Monday, May 27, 2024

Population Foundation of India says PM-EAC population study is misreported, used to create fear about Muslim population

The Population Foundation of India (PFI) said it is deeply concerned about the recent media reports that are misreporting the findings from the study by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister “Share of Religious Minorities: A Cross-Country Analysis (1950-2015)” to spread alarm regarding the growth of the Muslim population in India.

“Such interpretations are not only inaccurate but also misleading and baseless,” said PFI, an independent think tank working on population trends and reproductive/sexual health.

This paper discusses the share of religious minorities in 167 countries, including India.

The paper claimed that for India, while the share in population of Muslims increased by 43.15% in this time period of 1950-2015, the share in population of Hindus decreased by 7.82%, adding that in 1950, Hindus’ share in population was 84.68%, coming down to 78.06% in 2015. Similarly, Muslims’ share in population had risen from 9.84% to 14.09%.

The study’s focus on changes in the share of majority and minority religious groups globally over a 65-year period should not be used to incite fear or discrimination against any community. “The media’s selective portrayal of data to highlight the increase in the Muslim population is an example of misrepresentation that ignores broader demographic trends,” said Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India.

Since the publication of the report, the BJP and Hindutva right-wing activists have been using social media to abuse Muslims in India.

“According to the Census of India, the decadal growth rate for Muslims has been declining over the past three decades. Specifically, the decadal growth rate for Muslims decreased from 32.9% in 1981-1991 to 24.6% in 2001-2011. This decline is more pronounced than that of Hindus, whose growth rate fell from 22.7% to 16.8% over the same period. The census data is available from 1951 to 2011 and is quite similar to the data in this study, indicating that these numbers are not new,” said PFI.

It also noted that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) among all religious groups is declining. The highest decrease in TFR from 2005-06 to 2019-21 was observed among Muslims, which dropped by 1 percentage point, followed by Hindus at 0.7 percentage points. This trend underscores that the fertility rates are converging across different religious communities. Fertility rates are closely linked to education and income levels, not religion. States with better access to education, healthcare, and socioeconomic development, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, exhibit lower TFRs across all religious groups. For example, the TFR among Muslim women in Kerala (2.25) is lower than the TFR among Hindu women in Bihar (2.88).

The Population Foundation of India said: “Successful family planning programs in Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia have resulted in lower birth rates compared to India. These countries have achieved this through higher levels of female education, greater employment opportunities, and better access to contraceptive choices. This clearly shows that fertility decline is influenced by development factors rather than religious affiliation.”

“The most effective way to manage population growth is through investment in education, economic development, and gender equity,” said Poonam Muttreja. “Our analysis indicates that women’s education is the most critical factor in reducing fertility rates. Therefore, interventions should focus on providing education and family planning services irrespective of religion.”

“There are several population issues the world is grappling with. The world is currently witnessing two distinct population trajectories: in developed countries, populations are aging and declining, presenting complex challenges for social and economic sustainability, while certain regions in the developing world are experiencing population growth, characterized by a large young population with enormous potential. This stark contrast in demographic trends underscores the multifaceted nature of global population dynamics, necessitating nuanced policy approaches to address the diverse needs and dynamics of populations across different regions. India needs to invest in women and young people to reap demographic and gender dividends. Additionally, it will need to prepare for an aging population in the future, which could yield a silver dividend,” read the statement by PFI.

Population Foundation of India has urged the media to refrain from using demographic studies to create fear and division.

“It is essential to present data accurately and contextually, highlighting the role of education, income, and socioeconomic development in shaping demographic trends. We advocate for policies that promote inclusive development and gender equity to ensure a balanced and harmonious society,” it said.

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