With few Muslims in civil services, sponsors chip in

June 3rd, 2008 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Devirupa Mitra
New Delhi, June 3 (IANS) Mohammad Furkan, 27, came to the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) here to face a panel of bureaucrats looking for deserving candidates to be sponsored to crack the Indian civil services examination. The aspirants, speaking different languages at home, came from all over India. But they all had two common traits - they were from financially deficient backgrounds and they were all Muslims.

The project was part of programmes voluntary groups have initiated targeting poor Muslim students, to make them write the civil services examination by providing them the two things keeping them back - money and motivation.

While the success of the madrassa-educated Maulana Wasimur Rehman in passing the examination has garnered media attention, Muslims - about 14 percent of India’s 1.1 billion population - remain poorly represented in the civil services.

According to the Justice Rajinder Sachar committee, Muslims account for only four percent in the Indian Police Service, three percent in the Indian Administrative Service and 1.8 percent in the Indian Foreign Service.

Their lower presence is deemed to be the consequence of a much smaller number of candidates appearing for the civil services examination. But the success rate of Muslims and other candidates was found to be the same.

Muslims constituted 4.9 percent of the total aspirants in the written examination and 4.8 percent of the successful candidates in 2003 and 2004. In 2007, Muslims accounted for 734 successful candidates - just 3.7 percent.

While the minority affairs ministry has started to give grants for coaching Muslim students, NGOs are taking on the project of preparing the ground so that more Muslims get to join the ranks of the Indian bureaucracy.

In New Delhi, the Hamdard Study Circle has been giving Muslim civil service aspirants necessary guidance since 1992, providing them hostel rooms, an excellent library and guest lecturers.

Furkan who went to the India Islamic Cultural Centre last week has been staying at the Hamdard Centre for one year. He is a resident of Ghazaibad in Uttar Pradesh. His family used to do odd jobs.

“I was teaching students in higher classes when I was told that since I had good knowledge about my subjects, why should I not try for the civil services,” said Furkan, a bachelor in arts from the Indira Gandhi National Open University here.

It wasn’t easy. Furkan lacked guidance and was unable to afford long-term tutorials offered by professional organisations, often costing up to Rs.100,000. That was when he learnt about Hamdard’s low cost exclusive accommodation for civil service aspirants.

“I get a separate room to live and the library has all the books that I need to study. If there is anything not available, the library is able to obtain that. It helps to stay in a place where you can study and cut yourself from the world,” Furkan told IANS.

Also residing at Hamdard is a B. Tech from Kerala, Mohammed Riyaz, who is studying for his third and perhaps last attempt to crack the IAS entrance examination.

“The first time I didn’t get through the prelims. Last year, I got through prelims but not the mains. I am hoping I will be third time lucky,” he said. The reason for his perseverance: “Civil services will give job satisfaction as well as power and prestige.”

Both Furkan and Riyaz recognise that they are still an exception. “There is a feeling among Muslims that they will not get the opportunity. Also, most of them are not financially strong, so they can’t afford the tutorials,” said Furkan.

Riyaz pointed out that the number of graduates in the community was less due to low literacy levels. “There is a lack of awareness that civil services could be an option. Thankfully it is slowly changing.”

Echoing these sentiments, retired army Major Abid Rashid said that Muslims also suffered from “a phobia”.

“The phobia is that nobody bothers about us. But those taking the initiative get their due,” he said.

Since last month, Major Rashid, in charge of the IICC coaching programme, had sifted through 167 applicants to shortlist 20 candidates for sponsorship. This is the first year for the Islamic centre to start the coaching programme. “Coaching alone would cost Rs.83,000 for each student,” he said.

The ministry of minority affairs had launched a free coaching and allied assistance revised scheme in 2007. The eligible candidates had to have an annual family income less than Rs.250,000.

It had released Rs.30 million to over 30 coaching institutes, some of which provided facilities for aspirants to union and state civil services in place like Jaipur, Srinagar and Ranchi.

Like IICC, some organisations prefer to rely on private funds. Last year the New Delhi-based Zakat Foundation India (ZFI) chose 13 candidates from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal to appear for preliminary examinations.

Now it is searching for a second batch of candidates who will be chosen after written tests and interviews by July. “We know there is already a heavy rush for coaching centres, so we asked the applicants to block seats. We can reimburse later,” said a ZFI official.

(Devirupa Mitra can be contacted at Devirupa.m@ians.in)

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