By R.K. Ohri, IPS (Red)
During the last several decades, a lot of disinformation has been propagated across the world, especially in developing countries, that any increase in population per se is an impediment to economic development. Malthusian theory was used as the medium for spreading this disinformation. Truth, however, is altogether different. Manpower or human resource is a great asset for economic development. In fact, it is the greatest asset. But there is an important caveat: the population must be educated and invested with professional skills. Therefore, the real roadblocks to economic development are illiteracy and lack of skill. Youthful population, if it is educated and skilled, is the biggest harbinger of enhanced productivity and higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It will surprise the Indian middle class that the latest threat to the humankind does not emanate from over-population; it comes from new arrivals, a phenomenon that will lead to depopulation of many countries. After invention of contraceptives, all over world, except Muslim countries, fertility levels have sharply declined by more than half since 1972?from six children per woman in 1972 to 2.9 in 1990s. According to the United Nations Population Report 2002, Europe'sfertility rates are now far below the replacement level of 2.1. Population of Russia is decreasing by 75,00,000 every year and the country'sPresident Vladimir Putin considers it a ?national crisis?. The population of Germany could go down by one-fifth in the next 40 years, Bulgaria'sby 38 per cent and Romania'sby 27 per cent. Muslim countries, however, are striking exceptions to the global trend of declining population. In Europe, Albania and Kosovo are growing fast, and so are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, a majority of middle-class Hindu elite and opinion-makers do not understand the weird phenomenon of demographic decimation which destroyed the secular and multicultural ethos of Lebanon, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc., solely because the fast population growth of Muslims outpaced the Christian numbers. That was how finally these countries/territories were overwhelmed by Muslim majorities. A similar demographic change now threatens the pluralistic and secular ethos of Macedonia, and France. In Macedonia, the Muslims were only eight per cent in the year 1900. By now they form nearly one-third of the country'stotal population. In France between 1970 and 1990, the Christian population declined by two millions, from 425,58,000, while Muslims multiplied three times, from 13,53,000 to 38,50,000 in the same period. The recent orgy of car burning and violence by Muslim youth in France is to a large extent rooted in the fast changing demography of France.
Apart from the tragic fate of the Christians of the Balkans, it is time we learnt some lessons from the three-week-long rioting in France which resulted in burning of 30,000 cars and damage by arson to 200 public buildings, including many nursery schools. It led to more than 3,200 arrests and nearly 400 rioters have already been sentenced to prison terms. According to underwriters damages caused to property by rioters were estimated between 80 million and 150 million Francs.
According to the United Nations Population Report 2002, Europe'sfertility rates are now far below the replacement level of 2.1. Population of Russia is decreasing by 75,00,000 every year and the country'sPresident Vladimir Putin considers it a ?national crisis?. The population of Germany could go down by one-fifth in the next 40 years, Bulgaria'sby 38 per cent and Romania'sby 27 per cent. Muslim countries, however, are striking exceptions to the global trend of declining population.
In view of the fast-changing population profile of India, it is necessary to understand the long-term implications of the following facts gleaned from the data relating to the last six censuses held in India, since 1951:
1. Since Independence in percentage terms there has been a relentless increase in the population of only one community, i.e., the Muslims, to the exclusion of every other religious group. The percentage growth of all other communities, e.g., Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians have been in a declining mode. On top of it, since 1981 the Muslim population growth has gathered speed and is now in a massive fast forward mode.
2. Census 2001 disclosed that the decadal growth rate of Muslims was around 36 per cent, while the Hindu growth rate had declined from 23 per cent to 20 per cent. It led to an unseemly political controversy on the ground that no census had taken place in J&K state in 1991. And that led to a very clumsy fudging of census 2001, by omitting from census headcount as many as 3.67 crore people living in Jammu & Kashmir and Assam, the two states having high Muslim population. (It may be recalled that no census could be held in Assam in 1981 due to disturbed conditions, but that did not result in any political ruckus). There was no fudging of data then. The most extraordinary aspect of this exercise was the deletion with retrospective effect of the population of these two sensitive states from every census held since 1961?something never done in any democratic country.
3. In January 2005, it was highlighted in a lucid article by two well-known professional demographers, P.N. Mari Bhat and A.J. Francis Zavier, that ?the fertility of Muslims, which was about 10 per cent higher than that of Hindus before Independence, is now 25 to 30 per cent higher than the Hindu rate.? (Source: Role of Religion in Fertility Decline: The case of Indian Muslims, Economic & Political Weekly, January 29, 2005). In other words, the overall growth of Muslim population is now something like 45 per cent higher than that of the Hindus.
4. As analysed by Mari Bhat and Francis Zavier, the assertion made in a section of English media that census 2001 revealed a higher reduction in the growth rate of Muslims than Hindus was incorrect. Actually the decline in Hindu growth rate was higher at 12.2 per cent as against a decline of 10.3 per cent in Muslim growth, as explained by two demographers in detail.
5. There is no truth in the assertion that higher Muslim fertility was due to their poverty or illiteracy. Since 36 per cent Muslims live in urban areas, as against only 26 per cent Hindus, and Muslims have a higher life expectancy at birth than Hindus (by 1.2 years according to two NFHS surveys), logically their fertility should have been lower than Hindus. But the situation on the ground shows that the fertility of Muslim continues to be higher despite their greater urbanisation.
6. There is a substantial difference in the acceptance of family planning by Muslims, which is lower at least by 25 per cent than Hindus and other communities. The real reason is ?religion?. The two professional demographers have described the community'shigher fertility as ?Muslim effect?, a somewhat colourful, but truthful, expression. (Source: p.397 of Economic & Political Weekly, January 29, 2005]
7. Interestigly Mari Bhat and Francis Zavier have highlighted the fact that in non-Muslim countries there is a general trend towards higher growth rate of Muslim populations.
8. According to NFHS Survey-2 (National Family Health Survey-2 of 1998-99) in Kerala where the literacy level of two communities is almost equal (and due to large Gulf remittances economically Muslims are better off than Hindus) the growth rate of Muslims is much higher than that of Hindus?by almost 50 per cent.
9. The National Family Health Survey-2 (1998) had revealed that on an average every Muslim woman was giving birth to 1.1 more children than her Hindu counterpart.
It must be clarified that both Mari Bhat and Francis Zavier are not the so-called ?right wing? Hindu fundamentalists, as is evident from their occasionally chiding the Hindu ?right? at one or two places. Both of them are wellknown professional demographers. At least one of them is a Christian?even both could be.
It is high time the Hindus understood the mind-boggling import of the highly revealing Statement 7 of Census 2001 Religion Data Report (page XIII), which gives the religion-wise breakup of children in the 0-6 years age-group. It shows that the percentage of Muslim cohorts (a term commonly used in demographic parlance) is 21 per cent higher than Hindu cohorts. It may be recalled that according to census 2001 Muslims constitute only 13.4 per cent of India'spopulation. But their population in 0-6 years age group is 21 per cent higher than that of Hindus, giving a headstart advantage of 7.6 per cent to Muslim community over the Hindus, as and when these cohorts enter the age of reproduction, say roughly between 2011 and 2016. This single page of Census 2001 Report gives a total clue to the demographic crisis likely to engulf India, say anytime after 2011 or 2021. These 0-6 years old cohorts (enumerated in 2001) will become reproductively active between 2011 and 2016 and then continue to reproduce for the next 30-40 years. With a 21 per cent higher cohort population and at least 25-30 per cent less acceptance of family planning, the growth in Muslims population during the next four decades is likely to become even more fast paced. It is simple arithmetic?even a high school student can understand it and do it.
(To be concluded)