Census of India: Reading between the Lines

Ever since Census of India has declared much awaited figures and findings, the communal agents have been using the lop-sided figures to advance their interests and ideology. Census of India officials must release the survey findings only after doing a complete and thorough analysis and highlighting all significant points. In this article, SHADAB HUSSAIN attempts to provide another view of census results while reading between the lines in the Analysis presented by Census of India office.

 

Before proceeding on to the article, please read the select passages from “Brief Analysis of 2001 Census Religion Data”, an advisory report by department of Census of India.1

Sex ratio in the age group 0-6 (number of female children to every 1000 male children in age group 0-6). At the All-India level the Sikh population has recorded the lowest child sex ratio of 786 at the 2001Census preceded by Jains at 870. Christians have reported the highest child sex ratio of 964 followed by Muslims at 950 and Buddhists at 942. Hindus have reported a child sex ratio of 925 which is slightly lower than the national average of 927 for the total population. Among Muslims, Jammu & Kashmir has the highest child sex ratio of 980 whereas Punjab has the lowest 879. Haryana has also reported Muslim child sex ratio of 895. As regards Christians, in 20 states and union territories the child sex ratio is above 951. As opposed to this, in 27 states and union territories, the child sex ratio of Sikh population is below 900. The picture is further depressing, as in nine states and union territories including Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Haryana wherein the child sex ratio is below 800 among Sikhs. It may be seen that sex ratio in age group 0-6 is very depressed in northern states for all the religions barring a few exceptions. The child sex ratio patterns among the major religious communities in some of the states such as Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat depict similar but pronounced bias against the girl child irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Percentage of child population in the age group 0-6 to total population Muslim population records the highest proportion of population in the age group 0-6 at 18.7 percent followed by Other Religions and Persuasions (18.0 percent). The lowest proportion of population in this age group is seen among Jains at 10.6 percent preceded by Sikhs at12.8 percent. In fact barring the Muslims and Other Religions and Persuasions, remaining religious communities have returned lower proportion in this age group as compared to the national average.

Jain population, Figure 1f, have clearly demonstrated that high female literacy has been a significant contributing factor among others, such as, their high urbanization and ascetic beliefs, leading to the lowest overall proportion of child population age 0-6 (10.6%).

The Sikh population (figure1d) also shows a similar trend and their fertility appears to be lower than other populations except possibly Jains. On the other hand Muslim population (figure 1b) has higher proportion of children age 0-6 (18.7%) and the slope is less steep, say for example, when compared to Hindus (figure1a). This is clearly reflected in the overall lower female literacy rate for Muslim women and possibly of its improvement in recent years. The past legacy of low female Muslim literacy, which is to some extent true even for segments of the Hindu population, such as the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes among them, has had possibly a (negative) role to play in not accelerating the pace of fertility decline. It is therefore imperative that governments invest in improving the overall female literacy, particularly for the Muslims and sections of the Hindu society and these communities in turn need to respond positively and faster than ever before and remove if there exists any female bias in educating their women – girls and adolescents both. While these trends on the relationship between female literacy and proportion of child population age 0-6 are clearly visible and discernible from the 2001 Census data on religion, it would be prudent for the policy makers and planners to examine such issues in greater depth and isolate the influence of various other factors before jumping to firm conclusions.

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Despite highlighting above salient points, the problem with the report lies however in not showing any link between sex ratio in child population and the fertility of the communities. Also, The Survey captures the child population figures but doesn’t use them for growth rates.

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The census has shown the growth rate of each religious community for last 10 years in the chart at the bottom of this page. The census has also captured child, between 0 and 6 years, proportion of population for each of religion apart from overall population. The proportion of child population to the overall population excluding child population will provide the growth rate of child population in last six years. The table on the next page shows the child growth rate which can be interpreted as Growth rate for each of community for last 6 years. The columns A & B indicate the data provided by Census Report.

Census figures show sex ratio of females to every thousand males for each religious community in the chart shown beside. Now, think for a moment as to why there is a varying sex ratio in different communities hough most communities belong to same ethnicity in any particular state. For example in Jammu & Kashmir the sex ratio for child population Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs is 980, 855 and 773 respectively. In Punjab, the sex ratio is 879, 821 and 780 for Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs respectively. The horribly skewed sex ratio in such states is because of extreme prejudice against girl child especially among Sikh and Hindus. Although, Muslims are not completely exempted from horrors of female feticide but they have shown highest sex ratio figures just below Christians which reflects better regard for female life. This phenomenon is significantly visible in the northern, western and central India which contains major population of India.

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Interestingly in Gujarat, the home of Hindutva, the sex ratio among Hindus in both overall and in child population is way below the national average. The difference in child population sex ratio between Hindus (880) and Muslims (913) in Gujarat is significant 33 points. This low and uneven sex ratio figure is however not visible in southern states where there is lesser or negligible girl feticide. For example, in Kerala, sex ratio in child population among Muslims is 959 while it is 961 for Hindus and 960 for Christians. Low sex ratio is because of extreme prejudice against girl fetus, which leads to abortion, especially among Sikh and Hindu communities in Northern, Western and Central India.

The sex ratio of Muslims in child population is 950 while that of Hindus is 925. This means loss of 25 girl fetuses for every 1000 male fetuses among Hindus as compared to Muslims. The loss of 25 girls, relative to Muslims, in Hindu community for every 1000 males reflects a decrease of 1.28% of growth rate compared to Muslims. Census officials must present holistic perspective of survey findings by considering child growth rate and sex ratio rather than displaying a biased approach which is evident from the fact that initially Census Officials released Muslims growth rate as unadjusted 36% instead of adjusted 29% owing to non-inclusion of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir in previous census exercises. By the time they clarified, damage was done by communal agents who used the unadjusted data to advance their anti-Muslim hate propaganda.

While literacy plays an important role in low fertility, worldly education system has failed to inculcate morals to award equal rights of birth and life to Male and Female. This is clear from the fact that sex ratio is worse in urban areas, where there is more literacy and education than rural areas. The right to life is most fundamental of all and in order to achieve low fertility, it should not be deprived only to female fetus. Muslims and Christians should be commended for highest and better sex ratio, among all religious groups, which indicates better treatment of women. Female feticide not only impacts unborn girl child but even those girls who got an opportunity of birth and life. States like Haryana, Delhi etc with low sex ratio have horrendous crime rate against Women. The vested interests in the country that were quick to use unadjusted growth data to accuse Muslims and minorities of trying to outnumber Hindus in country, should first put their own house in order.2

The communal agents, advocate immigration and  expansion of minority Hindus in countries abroad but don’t want to let minorities grow in India. A survey should be carried out to find the sex ratio among the members of such organizations and then we may discover some interesting results.

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Footnotes: 

1. Census of India, ‘Brief Analysis of 2001 Census Religion Data’, http://www.censusindia.net/religiondata/Brief_analysis.pdf

2. Indian Express, ‘VHP asks Hindus to increase population’, http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=48885#compstory

Shadab Hussain is an IT professional with interests in contemporary Muslim issues and History.