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Chimera of a Muslim Population Growth Rate
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As far as I can recollect, the following has not been mentioned in our
and I provide it for interest.
It is from:
The Chimera Of a Muslim Population Growth
Dr. Mohan Rao
That the Muslim rate of population growth is as much a chimera as the
rate of economic growth does not bother propagandists during election
This is an issue they have flogged often enough in the past. The issue
"Muslim rate of population growth" made topical now by the publication
selected data from the 1991 Census. For what is being attempted is not
understand realities- the basis of all social sciences- but to project a
view of it for purely political purposes.
Preliminary results from the 1991 Census indicate that, excluding Assam
Jammu & Kashmir, the rate of growth of the Muslim population has been
per cent, whereas that of the Hindu population has been 22.8 percent.
these data on growth rates by religious communities is not cross-
with their determinants: income and literacy for a start. The exercise
as meaningless as comparing the size of a lemon with that of an apple
because both happen to be fruit.
The basic organised propaganda regarding a Muslim rate of population
rests on the following four assertions, which are, as it were, articles
The law permits a Hindu male to have only one wife. A Muslim male,
other hand, is allowed to have and tends to have more than one wife.
Islam, unlike Hinduism, forbids family planning. Muslims,
not practice family planning.
Muslims thus have a higher birth rate than Hindus.
Therefore it follows that Muslims will soon outnumber Hindus in
However, what do facts brought out by official and non-sectarian
to tell us?
Let us look at the data on marriages– called nuptiality rates. The
polygynous marriages (i.e. one wherein a man has more than one wife) is
5.80% among Hindus. The percentage incidence among Muslims is, in fact,
slightly lower at 5.73 per cent. These figures are from the office of
General and Census Commissioner of India and are to be found in the
Polygynous Marriages in India – A Survey. What the data clearly
reveals is that there is absolutely no truth to the commonly propagated
assertion that bigamy or polygamy is commoner among Muslims. Indeed the
Commissioner and Registrar General state "In India as a whole the
polygynous marriage is highest among the persons returning their
tribal religion (15.25 per cent), next come the Buddhists (7.97 per
followed by Jains (6.72 per cent)". What the data clearly reveals is
religious groups, Muslims have the lowest incidence of polygynous
What is equally important to bear in mind is that a high incidence of
polygynous marriages does not serve to increase fertility – as is
Given the fact that the sex ratio (i.e. the number of females per
males which is considered a reflection of women's status in society) in
unfavorable to females amongst both Hindus and Muslims, more than one
marrying one male is not likely to increase fertility; on the contrary
to have a fertility depressant effect in both these communities.
Religious Sanction of Family Planning
Similarly, there is no truth to the assertion that Islam forbids
family planning. In a study entitled "Is Islam Against Family
points out that the Koran does not forbid family planning. What the
prohibit are abortions and sterilisations but even these are permitted
health grounds. Let us also note that the proportion of couples using
contraceptives in predominantly Muslim countries like Turkey, Indonesia
In India, the percentage of Muslims practicing family planning has gone
significantly: 40.7 per cent among Muslim women as revealed by Family
Practices in India : Third All India Survey brought out by the
Research Group in Baroda in 1990. Strikingly, this percentage has gone
than proportionately among Muslims from a figure of 23 per cent in the
All India Survey conducted a decade earlier.
The growth rate of the Muslim population is higher, since the birth rate
amongst Muslims is marginally higher than among Hindus. But this is
nor the real picture. Consider, for example, the data on fertility by
provided bu the Vital Statistics Division. It indicates that the
fertility among religious groups is less than that between the rural and
populations. The total fertility rate for Hindus in rural areas is 5.7
areas it is 4.2. For rural Muslims it is 6.2 while for urban Muslims it
Christians have the lowest total fertility rate (TER) of 4.4 in rural
urban areas. For the population as a whole, it is 5.8 in rural India and
urban India. This clearly means that other factors are more important
religion in explaining differentials in fertility.
The same document provides extremely interesting data on fertility in
to monthly per capita expenditure. With a per capita monthly expenditure
21 to Rs. 50, the total marital fertility rate among Indians is 6.8 in
rural and urban areas. With a rise in monthly per capita expenditure to
100, the total marital fertility declines to 5.8 for rural populations
for urban homes. At a monthly per capita expenditure of Rs. 101 and
total marital fertility rate drops to around 2.5 for both rural and
The data, then clearly indicate that decline in fertility is associated
among other factors, increasing income. It is thus more than likely that
the marginally higher fertility among Muslims reflects their relatively
socio-economic standing. Indeed, this is substantiated by a host of
national Sample Survey Organisation during the course of the 43rd Round
were published in 1990. This shows that in urban areas 47 per cent of
Hindus are employed in relatively secure, salaried, occupations in the
organized sector, in contrast to 29 per cent among Muslims. The majority
around 53 percent, are self employed. The figure among Hindus is 35.9
The self-employed are those whose households constitute both units of
production and consumption. The salaried have households which are units
consumption alone. And it is a well recognized demographic fact that
households (viz. the self-employed), given their low levels of technical
and income, have a larger size.
