TCN special: Misra Commission report excerpts- Part 3

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Chapter 3: Religious Minorities and their status

The word ‘minority religion’ has not been defined anywhere in the Constitution but it finds mention in various Articles in Part II of the Constitution.

The U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has defined ‘minorities’ as one including only those non-dominant groups in a population which possess and wish to preserve stable ethnic, religious or linguistic traditions or characteristics markedly different from those of the population.

Religious Composition in Rural and Urban Areas

The 1991 and 2001 data indicate that Muslims are more urbanised than Hindus and Sikhs. Besides Muslims, a greater proportion of Christians, Buddhists and Jains are urban residents. In fact Jains are the most urbanised as compared to any other religious minority group.

Overall Sex Ratio

According to the Census 2001, against the overall sex ratio of 933 for all religions put together, the sex ratio among Christians at 1,009 females per 1,000 males is the highest. In contrast, it is the lowest among the Sikhs at 893. The sex ratio among Muslims at 936, is slightly above the national average.

The sex ratio for all religious communities at all India level has gone up from 927 in 1991 to 933 in 2001. Similar is the situation for Muslims which has increased from 930 to 936, Christians from 994 to 1009 and Sikhs from 888 to 893 and others from 982 to 992. However, the sex ratio for Hindus has declined from 942 in 1991 to 931 in 2001, Buddhists from 963 to 953 and Jains from 946 to 940.

The Child Sex Ratio (CSR) 2001 of 927 at all India level has shown a decline when compared with total sex ratio at 933. The CSR shows a declining trend for all the religious minorities except Muslims (950).

Population of 60 Years and above

It has been seen that proportion of Muslims elderly is lowest (5.75 percent) as against 7.45 percent of total population of the country. The reasons for low population of older Muslims and modalities for raising their expectancy of life need to be found out and corrective measures taken in this regard.

Age at Marriage

Among men who married below the age of 21 years, 51.3 percent were Hindus, nearly 47 percent Muslims… Similarly, in the case of females who married below 17 years of age, the percentage values were 37 percent Hindus, 43.2 percent Muslims…the proportion of girl child marriages (i.e. less than 10 years of age) was three percent of the total marriages prevalent mainly among Buddhists (2.8 percent), Hindus (2.6 percent) and Muslims (2.2 percent).

Average Household Size

According to a study sponsored by this Commission through the Centre for Research, Planning & Action, New Delhi, in January 2006 in five states (Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), it was found that the average size of households among minority communities was 3.40 persons. The household size was smallest at 2.75 person among Parsis while it was highest at 3.50 persons among Muslims. … Muslim households had the largest share of joint families at 12.47 percent.

Literacy Rate

Muslims have a literacy rate (59.1 percent) lower than the national average literacy rate.

Analysis of literacy rate reveals that Muslims were better off than Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and those pursuing ‘other religions’ but lagged behind others.

Gender Gap in Literacy

Among the six major religions at the national level, the maximum gap between male and female literacy is among Hindus (23 percent) followed by Buddhists (21.4 percent) and Muslims (17.5 percent points).

… irrespective of religious affiliations, creation of a conducive environment and promotion of education facilities leading to improved female literacy might bring down fertility rate.

Educational Level

… Jains (21.47 percent) have the highest proportion of educated persons among all the religions among those who have completed graduation stage. This is followed by Christians (8.71 percent) and Sikhs (6.94 percent). Muslims have the lowest proportion at 3.6 percent.

Further, Muslims (65.31 percent) are better off at primary level of education but their proportion goes down as we go to secondary (10.96 percent) and senior secondary (4.53 percent) stage.

Infant and Child Mortality Rate

… infant and child mortality rates among Hindus are much higher than Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. … Among minorities infant and child mortality rates of other minorities are lower than Muslims. Mortality rate differentials among different religious communities or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may be due to factors other than religion along e.g. urban or rural residence or economic conditions of the family or availability of health facilities and access to them.

Nutritional Status of Children

Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, Hindu and Muslim children appear to be undernourished. As against this Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian children are better nourished.

Fertility Rate

Total fertility rate is very high, among no religion category (3.91 percent), Muslims (3.59 percent), Scheduled Castes (3.15 percent) and Scheduled Tribes (3.06 percent).

Average number of children ever born to married women of 40-49 years are highest among Muslims (5.72) followed by Scheduled Castes (4.85), Scheduled Tribes (4.74), Other Backward Classes (4.43), Hindus (4.34), and Buddhists (4.25) with lowest figure of 3.32 among Jains.

