Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of financial aid to pregnant women in his new year’s address has led to suggestions that Muslim women would benefit the most from this scheme as they produce more children than any other religious sect in India.
Muslims today comprise of 184 million people in India or around 14.5 percent of total population (compared to Hindus who have fallen below 80%) as of 2015.
A Pew Research Center report predicts that by 2050, India will overtake Indonesia to have the largest Muslim population in the world. The Muslims are expected to swell to 310 million, or almost 18% of the population while Hindus would hover around 77%. As of now, Indonesia has 209 million, followed by India (176 million) and Pakistan (167 million).
This has led to unseemly concern among Hindus that Muslims are in an overdrive to produce more children so as to skew the demographic profile of India. They put the arguments below in support of their theory:
- That Muslims in India are poorer and less educated which results in high growth rate;
- That Muslim women get married at an early age (16-20 years) which means higher fertility rate;
- That Muslims have younger children (0-6 years) population as compared to Hindus
- That Muslims in India are less interested in adopting family planning measures in India.
However facts and figures fly in different directions.
Muslims have witnessed a sharp fall in growth rate to 24.60 in the 2001-2011 decade compared to 29.52 growth of the previous decade (1991-2001). An average Muslim family is of lesser number (5.15) in 2011 than what it was a decade earlier (5.61). The average members of an Indian family is 4.45 persons. This points out upward mobility of Indian Muslims in terms of education and career growth.
Indeed, across all religious groups in India, there’s been a decline in population growth. Buddhists have shown the sharpest decline due to an ageing population.
As of now, Indian Muslims are in majority in two states: the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir.
Just three states—Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam comprise of almost 47 per cent of entire Muslim population in India. Rampur is the only district with a Muslim majority in Uttar Pradesh. The Muslim population in West Bengal and Assam has been fuelled by refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh.
So folks, hold your horses. Don’t see the PM’s announcement as a sop to Muslims. It’s an inclusive scheme for all Indians. Welcome it instead of tearing it apart on religious lines.
(As an aside, Muslims are likely to equal Christians by 2050 (around 2.82 billion). Hindus would be around 1.38 billion. The world’s total population is set to rise to 9.3 billion by 2050, a rise of 35%).