Hindus donated a little over ₹15,600 crore as religious contribution in 2014-15 — six times the quantum donated by Muslims — but the per-household contribution of Muslims is marginally higher than that of Hindus, as they are enjoined by religion to give to charity.
But the per-household religious contribution of Christians is the highest among all communities, as per data from the 72nd round of National Sample Survey (NSS) on Household Expenditure on Services and Durable Goods. The data were recently extracted from the NSS’ raw findings by a team of researchers led by Sabir Ahamed of the Pratichi Institute and Zakaria Siddiqui, research assistant at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. The 72nd round was conducted in 2014-15, but could be accessed only in late 2016.
Religious contributions are divided under two heads: the contribution to institutions is ‘charity’ and the non-charitable part is under ‘priests and rituals’. Hindus contribute ₹82 per household per month to charities and ₹92 to the priests, while Muslims give ₹126 and ₹54 to charities and Maulanas respectively.
Thus, the average monthly household contribution of Muslims is ₹180 while for the Hindus, it is ₹174, the researchers found.
Contributions multiplied by each surveyed household of Hindus in the country indicates that the community contributes ₹15,600 crore to priests and charities. The actual contribution of Muslims is ₹2,580 crore.
Mr. Siddiqui argued that the charity component as a share of total religious expenditure is largest for Muslims, “implying that Muslims are likely to contribute more to those who are poorer than them.”
“A higher level of charity by Muslims might be one of the factors behind lower inequality of consumption among Muslims compared to Hindus. The NSS estimate of charity for Muslims might actually be an underestimate, since large sums are given away during their holy month of Ramzan,” he said.
More per person
The per capita religious contribution of Christians and Sikhs is higher than Hindus and Muslims, but the size of the population makes the absolute contribution lower. While the actual contribution of Sikhs is ₹1,716 crore, it is ₹420 crore for the Christians. Mr. Ahamed, a senior researcher at the Pratichi Institute, said the data analysis was based on the number of people who incur a religious expenditure.
“Many actually do not contribute,” he said. He also added that religious contribution to charities was “severely fragmented” in the Muslim community, which affects fund building for community development.
“There is no organised structure to utilise the money which comes as Zakat contribution, especially during Ramzan,” Mr. Ahmed said. The Zakat is 2.5% of the assets or savings of a person, who is expected to contribute the amount as per the Quranic instruction for people who are below the level of subsistence.
“The actual Zakat collection is presumably much more than what is indicated by NSS,” he said since it is mandatory in Islam to make a religious contribution.
“If this amount can be properly channelised — for health, sanitation and education — it would hugely benefit the community,” Mr. Ahamed said.
Funds medical studies
Twenty-one-year-old Sheikh Abdullah’s life indicates how Zakat funds — if spent in an organised manner — can help pull a person out of poverty. After losing his father as a child, Abdullah was dependent on the earnings of his mother, a tailor.
On her meagre earnings, he finished school, cleared the medical entrance examination and got admission to a renowned medical college in Kolkata. But the cost of a medical education forced him to consider giving up when a non-profit organisation, the Social Network for Assistance to People (SNAP) stepped in. Using Zakat contributions over the years, SNAP funded Mr. Abdullah’s medical studies for five years. “They gave me ₹3,500 each month, which was a huge amount for me in 2012. I would have never been able to complete studies without this support,” he said. Now an intern with Kolkata’s R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, Mr. Abdullah said, “In another few months, I hope to get my registration number and would be a full-scale doctor.”
One of the founder-members of SNAP, Amirul Alam, said the organisation had adopted professional accounting for the Zakat contributions and had been able to connect donors with those in need of a leg up.
“When someone approaches us with a contribution, we keep a note of the person and later as we get to hear from a student in severe need of money, we connect the person with the contributor,” Mr. Alam said.
The organisation has raised “a few lakhs among close friends and relatives” and distributed it to those who faced a sudden need.
“But if we can regularise this contribution and create some awareness, it would immensely help the poor, especially students and patients,” Mr. Alam said.