Housing and Related Amenities

Share of pucca houses was lowest among Muslims with 23.76 percent… The percentage of households living in kutcha houses was highest among Muslims with 34.63 percent.

Ownership of Houses

The ratio of those living in rented houses was highest among Muslims (43.74 percent).

Source of Lighting in the Houses

All households contacted in the survey in five States were in urban areas, 83.72 percent were observed to have electricity. The ratio was highest with 99.21 percent among Parsis and lowest with 78.78 percent among Muslims.
Water Supply in Houses

… more than 75 percent Parsis, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs had source of drinking water within or near their house.

Availability of Toilets

…Muslims had a higher percentage of households with toilets (80.33 percent) as compared with Christians and Buddhists.


In 1999-2000, a survey was got conducted by the Government of India for estimation of levels of poverty among various religious communities and it was noted, therefore, that poverty as a phenomenon was more acute in rural areas than urban areas for all religious communities except Muslims and Sikhs. Muslims occupied highest share in Urban Poverty population with 36.92 percent.

Work Participation Rate

According to Census 2001, work participation rate (WPR) or percentage of workers to total population for all religions is 39.1 percent. The lowest work participation rate of 31.3 percent at the national level is seen for the Muslims population …Further, work participation rate of 9.2 percent among Jain women and 14.1 percent for Muslim women is the lowest in the country.

Table 3.22 : Work Participation Rate among Religious Minority Communities
(in percent)
All Hindu Muslim Christian Buddhist Sikhs Jains Others
Male 51.7 52.4 47.5 50.7 49.2 53.3 55.2 52.5
Female 25.6 27.5 14.1 28.7 31.7 20.2 9.2 44.2
Average 39.1 40.4 31.3 39.7 40.6 37.7 32.9 48.4
Source: Census of India 2001

The above table clearly shows the lowest Work Participation Ratio of Muslims

Category of workers
(in percent)

Table 3.23 : Distribution of Category of Workers Community-wise
(in percent)
Workers by occupational category
Cultivators Agricultural Workers Household Industrial workers Other workers
All Religions 31.7 26.5 4.2 37.6
Hindu 33.1 27.6 3.8 35.5
Muslim 20.7 22.0 8.1 49.1
Christian 29.2 15.3 2.7 52.8
Sikh 32.4 16.8 3.4 47.3
Buddhist 20.4 37.6 2.9 39.2
Jain 11.7 3.3 3.3 81.7
Others 49.9 32.6 3.2 14.3
Source: Census of India 2001

In the category of household industry workers, artisan character of Muslims workers is reflected in the date, where 8.1 percent Muslim workers are engaged. This is almost double than the national average of 4.2 percent

The NSSO in their 61st Round of survey found that more than half of the workers in the rural areas were self-employed, the proportion being the highest among the Muslim workers both Males (60 percent) and females (75 percent).

Average Income

Average income per family per month is estimated at Rs. 2,103. By religion, the highest income was recorded among Parsis at Rs. 3484 per month followed by Rs. 2478 among Buddhists, Rs. 2285 among Sikhs, Rs. 1906 among Christians and Rs. 1832 among Muslims.

Dependency Ratio

Muslims have the highest young persons dependency ratio of 778 and lowest old people dependency ratio of 109 which could be one of the possible reasons for their economic backwardness as compared with averages for all religious communities.

Visits to the States/UTs and Workshops Sponsored by NCRLM


i. Muslims are behind other religious communities in the areas of literacy and education, industrial promotion and economic pursuits. They lack technical and vocational education as well as training in trades in demand [Census 2001 and visit to States]
ii. The Villages, the Tehsils and the Districts having the concentration of Muslims community many a time lack entrepreneurial ventures and market for their products.
iii. The Muslims have not been able to avails of the facilities of Waqf resources in the absence of proper management.
iv. The work participation rate among Muslim women has been found to be low affecting the quality of their life.
v. Among Muslims those who are known as Faqueer, Seengwala (traditional medicine practice), Arzals are both economically and socially backward.
vi. Various artisanal classes such as Weavers etc. are still languishing due to their old techniques of spinning and weaving, thereby they not able to compete with artisans of neighboring countries

Observations of the Commission

It has been noticed that there has been sharp decline in the number of students from primary school stage to secondary level among Muslims, indicating higher dropout are among them.

Infant and child mortality rates among Muslims are highest in so far as Minorities are concerned but these rank lower than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Among Minorities, about one-third Muslims are living in Kutcha houses, which lack basic facilities like drinking water, toiler etc, and likewise they live in rented houses