Hyderabad: The National Family Health (2019-21) Survey done by the central government has shown that Jammu and Kashmir has a lower fertility rate than almost all states ruled by India. The data sheds light on the myth of right-wing propaganda about a higher birth rate among Muslims.
The survey does not give a religious total fertility rate (TRF) but since Jammu and Kashmir is the only state with a Muslim majority, the link between religion and birth rate is concludable.
The result shows that the TRF of Jammu & Kashmir has fallen down from 2.0 to 1.4.
J&K has a lower fertility rate than any other state, except Goa, Sikkim and the Union Territories in India. In comparison, Uttar Pradesh has a TRF of 2.4, Bihar 3, Madhya Pradesh 2.0, Jharkhand 2.3, Punjab 1.6, Odisha 1.8, Ladakh 1.3 and the Andaman and Nicobar islands 1.3.
Dr Farhat Jabeen, former head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Government Medical College, Srinagar, said the survey’s findings, if true, showed that such claims did not fit the context of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Previously, women’s only job was to produce children and take care of the family. With growing education, women (in Kashmir) are becoming more job-oriented,” she told The Telegraph.
“They want to be on a par with men in every sphere of life. They don’t want to have a big family.”
The US Pew research centre said in September that the Muslim fertility rate in India had decreased rapidly from 4.4 to 2.6 between 1992 and 2015, against a fall of 1.2 among Hindus from 3.3 to 2.1.
People’s Democratic Party leader Firdous Tak said “It (the survey) proves that the Muslim population, at least in Jammu and Kashmir, is growing only on WhatsApp,”
“Some parties rely on lies to spread fear among the majority community that the Muslims’ numbers are growing,” Tak added.
In 2016, at a Kutumb Prabodhan (an RSS project whose name means ‘family awakening’) event presided over by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, it was claimed that Hindus had a fertility rate of 2.1 against one of 8 within the “other community”.
Hindus were further told their existence would be in peril in their “own country by 2025” if the situation persisted.
Dr Rehana Kausar, a consultant with the department, said the survey had shown that women had access to contraception and were increasingly opting for just two children while delaying the second birth.
The national TFR has declined to 2.0 from the value of 2.2 found during the earlier NFHS of 2015-16. This is the first time India’s TFR has fallen below the so-called population replacement threshold of 2.1, at which a population is expected to replace itself exactly from one generation to the next under certain conditions.
Sanghamitra Singh, a health scientist and senior manager with the NGO Population Foundation of India, however, said India’s population was expected to rise in the short term and peak at about 1.6 billion between 2040 and 2050 before starting to decline.