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Published in the 16-31 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Muslim growth rate down: NCM

The Milli Gazette Online

New Delhi: The National Commission for Minorities on 30 April came out with an in-depth analysis of the religion-based data in the Census 2001 report, saying that though the growth rate of the Muslim community is more than other communities as per the latest census, it has actually declined over the years compared to earlier figures. 

An expert committee of demographers set up by the NCM found that the growth rate of the Muslim community from 1991 to 2001 across India was 29.5 per cent as against 21.5 per cent for all communities. "However, this was lower than the growth rate during 1981-91 (32.9 per cent), 1971-81 (30.7 per cent) and 1961-71 (30.8 per cent)," the head of the committee, Prof. Ashish Bose of the Society for Applied Research in Humanities, said.

After analysing the religion-based data in the Census 2001 report, Prof. Bose said the above-average growth rate of the Muslim community was primarily due to higher-than-average fertility and lower mortality. "The growth rate of the Muslim population may still be high, but it is nothing to be alarmed about and will stabilise over the years as this is a transitional phase," he said. Prof. Bose said that polygamy was least prevalent among Muslims in India.

While the total fertility rate (the number of children per woman) was 3.6 among Muslims, it was 2.8 for Hindus, 2.4 for Christians and 2.3 for Sikhs. While the highest growth rate for Muslims was found in Assam at 31 per cent, it was the lowest in Kerala at 15.8 per cent.

The committee, which presented its findings to Muslim intellectuals at a special session here, observed that the reduction in the growth rate of Muslims during 1991-2001 was largely on account of their "adoption of the small family norm".
"We have found that 37 per cent of Muslims practice family planning and only nine per cent of Muslim women are opposed to it. But this is mainly because they do not favour methods like sterilisation, and we believe that they will come around if culture-sensitive family control methods are introduced, as has happened in Iran," Prof. Bose said, adding that "Muslims also have a higher sex ratio of 936 girls per 1,000 boys as against the national average of 933."

An analysis of the 2001 Census statistics on religious minorities revealed that infant mortality rate among Muslims is less than other communities despite poor economic conditions of their large population. Like other Islamic countries, the use of contraceptives among Indian Muslims is no longer an issue. ''It is substantial among Muslims in India, though at a lower level than other communities,'' Prof. Bose added. ''Thirty-five per cent of Muslims are urban and most of them are poor. But in rural areas, their lifestyle is at par with other communities,'' he said.

He observed that migration, especially from Bangladesh, is one of the reasons for higher Muslim population in border districts. ''In Assam, for instance, Muslim population growth is 31 per cent, highest in the country, and ten of the 23 districts have 51 per cent of Muslims living there,'' Prof. Bose said. 

In his remarks, NCM chief Tarlochan Singh said the analysis had shown that no community could be ''penalised'' for its higher population growth which depends upon a number of factors.

The committee consisted of Prof Bose, Prof PA Kulkarni (JNU), Prof. Mari Bhat (DU), Prof. TK Rai (former director, IIPS, Mumbai). It had earlier presented its anlaysis on the census data concerning Sikhs, Parsis and Christians. Muslim intellectual who were present and took part in the discussion that followed this presentation included Saiyid Hamid, Ahmad Rasheed Shervani, Dr Syed Ausaf Ali, Dr S Farooq, Prof Sughra Mehdi, Masoom Muradabadi and MG editor, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan. The participants urged the commission to delete contents of propaganda nature and present the real facts to the nation.

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