The issue of population control has become a hot topic of debate after the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh released a population control bill. The BJP said Assam has already passed a resolution in the assembly on the matter and introduced measures discouraging people from having more than two children. Muslim organisations, in particular, oppose such measures, and now the communist newspaper The Hindu has offered a completely misleading claim that there is no need for a population policy.
In one article titled “No Need for Drastic Population Policy” authored by Subhanil Chowdhury and Saswata Ghosh published on July 29, they used faulty charts and misleading data to make their case.
The article first argues that according to the population projection released in 2019 by the Union Department of Health and Family Welfare, UP will reach the total fertility rate of 2.1, which is considered the replacement rate, by 2025, and Assam should already have reached this level. rate by 2020. This means that the population of UP and Assam will not increase from 2025 and 2020 respectively, so there is no need for population control measures, claims the Hindu article.
The authors chose a single data point from 268 pages document claim that the population will stabilize very soon in both states, which is completely false. According to the same population projection document cited in the article, the population of UP is expected to increase from 23.1 crores in 2021 to 25.59 crores in 2036, an increase of 2.5 crores. Similarly, the population of Assam is projected to increase from 3.5 crore in 2021 to 3.94 crore in 2036. This shows that both states are projected to experience an 11% increase in population over the next 15 years.
This means that the population projection does not say that the population in the two states will stabilize soon, as the authors erroneously claim. Even though 2.1 TFR is considered the replacement rate, other factors affect population growth, such as the increase in life expectancy of the population due to the availability of better health care, food nutrients, transition to non-hazardous occupations, etc.
It was a minor infraction compared to what The Hindu did next. They printed a completely misleading chart to prove that the population growth rate of Muslims and Hindus is the same. The proposed population control measures will be applicable to all citizens, so it is confusing what was the need to compare the fertility rate of Muslims and Hindus.
Citing data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-2, the article claims that the fertility rates of Muslim and Hindu women in Assam, UP, Bihar and West Bengal are similar. They plotted the fertility data on graphs, placing the Hindu fertility rate on the X axis and similarly for Muslims on the Y axis. At first glance, the graphs show that the fertility rate of the two communities Is similar. But on closer inspection, one can see how the authors manipulated the graph to arrive at this conclusion.
When creating the graph, they used different scales for Hindus and Muslims, while each unit on the X axis represents a rate of 1% for Hindus, each unit on the Y axis for Muslims represents in fact a rate of 2%. This means that, for the same unit on the graph, the Muslim fertility rate is actually twice the Hindu fertility rate.
Also, the graphs were prepared by taking data for four districts each in the four states, and the important thing is that the article does not mention which districts were used. As Hindu-Muslim population shares vary from district to district in all states, this is an important factor in comparing population growths.
Also, while the article mentions that the fertility rate of both Hindus and Muslims has declined, it fails to mention that the same for Muslims remains higher than for Hindus. This means that the proportion of Muslims in the total population will continue to increase, albeit at a slower rate. On a national average, the fertility rate of Muslims is 0.8% higher than that of Hindus, according to NFHS data cited by The Hindu. 0.8% is no small difference when the fertility rate is between 2% and 4% for most states. Clearly, Muslim women give birth to almost one more child than Hindus.
The article further mentions that the fertility rate of Hindus is higher than that of Muslims in 4 districts of Assam, 11 districts of Bihar, 22 districts of UP and 3 districts of West Bengal. This is completely misleading and useless information, as it is only tiny portions of the total districts in these states. Because Assam has 34 districts, Bihar has 38 districts, UP has 75 districts and West Bengal has 23 districts.
This means, by the article’s own admission, with the exception of a small number of districts, that the fertility rate of Muslims and Hindus is higher in most districts. While the authors claim that higher population growth among Muslims is “a figment of right-wing imagination and unsupported by facts”, the fact is completely opposite. The data shows that the fertility rate among Muslims remains higher than among Hindus, and the authors attempted to challenge this by selecting data from a small number of districts and incorrectly plotting the data on the graphs.