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The Indian government has identified 700 towns with substantial Muslim populations to launch focused programmes to improve their lot.  A recent government report shows that Muslims in India are even more disadvantaged than low-caste Hindus.  It says a high rate of unemployment and lack of education has led to a decline in their socio-economic standards. India and Pakistan have the largest Muslim populations in the world, after Indonesia.
A new confidential report prepared by the Planning Commission, based on data from the census department, says a majority of Muslims live in towns and cities of India. It says around 700 of India’s 5,161 towns have substantial numbers of Muslim residents. The report says Muslims have a relatively higher urban population and many live in urban slums where they have no access to basic needs of housing, education, health and employment. These areas of “deprivation and discontent” are “happy hunting grounds” for disgruntled groups inside and outside India, it warns.
 Most of these Muslim-majority towns are close to the international border and the coastline and can lead to security problems for the country, it adds. The report asks the government to ensure that development schemes are started in these areas to “ensure palpable results in the next two years”. The issue of special development schemes for Muslims is a controversial one with the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party questioning it.


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