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minority report

Some shocking facts about Maharashtra's Muslims the state does not want you to know

The Mahmoodur Rahman Committee report on the socio-economic conditions of the state's Muslims is yet to be officially released, but it reveals that the community has very poor social indices.

Maharashtra's urban Muslims are poorer than even members of the scheduled castes and tribes. They tend to live in ghettos because they can't find homes anywhere else, and banks are wary of giving them loans.

These are among the findings of a report prepared by a five-member committee headed by retired bureaucrat Dr Mahmoodur Rahman, which was appointed in 2008 by the Maharashtra government to study the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in the state. However, though the report was submitted to the state’s Congress-led government in October 2013, it has not yet officially been released or tabled in the Assembly.

Since the Maharashtra government showed no signs of releasing the Mahmoodur Rahman report, which Maharashtra’s version of the pioneering Sachar Committee report on the status of Muslims across India, community organisations filed RTI queries to find out the causes for the delay.

Last week, the Movement for Peace and Justice, a non-profit organisation, finally managed to obtain a copy of the report, seven months after applying for it. The contents reveal that Maharashtra’s 10.2 million Muslims struggle with the debilitating consequences of poverty, prejudice and discrimination on almost every aspect of their lives.

“The state of Maharashtra has witnessed the highest number of Hindu-Muslim riots post-Independence,” the report says. “Displacement and subsequent ghettoisation has been a result of communal riots. Ghettoisation has made it easier for state authorities to neglect Muslim concentration areas and not provide them with adequate services.”

The report says that one-fifth of Muslims in the state do not have a ration card, making it difficult for them to access government schemes for health, education or employment.

Here are some of the findings of the Mahmoodur Rahman report, which is based largely on data from the 2001 census.

Poverty: Maharashtra performs worse than the rest of India when it comes to urban poverty rates among Muslims. Urban Muslims in the state are also much poorer than members of scheduled castes and tribes:

About 45% of Muslim households have a per capita income of less than Rs 500 a month, and only 10% of Maharashtrian Muslims own land. Only one-third of Muslim households in the state have a bank account, and just 6.8% are able to obtain credit from banks or cooperatives. According to studies commissioned by the Minorities Commission, banks tend to be reluctant about granting loans to Muslims, on the assumption that that they will not pay back their loans.

Housing: Most Muslims tend to live in ghettos because of the fear of riots and discrimination in the housing market. In urban Maharashtra, 90% of them live in Muslim areas, 8% live in mixed areas and 2% in areas that have just a few Muslim families. Banks are reluctant to give members of the minority community housing loans, because they tend to declare Muslim localities as negative areas. In fact, 58% of urban Muslims live in slums. Meanwhile, only 18.5% of rural Muslims live in pucca homes.

Education: Maharashtrian Muslims have a total literacy rate of 78.1%, which is higher than the state average of 76.9%. But the Sachar report points out that these numbers are not a true measure of a community’s educational status, because most of these literates are not able to apply their reading and writing skills in real life and slip back into illiteracy in a few years of leaving school. In addition, barely 3% of literate Muslims manage to obtain graduate degrees.

The performance of women here is even worse: only 19% of urban Muslim women, and 10.9% of rural ones, are enrolled in secondary and higher secondary school. Only 1% of rural Muslim women in the state get college degrees.

Employment: While 32.2% of Maharashtra’s Hindus are farmers, only 8.1% Muslims cultivate land, because land ownership is low among Muslims. In fact, 44.4% of rural Muslims land up working as agricultural labourers, compared with 36.1% of Hindus. Because of a severe dearth of formal employment opportunities in Muslim areas, most of them work in the informal, unorganised sector.

Muslims also have very poor representation in government and semi-government jobs. Their share in government services is just 4.4%. In 2012, there was not a single Muslim in the entire cadre of the Indian Administrative Services.

Health: One of the few positives that emerge from the report is that the fertility rate among Maharashtra Muslims has been steadily declining, even though it is above the state average.

