The news of 38 Muslims including five women qualifying, out of a total 1,236 successful candidates, for the coveted civil services examination for 2014, con-ducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), comes as somewhat of a mixed bag.
The percentage of Muslims clearing the examinations has hovered around three per cent for last few years. In 2013, a total of 1,122 candidates had made it to the prestigious civil services, of which 34 or 3.03per cent were Muslims. In the 2012 UPSC result, only 31 Muslims could make it to the final list out of total 998 successful candidates which translates into 3.10 per cent. In the civil services, Muslims comprise about three per cent in IAS, 1.8 per cent in IFS and four per cent in the IPS according to authentic figures.
When you juxtapose this with the fact that Muslims comprise about 14 per cent of the population, three per cent seems to be a very disappointing figure. One would ideally expect that about 170-180 selected candidates should be Muslims, as per their population share.
But when you bear in mind that of the 9.5 lakh (approximately) who applied for the exam less than two thousand were Muslims which translates into a participation rate of just 0.21 per cent, a success rate or strike rate of about three per cent Muslims clearing these exams, signals that there is tremendous talent amongst them.
What the above trend confirms is pretty simple. If the number of Muslim students appearing for these exams was increased from a paltry 0.21 per cent, which is the figure around which it currently hovers, then the number of Muslims clearing UPSC would increase exponentially, given their high success rate. But the question remains as to how more and more Muslims, boys and girls, can be persuaded to apply for these exams in the first place?
The first area to focus on should be higher education for Muslims. The eligibility criteria to apply for the UPSC exams prescribe that the candidate must be a graduate. Amongst Muslims, the Sachar Committee Report shows, that less than four per cent above the age of 20 are graduates, which is lesser than the proportion for the general population.
Literacy level among Muslims is lower than the national average and drop-out rates are higher. According to a report published in Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, the dropout rates of Muslim students has shot up to 50 per cent between classes 8 and 9.
The educational backwardness of Muslims is a self-evident reality that needs to be addressed by the Indian state through an appropriate mix of affirmative action, educational scholarships and expansion of higher education infrastructure by creating more Aligarh Muslim Universities, Jamias, etc. If this could be done and the number of graduates the community churns out catches up to the national average, the pool of Muslim students who would be eligible to apply for the UPSC exams would increase. The more they apply, the greater will be the number of students who crack the exams.
Naseem Zaidi, from the AMU analysed existing data in a very interesting way. Two groups were created. The first included the Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jammu & Kashmir University and Calicut University, christened as hubs for Muslim students. The second group comprised of Allahabad University, Lucknow University, Banaras Hindu University and the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.
Naseem not only found that the success ratio of applicants from the Muslim bunch was higher (10.2 per cent) than that of the general one (4.3 per cent). It was also observed that the average annual number of applicants for the four Muslim-dominated institutions was less than 25 while it was over 444 for the other set of institutions! Clearly, levels of participation even amongst eligible Muslims too is quite low. Here public figures like Wajahat Habibullah and Najeeb Jung and toppers like Shah Faesal and Dr Syed Sehrish Asgar, can serve as role models to inspire youngsters from the community to take up civil services seriously.
A huge chunk of Muslims are below the poverty line. Educated Muslims very often have to face the burden of debilitating poverty which virtually makes it impossible for them to invest their time, money and resources in ….
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