The same NSS also provides data on monthly per capita expenditures by
and rural/ urban residence. This reveals that close to 53 per cent of
Muslims have a monthly per capita expenditure of less than Rs. 160. The
corresponding figure among Hindus is 36 per cent. In the highest per
monthly expenditure group of more than Rs. 310, the proportion of Hindus
percent while that of Muslims was only 10 percent. Indeed an earlier
in urban India - where the majority of Muslims live – conducted by the
concluded that: 'Muslims in urban India are about 20 per cent below
per capita monthly expenditure which makes them nearly as poor as the SC
(Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe) communities. In contrast, the
average per capita expenditure for other religious groups (Jains,
Christians, Sikhs, etc.) taken together is about 18 per cent above that
general population in the urban sector of India as a whole.
Socio-economic Determinants of Fertility
It is well known that acceptance of family planning- and perhaps birth
is dependent upon a host of socio-economic factors. Some of the major
income, occupation, education and skills, access to technology, child
the economic value of children and security in old age. The significance
these lend further credence to the possibility that the Muslims have a
marginally higher birth rate because they are relatively more
Data from the 43rd Round of the NSS, referred to earlier, substantiate
point. With reference to literacy, data reveals that in rural India, 51
Hindu males are illiterate. The figure for Muslim males is 58 per cent.
contrast is even more striking for urban India: 25.3 per cent of Hindu
illiterate while among Muslim males the proportion is a significantly
Policy planners place a great deal of emphasis on female education and
employment as a means of reducing population growth. The NSS data
in urban India, an astonishing 42 per cent of Hindu females and 60 per
Muslim females are illiterate. Graduates constitute merely 4 per cent
Hindu females and a negligible 0.8 per cent among Muslim females. The
illiteracy rates are, of course, much higher among women in rural India
there the difference by religion is not very marked. School enrollment
and school continuation rates, at all ages in both urban and rural
significantly lower among Muslims than among Hindus. The differences are
glaring among females.
Data on work participation rates reveals that they are substantially
among females than among males. The female work participation rate among
Muslims females in urban India is the lowest at 11.5 per cent. In rural
it is 19.6 among Muslim females and 33.7 among Hindu females.
What we must remember, above all, is that neither Hindus nor Muslims are
undifferentiated, homogenous, communities and that we do not have data
demographic indicators and their determinants among comparable sections
Will Muslims Outnumber Hindus?
Yet another myth that has been propagated is that given the higher
among Muslims in India, they will soon outnumber Hindus. A study looks
this issue. The study projects the prevailing growth rates among Hindus
Muslims into the next century. The Hindu population increased by 23.71
between 1961-71 and by 24.71 per cent between 1971-81. This is an
0.71 per cent points. The Muslim population increased by 30.85 and 30.20
during the corresponding periods. This constitutes an increase of 0.05
points, which is much less than that of Hindus.
Assuming the same rate of increase into the future, Bhatia found that in
hundred years from 1981, ie; year 2081, Hindus and Muslims would record
decade growth rate of 30.71 and 30.55 per cent, respectively. In other
the growth rates of Hindus will be higher than that of Muslims. It is
true then, that Muslims will outnumber Hindus in India.
Further, data clearly indicate that there has been a decline in
all communities in both rural and urban areas. Between 1971 and 1981 the
general marital fertility for the Indian population declined by 19.2
rural India and 20.1 percent among Hindus in rural and urban India
The percentage decline among Muslims was 17.3 and 18.5 in rural and
respectively. Among Christians the decline was sharper at 31.2 per cent
and 26.4 percent. This data is also from the Registrar General and
Commissioner of India and are to be found in the publication Census of
1981, Series I, part II. What the data strikingly reveals is that there
been a significant decline in the fertility of the Muslim community in
urban areas; the decline in the fertility among Hindus is only
higher. The trend in fertility among the two communities is however,
points to is the task ahead of bringing about socio-economic development
country as a whole and including her largest minority population.
If facts are rationally examined, the inescapable conclusion is that
is not the primary and determining factor in population growth. The
propaganda only indicates that there is something frighteningly post-
about them, and that is the total disdain for science and scientific
Indeed, all fascistic enterprise have this in common, appealing to the
chauvinistic, atavistic urges among the people. The attempts to imbue
demography with religion is clearly guided by the same dangerous
1.Census of India, 1971, Series, 1. Miscellaneous Studies, Monograph
New Delhi, 1991.
2.Khan, M.E. (Ed). 1978. Birth Control Amongst Muslims in India. New
3.Ministry of Home Affairs. 1976. Fertility Differentials in India.
4.Bhattacharya, et al. 1986. "Disparities in level of living Across
and Social Groups in Urban India During 1973-74". Savekshana, journal of
NSSO, Vol. 10, No. 2.
5.Government of India . 1980. Planning Commission Report of the
Group on Population Policy. New Delhi.
6.P.S. Bhatia. 1990. "Population Growth of Various Communities in
Myth and Reality," Demography India. Vol. 19, No. 1, January.
"Let no unfortunate, helpless
be born in
country where the males have
their heart." - Ishwar
Dr. Mohan Rao
Associate Professor & Chairperson
Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health
School of Social Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi – 110067
Gram : JAYENU Tel : 6107676,616 7557/2420
Telex : 031-73167
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