The use of contraception has also been increasing, although Muslim women commonly report being mocked about the number of children members of the community have. While trying to access public healthcare services, Muslim women often report facing stereotypical attitudes, like being called dirty or being constantly asked to remove the veil.

Discrimination: Muslims form 10.6% of Maharashtra's population, but form 27% of its prison population. The report found that overwhelmingly, Muslims feel that Muslim youth are wrongfully targeted.

Infrastructure: On an average, in urban areas, bus stops are located at a 1.3 km distance from Muslim areas, and discussions with transport authorities revealed that they avoid planning bus routes in those areas because Muslims are considered socially problematic. In addition, frequency of buses in these areas is low.

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“Doctors have it easier than us. Their mistakes get buried, our mistakes will be there for everyone to see”

Celebrated architect Hadi Teherani tells us what luxury in the living space means to him.

Hadi Teherani is best known for designing iconic buildings in Germany including the famous Dockland office in Hamburg and the Kranhaus in Cologne. But he’s also left his mark on the landscape of Abu Dhabi with the Zayed University, and has designed a luxury residence that will soon grace the skyline of Mumbai—Lodha Altamount. We spoke to him about the challenges of designing luxury living spaces in India.

Q. In your opinion, what is the definition of luxury specifically in the area of private residences? Is it a lot of fresh air, space and daylight? Is it the room composition? Or is luxury something completely different?

Hadi Teherani (HT): For me, luxury is first and foremost to have space, not just enough for what you need but enough space to really thrive. And luxury has always been defined that way. If you look at Art Nouveau houses, those rooms have incredible heights. So yes, space is definitely an important factor when it comes to luxury. In Europe people pay attention to every square metre and here in Mumbai it is the same. There are slums where 4 people live in one room and just across the street somebody is living by himself on 1000 square metres. Once you have space, luxury can be in the features, in using certain materials, and there is no limit. Some things, of course, are simply not available here: the luxury of fresh air and a clean sea. No matter how much money you are willing to spend, you cannot get those. Therefore, you are limited to what is available.

Q. Have you incorporated this concept of space into previous projects?

HT: Yes, in different ways, no matter if you are working on government-sponsored housing projects or in the luxury segment. Usually our projects are more in the luxury segment, where space is crucial. We are currently designing a building where luxury can already be sensed at the parking level. You reach with your car and you are already supposed to have the feeling that you’ve arrived at a hotel lobby. This is how far luxury has come. That the arrival in a garage already gives you the feeling as if you are coming to a palace—you get out of your limousine into this stunning lobby and this feeling continues as you go up into the apartment where you have a bathroom that is 20-30 square metres and not just 5-10. The idea of really designing your bathroom or kitchen has not yet reached India. Bathrooms are still rather compact and practical since the idea of spending quality time in your bathroom doesn’t seem to exist yet. Customers definitely do not request a spacious bathroom when we discuss their projects. For me, personally, a great bathroom is extremely important, as it is the first thing you use in the morning. Afterwards you go to work, and you come back home. But I believe the areas that you use most need to have enough space for you to move and thrive in.

Q. Do you have any role model in the field of architecture? Maybe a building or a person?

HT: The Bauhaus is still my role model. Back then they designed products for day-to-day life, affordable for the general population. But those products have become classics today like the lounge chair by Le Corbusier. Those were project works but Bauhaus thought further ahead. The idea was to give people light, air and space, and to free them from elements that were poorly designed and uncomfortable like big stucco ceilings. The focus needs to be light, air and sun. For them, architecture and product design were always very fluent concepts. Le Corbusier, for instance, designed fantastic buildings as well as whole cities, but on the other hand also designed furniture. Gropius had even designed a car once and furniture, too. This school of thinking has influenced me, and once you have all those “tools” and this way of thinking, you get very far. With this “toolbox” of modern design, you can create anything and influence society. The times back then aided this development; everyone was opening up, living in and with nature, not hiding away in little holes. And the world evolved from there. And today you can see they are daring even more spectacular things in Asia than they used to in Old Europe.

Q. You have already gained quite some experience in India. Is there something that you would define as a typical “Indian palate”, and if so, how does it differ from the international projects? You already mentioned the differences in bath and kitchen design, but are there, for instance, taboos like colours you wouldn’t use or something in room composition?

