Controversy over “Muslim-only” recruitment at Pawan Hans

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On Thursday April 7, 2022, a controversy erupted on Indian social networks about the recruitment practices of Pawan Hans Limited, a Mini Ratna of the government of India. According to the viral message circulating on social media, all new apprentices joining Pawan Hans are “Muslims”, with no representation of any other religion.

The controversy started when Pawan Hans limited shared the list of new graduate apprentices to join the organization, and all of them belonged to the same religion.

List of apprentices of Pawan Hans

Once this information went viral, many netizens criticized the Indian government for recruiting people of only one religion for this apprenticeship program.

Pawan Hans Limited is a government enterprise under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, which is responsible for providing exclusive helicopter services at offshore sites for Indian oil companies and at holy pilgrimage destinations like Kedarnath and the Vaishno Devi shrine. They are also used by state governments when fighting the Maoist insurgency.

The controversy reminded people of a similar list of all Muslim candidates selected by the West Bengal Police in 2020. However, this turned out to be a booking case as many Muslim castes are also listed under OBCs in the State of West Bengal. We wondered if this listing from Pawan Hans Limited had a similar reason.

However, it seems that this is not a case of reservations for Muslim applicants due to any OBC listing, but an exclusive agreement of Pawan Hans Limited (PHL) with Jamia Milia Islamia, a “minority education institute” based in New Delhi.

In 2017, Pawan Hans Limited entered into a OK for a two-and-a-half-year full-time basic aircraft maintenance training course in conjunction with Jamia Millia Islamia University. In all likelihood, the viral list on social media is the list of students enrolled in the aforementioned course of Jamia Milia Islamia in collaboration with Pawan Hans Limited.

This possibility is confirmed when one searches for the names of the students as they appear on the list with the name of Jamia Millia Islamia University. The search results bring us to the LinkedIn profiles of these students, which confirm that they are students of Jamia Milia Islamia, pursuing courses like B.Sc. (Aeronautics) and B.Sc. (Aviation).

This indicates that Jamila Milia Islamia may only admit Muslim students to its courses organized in partnership with Pawan Hans Limited. We tried to confirm the same by calling Mohammad Ameer, the Joint Managing Director (Aviation Academy) with Pawan Hans Limited, but could not get an answer. OpIndia will continue to pursue the story and will update this article as we have more updates.

If the list is indeed that of Jamia Millia students apprenticed at Pawan Hans Limited, it raises a serious question as to how come no non-Muslim student could find their way to the list. Hasn’t the university found a single non-Muslim student worthy of enrolling in government-sponsored aviation courses?

The incident also underscores the merits of the demand of many activists who have called for bookings for SC/STs to be implemented at “minority institutes” because these institutes have low diversity in admissions, perhaps in because of a detrimental admissions system. A constitutional change will be needed for institutes like Jamia Millia Islamia to implement reservations for SC/ST to avoid a repeat of such a scenario.

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