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"Slowdown in growth rate of Muslims"

Sunday 1 May 2005

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: A detailed analysis of `The First Report on Religion Data’ has exploded several myths about Muslims. Contrary to popular perception that the growth rate among Muslims was galloping, a study conducted by an experts’ committee - set up by the National Commission for Minorities - shows that there has been a slowdown in the community’s growth rate.

Announcing the results of the study here on Saturday, demographer Ashis Bose said that while the inter-censal growth of Muslim population during 1991-2001 was higher than the overall growth of the country’s population during the same decade, the community’s growth dropped by 3.4 per cent over the same period.

The inter-censal growth of Muslim population was 29.5 per cent as against 32.9 per cent during 1981-91, 30.7 per cent in 1971-81 and 30.8 per cent in 1961-71. While the 29.5 per cent growth of Muslim population was higher than the overall 21.5 per cent growth of the country’s population during 1991-2001, this was the first time it cut through the 30 per cent barrier.

Family planning

Also, Prof. Bose said there was no merit in the perception that Muslims were against family planning. "Overall, the ideas of fertility regulation and small family size are being well accepted by the Muslim community in India as has been the case in major Islamic countries like Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, Bangladesh, Libya and Malaysia.’’

The analysis revealed that as high as 37 per cent of Muslim women were practising family planning measures. And, the opposition to family planning measures was not because of religious reasons, but the method. Most women opposed to family planning measures were not favourably inclined towards sterilisation.

National pattern

Of the view that the higher than average fertility and growth of Muslims is a passing phase in the process of fertility transition, Prof. Bose said migration from Bangladesh was also a contributory factor to the community’s growth. However, in the absence of data on migrations, the committee was unable to fix the quantum of its influence on the overall growth of the community. Added to this the fact that the migrants have now moved to all parts of the country unlike in earlier decades when they confined themselves to the border districts.

The growth of Muslims followed the national pattern: low in the Southern States and higher in the Northern States - particularly Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The community has bettered the national sex ratio of 933 with 936 girls to 1,000 boys.

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