HT: I haven’t encountered anything like that. What I do experience is that many projects are influenced by religious thoughts and by Vaastu, something like Feng shui. So the master bedroom has to be in the south-west and the kitchen has to have a certain location. Those rules need to be followed exactly, no matter if it makes sense for the building or not. Here in Mumbai it’s a little more liberal but in other regions, Hyderabad for instance, every centimetre has to be exact as per Vaastu. Sometimes they want a dedicated room for pujas. All this changes while designing a project, of course. But overall the ground plans are not that different. The families might be bigger so houses and apartments are bigger as well, or they are trying to utilize each and every square metre and avoid hallways, for example.

Those projects are also in the centre of a lot of marketing. We are not used to that in Europe but here in Mumbai or even more in other cities like Bangalore, along the entire highway from the airport into the city you only see 50-metre-high billboards announcing new real estate projects. You don’t see anything else! And it’s very creative marketing with catchy headlines and slogans. That isn’t happening in Germany. One more difference: when designing upper class buildings in India, they require a maid or servant room, maybe a separate entrance from the staircase and so forth. Here, you can still afford having a maid. In Europe you might have someone coming by for three hours once a week but certainly not living in.

Q. Let’s talk about the Lodha Altamount. What was the challenge?

HT: The design of Altamount was strongly influenced by being a Lodha project and by its location. Next to Altamount stands a luxury highlight of architecture, the Ambani tower, the most expensive home in the world. How do you want to top that? The Ambani tower is very structural. It shoots through the air, it combines all sorts of crafts and structural design elements with gaps and open spaces. You can’t top that and definitely not with our type of design. That’s why we decided to hold back and instead develop a dark and sleek building. That type of building doesn’t exist a lot here in India. Usually buildings have many structural elements like beams and balconies. By creating a calm building in the skyline of Mumbai, we will make Altamount stand out. Plus, the top of the building is very unique. Many structures are either simply cut off straight or completed by a dome. We have two geometric pointy tops so that the building is properly completed and doesn’t look as if it could grow further. It has a head and feet and is finished. So for us to hold back was our way to stand out. It doesn’t devalue the building design in anyway. It is meant expressively in the sense of “less is more”. And the interior is of course very luxurious: it is designed through and through, there is the green car parking podium, each balcony has a mini pool. So all those luxury features are present but the architectural design is based on the idea of “less is more”.

Lodha Altamount (Mumbai) designed by Hadi Teherani.
Lodha Altamount (Mumbai) designed by Hadi Teherani.

Q. Luxury can drift into the eccentric, depending on the client. Have there been any projects that were very eccentric which you still accepted or projects that you had to turn down because they were too eccentric?

HT: As architects, we create a space. What happens, of course, is that people buy an apartment in a great contemporary building and then furnish it in a baroque style. But that freedom has to be there, of course, because we can’t also tell the client which curtains to use or clothes to wear. At a certain point our job is done. However, when it comes to public buildings, the public is supposed to benefit from, so I have to be strict and dictate. In private buildings you can leave it up to the individual but publicly I have a responsibility and cannot consider each and every taste. I have to do a clean job so that in the end every individual can find himself or herself in my design. Anyway, taste always stems from a certain upbringing, culture and environment, so I also have the duty to educate and that’s what I do with my projects. When a small child walks by a building, she recognizes when the proportions are right even if she has no idea about architecture. But if the proportions are off, the child will pick that up too, because every building also exudes energy, either of unease or comfort. So we have quite a big responsibility as well. I always say doctors have it easier than us. Their mistakes get buried, but our mistakes will always be there for everyone to see.

With one residence per floor and a host of bespoke luxury services, Lodha Altamount is the epitome of unrestricted luxury. Designed by Hadi Teherani, and a part of the Lodha group’s Luxury Collection that has homes present at only the globe’s most-coveted locations, Lodha Altamount is the last word in luxury in India. For more information about Lodha Altamount, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Lodha by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff

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