People at the Margins: Whose Budget? Whose Rights? Locating Muslim Women in Indian Policy


This paper, by the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), assesses the implementation of the Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme, which aims to improve the socio-economic condition of minorities in India. The BMMA examines the extent to which Muslim women have benefitted from certain schemes under the programme in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

Drawing on official data, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, the paper examines if the programme has been able to meet its objectives. These include improving the living conditions of minorities, enabling their access to education, ensuring they have an equitable share in employment, and preventing communal violence.

The four states have made varying progress on meeting these objectives, the paper finds, with gaps in programme’s implementation. For instance, from 2006 to 2014, Gujarat did not set any targets for constructing primary schools in areas with a substantial minority population. While the other three states achieved their targets to varying degrees, on the whole, the access girls had to government schools remained limited.

Based on their research, the authors urge policy-makers to prioritise separate schools for girls, include women-headed households in development schemes, create employment opportunities for Muslim women, and collect data on the extent to which Muslim women have benefitted from government schemes.


  1. Government data collated by the Sachar Committee showed that a third of small villages with a concentration of Muslims did not have educational institutions, and 40 per cent of large villages with similar demographics lacked health facilities.

  2. The 2011 India Human Development Report says that Muslims perform better than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in terms of literacy, malnutrition, infant mortality rate, access to pucca (permanent) housing and child immunisation. However, their performance is below the national average across all indicators.

  3. Under the Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme, a certain proportion of development projects will be allocated to areas with a concentration of minorities. Also, wherever possible, 15 per cent of the funds of various schemes will be earmarked for minorities.

  4. Data for Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha indicate that, despite a high incidence of anaemia and malnutrition, there was no plan between 2011-12 and 2012-13 to build anganwadi centres in any area with a concentration of minorities. 

  5. In Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, an average of 50 per cent of pre-matric and post-matric scholarships were awarded to girls from minority communities between 2008-09 and 2012-13.

  6. A 2012 study by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions points out that less than 17 per cent of Muslim girls finish eight years of schooling and less than 10 per cent complete higher secondary education. The reasons for these high dropout rates include a high incidence of poverty among Muslim families.

  7. Data of the Ministry of Finance shows that between 2008 and 2013, over 80 per cent of priority sector loans (in agriculture, small-scale industries, retail trade, micro-credit, education and housing) in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha were given to minorities. Gujarat, however, fell far behind its targets for credit disbursement to minorities – it did not meet more than 60 per cent of its targets in any year during that period.

    Focus and Factoids by Tanya Sethi.


Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Safia Niaz (for the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan)


Published by UN Women
Supported by the Ford Foundation