In signs that welfare polices in Tamil Nadu have had a positive effect, the religion-wise figures of Census 2011 show that decadal growth rate of population in two major communities — Hindu and Muslim — was lower than the national average.
In the case of Christians, while the growth was slightly higher than the all-India figure, their proportion in the overall State population remained more or less the same as in 2001.
Experts state that the data reiterates the understanding that development, represented by better education, health and other social welfare measures, contribute significantly more to population stability than religion.
According to the data, the Hindu population in Tamil Nadu saw an increase of 14.91 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
Christians and Muslims grew by 21.86 and 16.73 per cent respectively. In the same period, the overall population in Tamil Nadu grew by 15.60 per cent.
In the State, the growth of population among Hindus and Muslims was markedly lower than national average of 16.76 percent and 24.60 per cent.
While Christians clocked a growth rate of 16.73 per cent in Tamil Nadu, the national average was 15.52 per cent.
Significantly, unlike Hindus, there were more women than men among Christians and Muslims in 2011.
As a proportion to the overall State population, Hindus stood at 87.5, Christians at 6.12 and Muslims at 5.86 per cent. In 2001, Christians were 6.06 per cent and Muslims were 5.56 of the total population.
Professor at the International Institute of Population Sciences, Dr. P. Arokiasamy, said the data was reflective of the lead the southern States have taken in terms of socio-economic parameters.
“This is not a new trend. Intensive population campaigns since the 1980s coupled with robust welfare measures have helped Kerala and Tamil Nadu stabilise their population to a great extent relatively,” he said.
Dr. Arokiasamy said the two States were among the earliest to achieve the fertility replacement rate (average number of children born per woman) of 2.1.
On connecting religious background with fertility, he said development as a whole was a larger factor. “The fertility rate of Muslim women in Tamil Nadu is lower than Hindu women in northern States like Uttar Pradesh. This tells you why social welfare measures have a larger bearing,” he pointed out.
Economist Venkatesh Athreya said education among women and poverty alleviation are two important determinants of population growth in the long term.
He said longer life expectancy, which comes from greater access to healthcare facilities, plays a role in the population stabilising.
“The security of child survival is crucial, which is determined by better nutrition and healthcare. When we say development, we mean overall development of social-economic and human development parameters. Mere economic growth will not provide help,” he said.