This article deals with the issue of poverty and education in two districts of Uttar Pradesh.
Barabanki district in Central region of U.P. is in advantage for having common border with Lucknow district and the distance between these two respective cities is only 30 kms. While Shahjahanpur district is in an advantageous position for being a part of the affluent Western region of U.P. and located at a distance of about 180 kms. away from Lucknow in the North-West. Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts have 2.8 and 1.9 million (2001Census) rural population, which are 90.7 and 78.7 per cent of their total population respectively. According to 2001 Census Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts have 22.0 and 17.9 per cent Muslim population respectively. In our random selection of 30 villages and 900 households from each Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts surveyed (2008), 33.0 per cent or 297 households with 1769 people and 25.3 per cent or 228 households with 1398 people respectively belonged to Muslims. In Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts among Muslims the sex ratio was 906 and 832 while sex ratio among Hindus was 826 and 809 respectively. In both the districts the average size of Muslim households is larger than the Hindus. The fact is that if we add the missing females in Hindu population then the household size of Hindus would be almost the same as of Muslims. The children of below 15 years are proportionately more among Muslim population as compared to Hindus and Sikhs in both Barabanki and Shahjahanpur. But among Muslims the old age population of 60 and above is comparatively lower than the Hindus and Sikhs in both the districts. Demographically ,these proportions reflect the poor economic condition of the community where children’s proportions are comparatively higher and longevity of life is comparatively lower (see Tables 1 & 2).
In Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts the highest proportion of people is engaged as students which are 28.8 and 26.7 per cent respectively followed by dependent population of old,retired ,and young who are 17.2 and 17.1 per cent respectively. Thus, in both the districts the total dependents including students are 46.0 and 43.8 per cent respectively. Among Muslims ,because of extreme poverty, the proportion of students and retired persons are comparatively less therefore total dependents among Muslims in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur are comparatively less which are 34.5 and 39.8 per cent respectively. Overall, people engaged in gainful occupation are maximum in domestic work where 21.2 and 21.3 per cent people are engaged in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts respectively. After domestic workers,Muslims are comparatively more as a casual labour in non-agricultural activity. Muslims are highest with 14.6 per cent in Barabanki and 16.2 per cent in Shahjahanpur when among Hindus this proportion is 8.6 and 11.5 per cent respectively. Another important occupation is of self-employed in which agriculture and trade, etc. come where in Barabanki Muslims are 9.7 per cent and in Shahjahanpur they are 4.8 per cent as compared to it Hindus are 15.9 per cent and 11.5 per cent respectively. The unemployment rate among Muslims is highest that is 2.4 per cent and 4.2 per cent in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur respectively when among Hindus this proportion is 1.0 and 1.6 per cent in both the districts respectively (see Table 3).
If we observe the workforce engaged in different industrial categories we find that maximum number of workers are engaged in agriculture. In Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts Muslims engaged in agriculture are only 33.1 and 34.3 per cent respectively while among Hindus they are 62.0 and 63.9 per cent respectively in both the districts. Muslims are having very little agricultural land as compared to Hindus and Sikhs. The next important industrial category is construction where Muslims are 24.9 and 27.4 per cent respectively in both the districts while among Hindus they are only 5.5 and 7.8 per cent respectively. Similarly, manufacturing which involves cloth and carpet knitting or different types of embroideries where Muslims are 23.7 per cent engaged in Barabanki and 28.2 per cent in Shahjahanpur as compared to it Hindus are 17.5 and 19.2 per cent respectively. Muslim community is comparatively disadvantaged in economy as they don’t have sufficient agricultural land and construction and manufacturing do not provide sufficient income. Therefore, the entire family members including school going children have to earn and thus education is neglected (see Table 4).
In our survey we found that 58.6 per cent Muslim households in Barabanki and 42.1 per cent in Shahjahanpur possess agricultural land while 86.6 and 73.0 per cent Hindus in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur respectively possess comparatively more agricultural land. The small size of land holding of less than 2.5 aces are with 93.7 per cent Muslim farmers in Barabanki and 88.5 per cent Muslim farmers in Shahjahanpur while among Hindus the same proportion is 83.3 and 78.4 per cent respectively. In Shahjahanpur Sikh community possess larger holdings and only 58.06 per cent Sikh farmers have less than 2.5 acres holding. Among Muslims the landless households are 41.4 per cent in Barabanki and 57.9 per cent in Shahjahanpur while among Hindus the landless are only 13.5 and 27.0 per cent respectively. In rural areas agricultural land is a permanent and reliable source of income for sustainable development of any community. However, among the Muslims there is a permanent drawback that either they are mostly landless or possess very small holding not sufficient to run a family (see Table 5).
By summing up the above economic activities and income of different communities if we go through with the various types of assets with different communities we find that assets available with an average Muslim household is lowest in value terms. For example, with an average Muslim household the value of assets of agricultural equipments is Rs.1060 in Barabanki and in Shahjahanpur it is Rs.3476 which are about 10 times and 4 times less than the Hindu household. In transport Muslims have Rs.1487 and Rs.1099 assets in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur respectively which are roughly one-fourth and half of Hindu’s respectively. If we add up all the assets we find that the total average assets of the average Muslim household comes to about Rs.4116 in Barabanki and Rs.9373 in Shahjahanpur which are about 6 and about two and a half times less than the average Hindu household respectively (see Table 6).
Among the educated persons in sample villages Muslims are maximum at below primary or informal education in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur districts, i.e. 51.6 and 60.6 per cent respectively because most of the Muslim boys and girls are either not enrolled in any school or drop out after the elementary education. The result is that the proportion of Muslim students from middle school onwards go on declining . From matric onwards classes their proportion is not even half of educated Hindus . Obviously the economic hardship does not permit the Muslim population to avail the educational facilities even if these are available free of cost, with mid-day meal and scholarship (see Table 7).
In Barabanki district 11.4 per cent and in Shahjahanpur 35.1 per cent Muslim children of below 15 years are never enrolled in any school while in case of Hindu children about 5.3 and 13.0 per cent are never enrolled. Among Muslims 8.3 per cent in Barabanki and 8.2 per cent in Shahjahanpur left schools after enrolment. About 74.3 per cent Muslim children go to government schools in Barabanki and 80.4 per cent in Shahjahanpur, 14.2 per cent in Barabanki and 13.5 per cent in Shahjahanpur go to private schools and 11.3 per cent in Barabanki and 6.1 per cent in Shahjahanpur go to Madarsa. Both in Barabanki and Shahjahanpur a few Hindu students are also enrolled in Madarsa. There are some Missionary school where Hindu and Sikh students go for education. Majority of schooling of all the communities is done through Hindi medium, except few schools which are mostly Madarsa are through Urdu medium. English medium schools are rare, whereas English is taught as a subject along with Hindi. A good proportion of children, most of them being Muslims, who dropped out from school revealed that they can’t afford the fees/other expenses, work at home and need to earn (see Table 8).
Without raising the family income improvement of educational level among Muslims is impossible. Muslim children mostly dropout from the school for earning money to supplement the family income in order to avoid starvation. Majority of Muslims are landless or marginal farmers and therefore most of them are engaged in household industry and informal occupations where wages are squeezed by the entrepreneurs. Therefore, there is a need of easily accessible micro-financing, may be ,through Shilpkar Credit Card similar to Kisan Credit Card.