Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Dispelling population myths triggered by a working paper


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Religious Composition of the Population;

Why in the News?

The working paper released by the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to the Prime Minister makes an erroneous assertion regarding the growth of the Muslim population.

Composition of the Population of various communities highlighted by EAC:

  • Absolute Increase in Population (1950-2015): Hindu population grew by 701 million. The Muslim population increased by 146 million.
  • Proportional Changes: The proportion of Hindus in the population fell by 6.64 percentage points (from 84.7% in 1950 to 78.06% in 2015). The proportion of Muslims increased by 4.25 percentage points (from 9.84% in 1950 to 14.09% in 2015).
    • Despite these changes, the Muslim population remains significantly smaller compared to the Hindu population.

What does the 2011 census say?

  • The proportion of the Hindu population to the total population in 2011 declined by 0.7 percentage points (PP); the proportion of the Sikh population declined by 0.2 PP and the Buddhist population declined by 0.1 PP during the decade 2001-2011.
  • The proportion of the Muslim population to the total population has increased by 0.8 PP. There has been no significant change in the proportion of Christians & Jains.

Issue of Misinterpretation and Sensationalism of Data:

  • Misleading Media Reports: Many media reports and politicians have sensationalized the findings of the EAC-PM working paper inaccurately suggesting that the Muslim population in India is growing rapidly while posing a threat to the Hindu population.
    • Such interpretations contribute to a divisive political narrative and misinform the public about population issues.
  • Limitations of the Paper: The working paper itself states that understanding changes in religious demography is a multivariate phenomenon. However, the paper does not contain sufficient evidence to support this claim.

The true story behind this Data::

  • Influence of Socio-Economic Factors: Population growth is significantly influenced by socio-economic conditions such as education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Higher fertility rates in a community often reflect lower levels of socio-economic development rather than religious factors.
  • Policies and Development Indicators: The Muslim community in India has a higher population growth rate primarily because it lags in some of the Population and Marriage policies that affect socio-economic development indicators as compared to the Hindu community.

Need for Exact Data:

  • Contextual Analysis: Detailed analysis is essential to avoid misinterpretation of demographic changes. Understanding the multi-faceted reasons behind population changes requires considering socio-economic, cultural, and political factors.
    • Religious Composition: According to the Pew Research Center (2021), the proportion of India’s six largest religious groups has remained relatively stable since Partition.
    • Fertility Rates: Recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS) rounds indicate significant declines in Muslim fertility rates.

Conclusion: Accurate and comprehensive analysis is necessary to understand population trends and avoid fueling divisive narratives.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Demographic Dividend in India will remain only theoretical unless our manpower becomes more educated, aware, skilled, and creative.” What measures have been taken by the government to enhance the capacity of our population to be more productive and employable? (UPSC IAS/2016)

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