Educational reservation: Should Muslims get it in place of other well-off groups?

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New Delhi | Published: September 22, 2018 1:06:16 AM

But given lower levels of their education in comparison with others, it may be time to look at reservation for Muslims.

Educational reservation: Should Muslims get it in place of other well-off groups? (Express photo/ File)

A recent study on inter-generational mobility in India by Sam Asher, Paul Novosad and Charlie Rafkin of the World Bank, Dartmouth College and MIT has created quite a stir since it argues that “intergenerational mobility for the population as a whole has remained constant since liberalisation, but cross-group changes have been substantial”. While there has been an increase in mobility among Schedule Caste groups, the authors posit, this “is almost exactly offset by declining intergenerational mobility among Muslims”. Naturally, this reinforces the view that Hindu-majority India discriminates against Muslims; the study uses data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) rounds in 2004-05 and 2011-12. Whether the study is right in its assertions or not, it points out that urban areas are significantly more mobile than rural areas and that “village assets like roads and schools are associated with more upward interval mobility”; also, “children are most successful at exiting the bottom of the distribution in places that are southern, urban, or have higher average education levels”. In other words, a policy that focuses on building rural roads and schools, and at increasing urbanisation will help fix this anomaly and ensure successive generations are better educated and earn more, irrespective of their caste or religion.

It is, though, not immediately clear whether the problem relates to lack of education or lack of good job opportunities. For, while the study says intergenerational mobility has been constant, the data it reports shows considerable increase in educational mobility at an all-India level. So, if a father had just studied for two years, only 53% of sons born between 1950 and 1959 were likely to have studied for more than two years; the same figure rose to 74% between 1980 and 1989, suggesting large intergenerational educational mobility. For a father who had studied till secondary level, only 41% of the sons born between 1950 and 1959 had studied beyond this; this rose to 56% in 1980-89. In other words, there can be little doubt about educational mobility; occupational mobility, however, depends upon whether or not there were enough higher-paying jobs created.

A paper by Viktoria Hnatkovskay, Amartya Lahiriy, and Sourabh B Pauly of the University of British Columbia, on the other hand, concludes “there has indeed been an upward trend in the degree of intergenerational mobility in education, occupation, industry and income”; the trio, though, do not test the data separately for Muslims, possibly as the National Sample Survey sample they use is not large enough to draw robust conclusions about Muslims.At an intuitive level, though, the view that intergenerational mobility for the population as a whole has remained constant flies in the face of data on poverty. It is obvious that poverty reduces as people get more educated (poverty was 2.8% for college graduates in 2011-12 versus 22% for everyone) or get employed (6.9% for urban wage/salaried class); so when Muslim poverty has fallen from 51.2% in 1993-94 to 25.4% in 2011-12 (it was 21.9% for all Hindus in 2011-12), it would suggest Muslims are also getting more educated and moving towards higher-paying professions. Of course, what matters more than poverty is absolute levels of income—in 2011-12, Muslim consumption was around 15% less than that for all Hindus, and Muslims were educated for 6.2 years on average versus 7.1 for the entire country and 7.8 for upper-caste Hindus. Perhaps it is time to consider educational reservation for Muslims in place of some of the better-off groups.

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