cabinet in its meeting held on 20 February 2014 approved the proposal to set up the EOC for minorities through an Act of Parliament.

Status report on Sachar committee’s recommendations provided by the Modi government on 31 March 2019 states that ‘the idea of diversity index is under consideration along with the proposal of EOC.”

But even before the Sachar committee submitted its report in November 2006, the UPA government launched its new 15-point-programme for minorities in June. Since this article deals with possibility of bias in employment, let’s see what the official government policy is in this regard:

Point number 10 (Recruitment to State and Central services) of the PM’s 15-point-programme states these four objectives:

a) In the recruitment of police personnel, State Governments will be advised to give special consideration to minorities. For this purpose, the composition of selection committees should be representative.

(b) The Central Government will take similar action in the recruitment of personnel to the Central police forces.

(c) Large scale employment opportunities are provided by the Railways, nationalized banks and public sector enterprises. In these cases also, the concerned departments will ensure that special consideration is given to recruitment from minority communities.

(d) An exclusive scheme will be launched for candidates belonging to minority communities to provide coaching in government institutions as well as private coaching institutes with credibility.

If the official government policy is to ensure that special consideration is given to recruitment from minority communities in government employment, why are those alleging the same called bigots?

If there is anything that comes close to bigotry it's the government policy which admits to giving preferential treatment to some candidates based solely on their religion. Those who are in denial should wake up and smell the coffee.

Links:

-Rajinder Sachar Committee full Report

-Status Report on Implantation of Sachar Committee’s recommendations

Prime Minister’s new 15 point programme

-Report by the Expert Group on setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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