The Sachar Committee report is out and is available for download here. The Committee was setup by the UPA government on March 9th, 2005 to study the Socio-Economic and Educational status of the Muslims in India. It was headed by Justice Rajender Sachar and had six other members Shri Sayyid Hamid, Dr T.K. Ooman, Shri M.A. Basith, Dr Akhtar Majeed, Dr Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr Rakesh Basant.
The Sachar committee report has a whole chapter dedicated to the politically controversial issue of Muslim demographic trends in India.The relevant pages in the document are from Page no 48 to 68.
The report says that according to the 2001 census the Muslim population in the country was enumerated at 138 Million. The report estimates that as of 2006 it must have crossed 150 Million people.
The report confirms that Muslims have higher population growth rates and higher fertility rates than the rest of the population even when adjusted to regional variations such as the North(with a higher population growth rates) or south(with near replacement level growth rates). In both instances the Muslim Population growth rate is slightly higher than that of the other Socio-religious communities in the said region.
The report also says that Muslims have the most favourable child sex ratio among all Socio-religious communities in the country. An average of 986 females to every 1000 males compared to 927/1000 for the general population.
They have a lower rate of Infant mortality compared to the rest of the population but paradoxically have a higher incidence of child under-nourishment cases.
Muslims have a younger age profile compared to the general population.
The Muslim Population has for historical reasons a more urban profile than the rest of the population. According to the 2001 census 35.7% of the Muslim population was urban compared to 27.8% for the overall population.
Spatial distribution– Numerically, the majority of the Muslims in India are living in four states UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra which had atleast ten million Muslims each. UP has the largest Muslim population in India with 22% of India’s muslims living there according to the 2001 census i.e., around 30 million people.
The other states with a significant Muslim population are Kerala, AP, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka with a population of between five to ten million Muslims each. Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu have a Muslim population of between 3 to 5 million each. Delhi, Haryana and Uttaranchal have one to two million each.
With regard to the district wise distribution. The report says that of the 593 districts in India only 20 had a Muslim majority. Of them 9 are predominantly Muslim, i.e., with over 75% Muslim population; these include Lakshadweep and eight districts in Jammu & Kashmir. The other 11 districts have between 50 to 75% Muslim population.These districts are six from Assam, two from J&K, and one each from WB, Bihar and Kerala. Numerically about 13% of India’s Muslims i.e., nearly 18 Million people lived in these districts.
A further 38 districts had a significant Muslim population of between 25% to 50%. These were distributed in a number of states as follows. UP- 12, WB- 5, Kerala- 5, Assam- 4, Bihar- 3, Jharkhand- 2, Delhi- 2, and one each in AP, Haryana, J&K, Uttaranchal and Pondicherry. Numerically these districts accounted for 22% of the Muslim population i.e., around 30 Million people.
In about 182 districts the Muslim population was between 10 to 25% of the population. These districts accounted for nearly 47% of the Muslim Population ie., around 65 Million people.
So of the 593 districts in India, 240 districts with a significant Muslim population of atleast 10% and above have nearly 82% of India’s Muslim population, i.e., nearly 113 Million people.
A further 77 districts have most of the remaining share of 18% i.e., nearly 25 million.
Demographic processes– The report considers population change as a product of three processes- Mortality, Fertility and Migration.
Mortality– The report says that the Muslim child mortality in both indicators i.e., IMR(Infant mortality rate) and U5MR (Under five mortality rate) is lower than the average of the overall population. The report attributes it to probably higher levels of urbanisation among Indian Muslims and points out that within urban areas the Muslim child mortality rates is closer to the average mortality rates prevalent in urban India.
Fertility– The report endorses the various surveys such as NFHS-1, NFHS-2 and the Census which shows higher than average TFR(Total Fertility Rates) for Muslims when compared to the overall population. The TFR for Muslims is supposedly higher by 0.7 to 1 percentage point than the average for the rest of the population. Also other measures of fertility such as CBR(crude birth rate) is also higher at 30.8 compared to 25.9 for the total population. But the report stresses that the overall trend since the past two decades has been a decline in fertility rate among all religious groups including the Muslims. It shows that in the southern states where population growth rates are lower than the north the TFR for Muslims stands at 2.5 to 2.8 quite close to the prevailing population growth rates in the South of the country.
The report also says that the use of contraception is widely prevalent among Muslims but to a lesser degree than the average for the overall population. In contraceptive prevalence rate there is a supposed gap of 10% between the Muslims and the average. The report also says that reversible methods of contraception are more favoured by Muslim couples rather than non-reversible methods such as sterilisation. As per the report atleast one third of the Muslim couples were reported to be using some sort of contraception.
Migration– The report says that the contribution of Migration to the growth differential has been very small. It stresses that much of the population growth can be explained with respect to the higher fertility rates and lower child mortality rates among Muslims and the perception that there has been considerable ‘international migration’ (an eupheism for illegal Bangladeshi immigration) of Muslims into India is not correct. But it does not give any stats to prove its case that the widespread illegal Bangladeshi immigration into India has been as inconsequential as it claims it to be.
Future growth prospects– The report expects the Muslim population growth to reach replacement levels i.e., a TFR of 2.1 during the decade of the 2040’s with a overall population around 320-340 million in a total population of 1.7 to 1.8 billion. The Muslim population then according to the report would comprise nearly 19% of the total population from the current 13%.A jump of 6 percentage points.
The report says that this is due to a number of factors such as higher TFR’s, lower child mortality rates, and a better than average child sex ratio among muslims which would mean that the Muslim population growth would start to plateau around 10-15 years after it has for other social and religious communities in the country.
The report also tries to answer the question of whether and if so when will the Muslim population become the largest group.The report largely discounts the possibility of this happening within the Indian union. But it goes on to add that by 2050 in the area of pre-partition India (i.e., including Pakistan & Bangladesh) the combined population of Muslims and Christians together would be close to the 50% mark in comparison to the Indian religionists (i.e., Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Others).
In conclusion the report succeeds in putting a lot of issues related to the Muslim demographic trends in India in perspective. It is always better to have hard data, any data even if poorly compiled and analysed rather than depend on just perception as always is the case in India.
But there are some issues that the report tries to play down. One is that of illegal Bangladeshi immigration.It tries to dismiss it as inconsequential but all reports on the ground point out that this has been anything but inconsequential. This is one point where the report smacks of partisanship.Since this report was commissioned by the UPA and the perception is that many of the UPA partners and comrades depend on the votes of these illegal immigrants to get elected. This line take by the Sachar report on this sensitive issue only throws a question mark on its credibility as an objective source of Information in this regard.
The other is the sleight of hand where it suddenly introduces some unknown “source” and says that according to it the combined Muslim and Christian population of South Asia would cross 50% around 2050. Where did it get this piece of gem from? Did it also go through the census records of all the SAARC countries? or Did it just quote some random UN report? Why does it not offer its “source” so that it can be fully scrutinised?
And again this report does not consider the prospect that many people from neighbouring countries could ‘migrate’ to India for better economic prospects thereby making many of the conclusions drawn by this report redundant. Many of the districts in the North East, WB and other parts of India could well see a significant demographic shift because of ‘International immigration’ (illegal Bangladeshi immigration) and what if some of these regions are radicalised? How would that affect the National security situation in the decades ahead?